Over the past two weeks I’ve been burning through the British TV show Misfits, which can be watched in its entirety on Hulu. It’s an incredibly well-crafted series about a group of young delinquents who, while on community service for their crimes, get shocked by a mysterious storm that gives them superpowers. What makes it so special is that the drama remains local – instead of immediately trying to save the world, the super powers heighten the relations between individual people and comment on the nature of super powers themselves. It’s also unapologetically and offensively British.
One of the most heartbreaking examples comes from the first, and best, season. Nathan Young, the wise-cracking jerk of the “misfits,” falls in love with Ruth, a beautiful girl who works at the community center. They have a wild night abusing drugs and alcohol, and on the following night they have sex. While having sex, however, Nathan starts seeing flashes of a very old woman. Ruth explains that she’s actually 82 years old, but since the storm she reverted to her 20 year old self. “I just wanted to be young again!” She yells out as Nathan runs away.
It’s surprising that such violence and sex is shown on public channels in the UK, but it makes the experiences more visceral, as visceral as youth is. And Misfits is, to some extent, about youth. The superpowers gained reflect a character’s personality or desires, and this heightening of their identity makes them re-evaluate who they are and who they want to be. Nathan is immortal, reflecting his finesse in bouncing back from emotional and physical challenges and pretend everything is alright. But while he would ordinarily forget about Ruth, he realizes that he still loves her, and decides that for once, he is not alright. He comes back to Ruth too late, however, as she dies. A super power can’t save everything.
At the same time, Nathan and the other misfits don’t learn too much. There are still scenes where they rob a bank, defecate on beds, kill three of their probation officers, and have lots and lots of sex. This is why people tune in the first place, but they stay for the action, the romance, and the quotes: “We are a bunch of young offenders and not one of us knows how to steal a car? That is pathetic!”