The Second Annual Serene Wombles

Two years! Woo-woo! Thanks for keeping with me. It’s been another hell of a year, and although Life Events have meant that I wasn’t able to review quite as much as I would have liked, you’ve stuck with me, and that’s awesome. In fact, with 28,000 hits this year, three times as many people have shown at least a vague interest in this little blog as last year. So: thanks! 😀

Those of you who were here last October 3rd will remember that to mark the aniversary of this esteemed blog I decided to hand out some meaningless awards: The Serene Wombles!

What exactly are the Serene Wombles? Well, to quote myself last year:

Eligibility for a Serene Womble i[s] conferred by being the subject of a review [on In Search of the Happiness Max] in the past year. There may have been better or more worthy things that came out this year, but if I didn’t find them relevant to my interests, or if I simply didn’t have the time to review them, they won’t be eligible for a Serene Womble. I make no pretense that these awards are significant or important in any way, but I enjoy having the opportunity to praise and draw attention to things I have loved.

The Serene Wombles are divided into two categories, those that apply to recent releases, and special Time Travelling Wombles for the most awesome things in my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts. The division between the former and the latter may at times seem arbitrary – why should a film that came out in 2009 count as a recent release, whilst a TV Show that ended in 2009 requires a time machine? It’ll always be a judgement call, and the judgement will [usually] have been made on a case-by-case basis at the time of reviewing. Sometimes I use a time machine for my reviews because I want to review something that came out in 1939, sometimes because I want to review something more recent that’s out of print, or because it’s a TV show that’s been cancelled… At the end of the day, these are not the Oscars, they’re the highlights from a blog, and are therefore subject to my whim.

Exciting stuff, eh? Let’s get started!

The Serene Womble for Best Film: Dredd 3D
Dredd 3D posterEligible Films: Dredd 3D, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games

The competition was basically between Dredd 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Hunger Games. If this category were about which film I’m most likely to rewatch… well, I’d probably rewatch all of those three, but I’d want to watch The Amazing Spider-Man first and most often. But this isn’t just about which film I found most fun. Each of these was well put together and entertaining, and The Amazing Spider-Man was also visually stunning and thematically well-conceived, but Dredd 3D was just in a league of its own – beautiful and thoughtful in equal amounts. It really felt like Dredd 3D was taking sci-fi back – giving us a real vision of the future, beautiful and provocative as well as dark. Breathtaking, is the word.

I doubt this film will sweep the Real and Proper awards in the way it deserves, but here in Womblevonia I’m doing my bit to recognise originality, inspiration, and artistic genius where I see it. Congratulations, Dredd 3D! Well deserved.

The Serene Womble for Best TV Show Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones Season 2 Promo 'The Clash of Kings has begun'Elligible TV shows: Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Misfits, The Fades, The Hollow Crown: Part I, Richard II

Tough crowd. I mean, we have The Fades, one of the most strikingly original and well-executed British fantasy TV shows in a good many years – a real tragedy that it was not renewed for a second series. Then there’s The Hollow Crown‘s adaptation of Richard II, which contains some of the very best Shakespeare I have ever seen performed, and for one of my least favourite plays, at that, including a truly spectacular performance from Ben Whishaw, as Richard II, and a simply wonderful portrayal of John of Gaunt by Patrick Stewart. And although Doctor Who has been highly questionable over the last year, I can’t deny that ‘A Town Called Mercy’ was excellent. Yet Game of Thrones is still hands down the winner, for me. It feels unfair to some of the competition to give it the Serene Womble for Best TV Show two years in a row, but given that it was even better this year than last year, I don’t feel that I can really deny it. Performances by Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and Maisie Williams were stand outs, but everybody was bringing their A-game. The special effects were incredible – I now believe that dragons exist and that they are both very cute and very dangerous. Pretty much every element of music, direction, and writing was outstanding, and it stands out in my memory as the best thing I have seen all year.

As they say on these here Internets: All of The Awards.

