Thursday, December 30, 2010

TV Review: Misfits Season 2 Episode 6

This week the ASBO Five learn that fame and fortune exacts a heavy price.  A socially inept young man previously unknown to them is blessed with abilities by the same storm that empowered them.  He can manipulate both liquid and solid dairy products, even after they’ve been ingested.  Unlike the ASBO Five, he decides to go public and cash in.  When the gang at the community center speaks a bit too freely about their powers, they tip off their probation worker who immediately dimes them out to the press.  Just as they are contemplating going into hiding, an “entertainment manager” of sorts ensures them that such drastic measures are not necessary.  She also happens to represent “Milk Man.”  While the ASBO Five enjoy their first brush with celebrity, other people who have been changed by the storm come forward.  Suddenly, “Milk Man” realizes his powers aren’t very impressive when compared to  others.  Suddenly, his apparently laughable skill becomes useful in a way that no one anticipated.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  Though that quote has become synonymous with Spider-man, the heavy handed sentiment it exposes has long been the undercurrent of the entire Marvel universe.  From its inception, Marvel has speculated just what would happen to super powered beings in the “real” world, especially after their powers become known.  Now, near the end of its second season, Misfits offers possibly the most riveting dramatization of that sentiment yet.  The ASBO Five's apprehension at the thought of going public subsides rather quickly (in no small part to Nathan’s prodding).  Only the severely introverted Simon goes with his gut, while the rest simply go with the flow. You would think after all they had been through, the ASBO Five would be a bit more cautious.

We also get some insight into what one might call “Columbine Syndrome” via the Milk Man.  Maybe great power should be tempered with great responsibility, but it can become a dangerous weapon when wielded by those who are socially inept and/or ignored by society.  Nerds and social outcasts covet the power and status of the “beautiful people.”  They do so even after having been tormented for years by them.  When they are blessed by fate in a way that allows them to ascend to that social class, they pounce on it.  Beneath their mild mannered and seemingly ineffectual demeanors linger years of repressed anger coupled with feelings of social inadequacy and sadness.   The skill that has brought them success can easily give way to exacting revenge on those who slighted them when they were bottom feeders.  

Bodily fluids and functions are a constant theme in this episode.  Aside from the aforementioned dairy products, the audience is treated to death by reflux.  There are also extended takes of characters urinating.  This episode seems to have a keen awareness of how uneasy we are with our bodies, and uses that to gross us out in many subtle and not so subtle ways.  The focus on such things seems flippantly juvenile at first, but gradually becomes truly creepy.  In fact, the entire episode takes a turn towards its final act, eschewing toilet humor and gross out gags for a climax that will literally have fans on the edge of their seats.  It does so in a way where the shifting of tone is hardly noticeable.  Like other episodes this season, it manages to fit quite a bit into a scant amount of running time.

Misfits is simply amazing.  Every single episode this season has upped the ante on every possible front.  With each passing week, the situations the characters find themselves in become more extreme and the consequences more dire.  Beneath all of the adolescent sexual humor runs a very serious undercurrent.  If anyone is unsure as to how much they care about any of these characters, all they have to do is follow this episode to its shocking conclusion.  That’s the special power of this series:  it convinces you that what occurs to these characters matters.  As a result, the audience is willing to follow them anywhere, no matter how outlandish the plot developments may be.  In just 48 minutes, this show is able to introduce, establish and kill memorable characters.  How many other shows can claim that?  I await the Christmas episode with baited breath.  

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