Have you ever wondered what would happen if the X-Men were a bunch of British juvenile delinquents whose only interests were getting drunk, shagging, and punching people in the face? Well, buckle up. Misfits is here to give you just what you’ve been looking for. And the result is the raunchiest, most uncoordinated superhero show ever made.
Set around a London community center, Misfits is the story of a handful of teenagers/early twentysomethings who are all compelled to perform community service for various reasons and whose lives take a sharp zigzag when a freak storm gives them (and many others in its path) superpowers. But world-saving isn’t exactly first on their list; in fact, the world doesn’t really seem to need saving. Instead, their powers act like steroids for their otherwise humdrum, puerile problems: daddy issues, failure, self-esteem, sexuality, rent—all stakes that are multiplied by the addition of invisibility, shape-shifting, telepathy, and (of course) time-travel.
Similar premises have sunk lesser shows (see: Heroes, Alphas) but what made Misfits great—or at least, great while the greatness lasted—was its characters, their development, and their surprising capacity for simultaneous mile-a-minute quips and depth. Over the show’s five seasons, Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) goes from woe-is-me hubris to evolved gender-bending; Kelly (Lauren Socha) from hotheaded lollygagger to fulfilled rocket scientist; Alisha (Antonia Thomas) from blazing hedonist to matured personal savior; Nathan (Robert Sheehan) from insufferable, filthy-minded punk/class clown to … OK, just a slightly more evolved insufferable, filthy-minded punk/class clown. Simon (Iwan Rheon) of course is utterly unrecognizable by his last episode on the show compared with his first. Even Rudy (Joseph Gilgun), the unexpectedly lovable comic relief who arrives in Season 3, belies a subtle complexity when he’s not trying to whip his junk out of his orange jumpsuit.
In creating the series and its staple personalities, creator Howard Overman took a note from Gene Roddenberry’s book, bringing his actors in to collaborate with the writers in creating their characters, a move that grounded an inherently insane fictional world and gave it its cult-worthy charm in the process. Plus, it’s a UK show, so there are few hang-ups about swearing, drugs, or graphic sex, and it gets away with exponentially more lame stuff solely because its very British humor totally sells it. Ready to get weird? Read on.
Number of Seasons: 5 (37 episodes)
Time Requirements: This one will take about 27 hours, so you can do three episodes a day for 12 days (with four on the last day), four episodes a day for nine days (five on the last day), or five a day for a week (with six on both Saturday and Sunday). Talk to your mates and choose a plan that’s right for you.
Where to Get Your Fix: Hulu
Best Character to Follow: Even split between Nathan and Simon. Without spoiling anything, all we can tell you is that Simon’s growth on the show surpasses that of all the other characters, and is also the most rewarding. What’s more, if you’ve already caught up on Game of Thrones , it’s a relief to see that show’s psychopathic Ramsay Bolton play someone this adorable. Nathan, meanwhile, makes it literally impossible to avoid following him, since he almost never stops talking (read: mocking and calling his peers the wrong names on purpose). Even if you find him totally intolerable at the beginning, by the end of his arc—or at least on your second binging round—he no doubt will become your favorite raving lunatic, the show’s endless fountain of (kind of literal) youth.
Seasons/Episodes You Can Skip:
Season 1: Episode 4 Curtis’s ex-girlfriend shows up, having just gotten out of jail for the crime they both committed (he only got community service). Curtis feels bad that she took the fall for him, and thus commences the most played-out time-travel plot in TV history: Character regrets decision; Character tries to go back and change things; Character realizes you can’t mess with time unless you want to mess with literally everything about life as you currently know it. Zzzz.
Season 3: Episode 4 There comes a time in every sci-fi/supernatural show’s life where it must follow the laws of TV inertia and make a what-if-we-went-back-in-time-and-killed-Hitler episode. That is all you need to know. The choice is yours.
Season 3: Episode 7 The zombie invasion episode, courtesy Curtis’s newly obtained resurrection abilities (it’s a long story, which you should know by now). Kelly gets hers in the romance department, which is quite nice. It’s another trope you can indulge in if you choose, but it’s not crucial.
Season 4 Apart from the disappointingly misogynist and racially inflammatory storylines littered throughout this season, the real reason you should just quit after Season 3 is because it’s hard to believe anyone’s motives for doing anything anymore.
Season 5 If you were stubborn enough to plow through the previous season, you’ve already put yourself through enough already, you masochist. At this point, there’s basically nothing holding the original, brilliant spirit of the show intact. Whatever sense of direction Misfits began with has vaporized into—no joke—satanic anal sex and terminally ill patients, for what reason, we have no idea. However you feel about Rudy’s comedy, the force of his character is just not enough to support an entire season of television. Even sticking it out until lone survivor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett leaves midway through Season 4 (in the worst way possible, we might add) is a stretch.