The Serene Womble for Best Web Series The Guild
The Guild PromoEligible Web Series: The Guild, Dragon Age: Redmption

Well, maybe not all of the awards. This is a new category introduced to include the burgeoning genre of web series. I was tempted to roll it into the TV shows Womble, but, upon reflection, I must concede that web series are their own medium. They are usually shorter and are often much lower budget. It’s neither fair nor practical to try and compare them to much longer, much higher budget shows. Moreover, they are developing their own tropes and styles and on the whole exhibit a different character to their televisual brethrin.

That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition in this category. Both these shows are Felicia Day creations, and whilst I did watch other web series over the course of the year, I can’t deny that Felicia is the mistress of this genre – she has not only talent but the extra experience of being one of the founders of this artform. It means that she’s been at it for longer, but also that she’s better known. Nevertheless, it is notable that The Guild greatly outstripped Dragon Age: Redemption. I suspect this is in part due to the fact that Felicia will have had much less control in the latter, but I also didn’t find her own performance as convincing. In all honesty, The Guild is just in a league of its own. It has the geek-following to bring in stars for the extensive cameos that were a feature of this series, and it’s starting to get the money that allows it to do more things. It’s also excellently and knowingly written for the audience that powers the Internet: geeks. Not to mention the spot on performances of the other cast members: Vincent Caso, Jeff Lewis, Amy Okuda, Sandeep Parikh, and Robin Thorsen.

It’s a deserved win, but with more and more people finding it natural to watch their visual content online, more TV stars using short videos as a way to get a bit more exposure and make a bit more cash on the side (see, for example, David Mitchell’s Soapbox), there’s a blooming new arm of the media that I’m thinking I need to investigate further in the coming year. I’m interested to see how things develop.

The Serene Womble for Best Actor Ben Whishaw
Ben Whishaw as Richard IIElligible Actors: This category is open to any actor in any recent production that I’ve reviewed in the past year – film, TV, radio, podcast, whatever. I do not discriminate by gender. It’s a fight to the melodramatic death and the best actor wins, regardless of what’s between their legs or how they identify.

This was a tough one. I feel bad for stinting Peter Dinklage for the second year running after praising him so highly, but it was a strong field, and he did contribute to the overall Game of Thrones win – keep it up, Peter, there’s always next year. Lena Headey was also giving all the players a run for their money with her outstanding performance as Ma-Ma in Dredd 3D – a real performance of a lifetime. But I can’t deny the just deserts for Ben. He took a role I’d never especially liked or understood and made me see it from a completely different angle – an angle that was utterly compelling and heart-breaking. In all honesty I was far less impressed with Parts II and III of The Hollow Crown (and I somehow missed Part IV), and I’ll not deny that Tom Hiddleston did a good job, but Richard II blew me away, and Ben Whishaw was the lycnhpin of that production. Incandescent. Any actor that can ellucidate not just the character they are portraying but the themes of the play and have that render their performance more compelling rather than less, and to such a level… sheer genius.

Thank you, Ben, for showing me Richard II the way you see him. Have a Womble.

The Serene Womble for Best Novel Rome Burning, by Sophia McDougall
Rome Burning cover art Eligible Novels: A Dance With Dragons, Kraken Romanitas, and Rome Burning

This one was probably the hardest. Kraken is the most imaginative novel I’ve reviewed this year, and it was certainly a gripping as well as intelligent read. However, it did have some minor gender issues, the attempt at rendering London accents was unconvincing, and although I found the exploration of personal identity fun, it was inconsistent.

Rome Burning‘s alternate history setting was imaginative in a different way. For exploration of gender, race, and cultural issues it was outstanding. The characters were interesting and varied. The pace was fast and gripping. The politics, nuanced and intriguing. And, overall, the harder-to-define ‘squee’ quotiant was just higher than for anything (new) I’ve read in a long time.

Romanitas, the first book in the trilogy of which Rome Burning is the second, was also good, gripping, and squee-worthy, but the writing was not quite as strong and the world-building was more developed in the second volume.

A Dance with Dragons is what it is: a novel to which I have mysteriously devoted a surprisingly large chunk of my life in reviewing; part of a long series that has given me both great joy and great frustration. Perhaps it is unfair to put it up for assessment when the review is as yet incomplete, but I’ll give you a sneak preview and say that, for all its good points, A Dance with Dragons was not really competition for any of the above.

The Serene Womble for Best Comic Romatically Apocalyptic
A wallpaper made by Alexius from one panel of Romantically Apocalyptic

Eligible Comics: Real Life Fiction and Romantically Apocalyptic

Another new category, and only two in it, but I couldn’t leave them by the wayside. Both of these are excellent, and I thoroughly recommend them to all of you. Both are surreal, hilariously funny, and gender balanced. Romantically Apocalyptic has an edge for me by being, well, apocalyptic; but then again, Real Life Fiction has Manicorn. The real clincher is the artwork, which, as you can see, is stunning. I have never seen anything like it in a web comic. Or any comic. Or ever. And the creator, Vitaly S Alexius, hands this stuff out for free. There are no two ways about it: this comic wins.

The Time Traveling Wombles

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Film The Glass Slipper
The Glass Slipper promo imageEligible Films: Robocop, Soldier’s Girl, The Glass Slipper

That’s right, I’m giving the award to a film it’s virtually impossible to buy anymore. It’s not available on Amazon (there’s a Korean film called Glass Slipper, but it’s a different movie), it’s never been made into a DVD, the only videos I can find are US vids on eBay, the cheapest was going for about £16 (inc. P&P) at time of posting. I don’t know if it’d even play on a non-US machine. My copy was taped off the telly in the 1980s. But if you can get it, I urge you to make the effort. And this is really what reviewing via time machine is all about: drawing attention to classics and forgotten works of art. How can we get great films like this pressed for DVD if nobody speaks up to say that they are wanted?

The Glass Slipper is beautiful, sweet, and knowing. To me, it is the definitive cinderella story, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking. I feared it would be when I went to rewatch for this review, but it’s not. This was a feminist take on Cinderella in 1955, long before anyone even dreamt of Ever After. And it doesn’t sacrifice the romance for its message; it is a heart-breaking, life-affirming, challenging, witty, and beautiful work of art.

This is not to discredit its competition, however; both of the other films were clear contenders, although each is very different to the others, and it was hard to make the comparison. Robocop is a cleverly written and directed critique of capitalism. Its ultra-violence and gritty realism stand at stark odds to The Glass Slipper’s colourful fairytale punctuated with surrealist dance-interludes. Soldier’s Girl is a moving and powerful adaptation of the true story of a soldier who was beaten to death for loving a transgender woman. It perhaps didn’t have the artistry of the other two movies, but I don’t know that you want a lot of whistles and bells for such a movie – its task is to tell someone else’s tale and command the viewer to witness a crime and recognise an injustice. It would be wrong for a director to grandstand and steal the show. So, what do you do, when confronted with three such different films, ones that resist judgement on equal grounds?

I think you have to go with your gut. The Glass Slipper is the one that had the deepest personal influence on me, playing a pivotal role in shaping my psyche and helping me figure out what sort of a woman I wanted to grow up to be. Children’s or ‘family’ movies are often over-looked as less serious art objects than ‘adult’ films*, but they help to form the worldview a child is exposed to when they are trying to figure out what this existence, this life, is all about. Films like The Glass Slipper, which show a child a multiplicity of roles for women, are incredibly important, especially when they do so in the context of a story that is usually cast to define women as romantic creatures whose ‘happily ever after’ lies in marriage, and not in independant thought. Doing that whilst keeping the romantic centre of Cinderella’s tale intact is a masterful stroke. It deserves this award.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Actor Lee Pace

Eligible actors: anyone who has acted in a film I had to time travel to watch.