Seasons/Episodes You Can’t Skip:
Season 1: Episode 2 Nathan meets a pretty girl at a senior citizen dance at the community center who is not what she seems. Mostly skippable if you’re an exposition fan, as it doesn’t move the larger story along that much, but Robert Sheehan’s comedic rhythm already reaches tip-top shape, just two episodes in, and the twist is a perfect example of Misfits‘ ability to juggle hysterical absurdity and humanity with masterful strokes.
Season 1: Episode 6 Guest-star Jessica Brown-Findlay (aka Abi from Black Mirror, aka Sybil from Downton Abbey) pulls the strings in the first season finale as a wholesome religious girl whose superpower is convincing everyone to abandon their delinquent behavior in favor of celibacy, Jesus Christ, and cardigans buttoned all the way up. We’re also introduced to the masked ninja-like BMX rider henceforth known as Superhoodie, who saves the gang multiple times at crucial moments. And with the aid of a seeming tragedy, we finally discover what Nathan’s power is.
Season 2: Episode 3 Alisha figures out who the gang’s secret ninja is and it’s super sexy. Plus, the monster of the week is a crazy tattoo artist (or as Simon pronounces it, “tuh-TOO”) with self-esteem and anger issues whose tattoo art is magic and who also happens to have a ridiculous weakness. The exploitation of that weakness isn’t written especially well, but this is such an important episode story-wise it must be watched. Besides, it’s sort of fun watching the Nathan/Simon ‘shipper dream teased (then dashed, unfortunately).
Season 2: Episode 7 (Christmas Special) In which the landscape is shaken up by Seth (Matthew McNulty), a hot dude with a neck tuh-too whose power is giving and taking other people’s powers. Alisha of course can’t wait to be rid of her (awful, victimizing) power, so she just gives it to him. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang sell theirs because they’re young and stupid and 20,000 quid is a lot of money. The introduction of the possibility of exchanging powers is a major story shift that, while obviously meant to keep the characters from stagnating and introduce heightened levels of uncertainty into the plot, works without feeling desperate.
Season 3, Episode 1 With Nathan sailing off into the sunset with his new little family, the gang is crippled by the loss of its funniest, most inane life force, so of course the writers had to bring in a ringer. Welcome Rudy, his just-as-crass, slightly older replacement! Rudy has an alter-ego—literally, his power is splitting into two people: his foul-mouthed, offensive outer persona and the more sensitive, kind and weepy inner Rudy. Rudy is almost as funny as Nathan, but what he lacks in puckish charm he makes up for in loud, crass, and obviously put-on atrociousness that makes for a lovable trainwreck (once he’s, you know, learned his lesson about consent—see below).
Season 3: Episode 2 This one goes out to all the old-dude politicians trying to police women’s bodies: Curtis, who has taken on the only power Seth had left at the time, can now switch genders at will. This is great because Curtis is a self-centered misogynist, forever moping about his lost track-star potential, so when he decides to use his female body to compete in track again (he implies it’s illegal, but I’m not exactly sure there are sports competition rules that cover shape-shifting), he gets a real lesson in what it’s like to be a woman—not to mention what to even do with one when she comes back to your place. It’s a rare Misfits episode that attempts to say something about social politics without doing too much damage. (See: Curtis and the racist blind-girl subplot. Or don’t, since that’s Season 4.)
Season 3: Episode 8 This is the episode that brings all the time-travel drama full-circle again. A phony psychic has obtained real medium powers and brings back a bunch of the people the gang has killed, several of whom are not too pleased about having been murdered. Somehow they’re able to walk and talk and touch like the living when summoned, and they go about finishing their business—which of course means really bad news for the gang. Again, can’t spoil much, but this is by far the saddest episode of the series.
Why You Should Binge:
Misfits is the type of show that’s just charming, intense, and wacky enough to keep you addicted for at least the first three seasons. It’s just complex enough to keep you moving forward into each next episode, and yet just fluffy enough to have it on in the background while you’re doing something else (after you’ve gotten through it once, that is). Like a great sitcom, its dialogue is razor-sharp and the comedic timing is embarrassingly good—embarrassing, as in, you’ll laugh loud enough to wake everyone in your apartment when Rudy tries to express feelings or Nathan sensuously rubs sunscreen into his ass cheeks. Plus, it’s always a good idea to binge-watch British comedies—really does wonders for the spirits.
In order to not spoil anything particularly major, here are the two best scenes in GIF form.
Only mess with the space-time continuum if you’re as good at parkour as Simon.
If You liked Misfits You’ll Love:
The early seasons of Heroes and maybe Alphas. Also, just pick a BBC comedy at random sometime, you likely won’t be disappointed.