It may not have garnered the illustrious Time Traveling Womble for Best film, but I can’t deny the Womble to Lee Pace – head and shoulders above the rest – there really wasn’t any competition. Lee Pace plays Calpernia, the transgendered woman that Barry Winchell fell in love with, and was brutally killed for loving. The gentle, understated approach to this sensitive role is spot on. I imagine a lot of reviews of this film will have said something to the effect of what a ‘convincing woman’ Lee Pace made – I’m not even sure what that means, but it’s the sort of thing people say when they discuss a man playing a transgendered role. I’ve known a number of transgendered women – they’re as varied as any other random woman would be from another; they’re as varied as people. Which is not the same as saying that they have nothing in common or don’t have shared experiences. I don’t want to make any sweeping characterisations of what it is to be a transgendered woman and then proclaim that I think Lee Pace matched that stereotype. What I’m saying is that he portrayed a well-rounded character – a person with loves and passions and heart-ache, with interests both important and trivial; a person whose story moved me and made me think about an important issue.

The point that moved me most – that stood out – was a moment in the above scene. It spoke to me powerfully even though it was speaking about an experience I’ve never had, and am never likely to have. Because it’s a scene in one sense about a man struggling with figuring out his own sexuality in the high-pressure environment of being a soldier in the context of the US Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy – only revoked just over a month before I reviewed this film; still in force when it was made. To a large extent, that’s what the film is about. But it’s also about a woman, struggling to be acknowledged as a woman, finding it almost impossible to date, even though she is beautiful and charismatic, because straight men won’t acknowledge her as a woman. And here she has found a man, a man she is falling in love with, and she must always be asking herself: is this just an experiement, for him? Am I his way of figuring himself out? And all this time she has been loving and supportive and understanding that this is hard, for him, but here she finaly shows her pain and anxiety. Yet, it’s still within the context of that loving, caring, understanding character. Once he has affirmed his love for her she subsumes her own pain to his need for support. It is done with so much subtlety and nuance. Lee Pace isn’t the one bawling his eyes out in this scene, but the emotion is nonetheless powerful.

That’s acting. Acting and sensitivity; just exactly what the role needed.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Novel The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King
Cover art: The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the ThreeEligible Novels: The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish and The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King.

I did think about including some of the works of Anne McCaffrey in this category, as I did talk about a number of them in her memorial post, but ultimately I decided that what I was really doing was celebrating a woman’s life’s work, rather than giving a review. Besides, I might want to review some of them properly somewhere down the line.

As for the two remaining novels… well, it was an unfair match. The Drawing of the Three is basically my most favourite book. The Blazing World is an important book that more people should read. It’s historically valuable and truly remarkable for its time. But it’s also the offspring of a genre (novel writing) in its infancy – the very first science fiction novel, in 1666. Don’t believe me? Go read the post.

As for The Dark Tower – ah… I suspect I shall spend my whole life trying to tease apart why it affects me so. My post, ‘Meditations on Death‘ explores just one aspect of my its power – the seductive power of the concept of death-as-release, what makes us resist its allure, and how this is expertly explored in The Drawing of the Three.

And, last of all:

The People’s Choice Award The Guild, Season 5
The Guild cast in the costumes of their avatarsPerhaps the most arbitrary of all the awards, this is the one you voted for with your feet. The selection for this award is based solely on the review post with the single largest number of hits. And this year it was a landslide, with 8,431 hits and counting, this post has had more hits than my home page. It’s had several thousand more hits than the total for all hits of my most popular month (July). The closest runners up are The Amazing Spider-man and The Hollow Crown (both around 1,000).

And it’s not even because it’s been on the blog since October last year – the hits suddenly started raining in in July. I don’t know what it was, but it seems like all of a sudden the Internet woke up to The Guild, and all I can say is that it couldn’t be more well deserved. Congrats, Felicia and friends: they like you, they really, really like you!

And that’s it! The awards have been awarded, and it’s time to start all over again, selecting novels and films and TV shows and comics and web series, and kittens only know what else, to review in a brand new Womblevonian year.

Stay serene and max for happiness, yo.

*Not that kind, dirty minds!

Undead Blogging: Misfits, Series 3, Episode 2

I said I’d never do it again, and yet here I am, watching an episode and bursting with things to say that it’ll spoil the ep if I don’t get them out. For those who missed it last time, undead blogging is like live blogging, but when you’re watching on a catch-up service, so can pause. It’s neither truly live blogging, nor is it entirely not live blogging. It’s undead blogging.

To the blog mobile!

Thoughts up to 8:10:

Well, I called it on Curtis’s power. He’s using it to get around his drugs ban on racing. He, or rather, she, says she doesn’t want to race competitively, but you can see where this is going.

That necklace thing is going to be a thing. WAY too much fuss being made about her gripping it with her lips before pelting it.

Ugh, and the obligatory ‘girl takes her top off in the changing room, making a guy uncomfortable without realising it because she assumes he’s not interested’. Usually it’s because he’s pretending to be gay, or she assumes he’s gay and he doesn’t correct her. This time it’s because the guy is actually a girl at the time, but the results are the same. Guys, I’m going to let you into a secret here: this does not happen. Your fantasy about the girls’ changing room is false, please stop projecting it as a reality in what is meant to be a heterosexual-male free moment.

OK, because someone will comment to point out an exception: in my experience it has only happened to me once. Once, only, as an adult (kids undress in front of anyone and rarely give a shit). I’ll confess that it is almost certainly a cultural thing. My friend who thought I was weird to be so self-conscious is did not grow up in the UK, and she told me it was quite the norm where she’s from. But Misfits is set in the UK; whilst it’s not impossible that a Brit girl would feel relaxed about flashing her boobs to another girl, it’s awfully, tiresomely convenient.

Then there are cringe-worthy ‘of course everyone now fancies female-Curtis and is overtly perving over him’ moments. I guess it’s nice to show a man coming to see what it’s like for a girl, but, honestly, most of the men I know aren’t that diskish. Some are, but it would be a really weird day if every guy I met treated me like I was a piece of meat. And the ‘showing it from the other side’ message isn’t that new or original, so I’m not going to let the over-doing it slide, because following on from the ridiculousness of the previous scene it unnecessarily prolongs the time for which I’m watching something that makes me feel objectified. So nerr.

Moving on to Curtis’s bar, and the unusually-at-ease-with-her-own-skin girl is coming on to boy-Curtis just as I sort of suspected she was coming on to girl-Curtis (Melissa? I didn’t quite catch the name). And Curtis is still wearing the necklace. Yup, I can see where this plot is going: girl flirts with Curtis in both guises, eventually realises he is the same person because of the necklace (and the fact that she’s been obsessing over him as an athlete for years and will notice similarities), possibly doesn’t tell him at first, playing it out to wait and see if he says something (she’s cocky, I can see her doing this), something will happen to mean he’s caught doing something that reveals his secret, he’ll be very embarrassed, but she’ll laugh and say it’s OK, she knew all along. I hate this plot; it treads all over my embarrassment squick.

C’mon, Misfits prove me wrong.


8:23 – ho ho! Power trader dude’s car has broken down just as Kelly walks past. Betcha her new power can fix that!

8:46 – heh – what’d I say? This will be a start of a beautiful friendship relationship.

9:24 Heh, heh – flirty eyes.

10:30 ARGH – it has begun. He uses his disguise to find out what the girl really thinks of her. He’ll learn something he doesn’t like. Just wait…

11:10 What did I say? She thinks he’s self-obsessed and whiny, and bad at sex. (OK, maybe this part was kind of given away by the trailer, but it’s also very predictable.) Girl-Curtis will now foolishly react in a way that’s really weird for a disinterested party.

12:50 OK, Rudy is being a bit too much of a Nathan-substitute this episode, but I’m gald he broke up that moment.

14:18 OK, I love how it’s now turned into how awesome Simon is in bed rather than how shit Curtis is. Nice it praise the shy, awkward guy for actually caring about a lady.

14:37 Mwahahaha – OK, that mime was priceless.

Loving the Council Estate architecture, by the way. Yes, you heard me: concrete nineteen-sixties shitholes all the way.

15:35 Right. So I guess this bit is supposed to be daring and modern, right? And feminist, because he’s finding out about how lady-parts work, and how to please a woman? Your boom-chaca-chaca music isn’t helping to convince me it’s not an excuse to perve. Nice try, but you missed.

15:58 Yeah, new girl already knows. She guessed last time they talked.

16:29 Surely knowing that girls usually sit down to pee isn’t that much of a revelation to Curtis.

18:26 Right, speculations on power trader dude: he’s looking for a power that will bring back his girlfriend. Ouch, bad luck Kelly.

20:58 What did I say?

This part of the plot isn’t bad. It’s nice to see some representation of bisexual people on TV. And maybe I was a bit harsh on the ‘Curtis explores herself’ scene, but they are wobbling all ove rthe place on the execution of this one, and at the end of the day it’s all a bit predictable.

21:46 Possitive portrayal of gay sex for the win! Earth-mother music and ‘girls are all soft and lovely and know how to treat each other like delicate flowers’ is a bit familiar and predictable. I’m OK with Willow and Tara sex being that way, but Willow and Tara were earthy, gentle people, and they were breaking ground. Misfits sells itself on being ground-breaking – why not mix it up a little and show fem/fem sex that is considerate but racy?

22:31 Yup, *sigh* Curtis thinks being a woman makes him gentler.

24:08 Yeah, she knows…

24:27 The actor they have playing girl-Curtis is great, though. She feels like the same character. And the transgender angle is still pretty awesome. I just wish they weren’t making assumptions about how different ‘women’ relly are, as opposed to how differently women are treated.

26:31Right. Of course. The trainer is a creep. There are a surprising number of creeps in their part of London.

26:53 Better quality of ads for this than Downton Abbey.

28:14 Somehow, Rudy’s still sort of lovely. Not that I wouldn’t yell his face off if he acted like that around me, but you know.

28:44 Oh god – no! Rudy just threw-up in some girl’s hoody. (I did lol.)

30:31 Aw, bless, him, Rudy’s sort of a gentlemen ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea? It’s just ’cause you seem a bit out of it’. Yes. The right response.

30:40 Oh god no! I take it back. You need to put up MUCH more than a token effort [Rudy, that is, not Mel. Realised this was a very important clarification. Mel’s out of it and has every rght to expect not to be molested.] That’s not OK. NOT OK to represent as supposed to be funny. NOT funny.

31:46 And now ANOTHER rape scene? You do know the first was a rape scene, too, right? JFC – this is a low I never thought Misfits would hit.

NOT OK. Not lighthearted fun anymore. And if the ‘and now he has a cock’ moment was supposed to lighten the mood you’re badly mistake. Bring back the cliches, plz.

35:00 So she didn’t know. Oh well. Trying to enjoy this undead blogging again, but the magic is gone. Jesus.

38:15 What happened in this scene? Everyone shows up at once to accuse Mel/Curtis, including Mel’s girlfriend? (Who was going to cheat on Mel anyway, but seems to have forgotten that, and was remarkably heartless about finding her obviously out-of-it girlfriend being molested.) And then she gets her period? What? Who wrote this episode? It feels like they thought they’d go for a modern take on a Shakespearean comedy and badly missed the mark.

Tell you no lies, folks, this is not want I wanted when I set down for a bit of cheery undead blogging. Probably would have avoided reviewing this episode at all if I’d watched it from start to finish first.

44:28 I’ve decided to forget the disturbing parts of this episode happened. Pretend the original cheesy plot I anticipated is how they got together, and enjoy what is hopefully going to be a nice gay/transgender relationship. That and hope that the next episode is rather more concerned with Kelly (who is unrelentingly awesome) and the power trading dude.

End of Episode thoughts The final ‘no means no’ speach would have been an awful lot more convincing if we weren’t being encouraged to regard Rudy as still being a loveable, but stupid, rogue. Sorry this got so depressing, folks. I didn’t expect this. This is not the sort of subject I would have chosen to tackle in this way on my blog. Not even sure I’m comfortable with keeping this post up here. Hope you’ll forgive me for locking the comments. Hope I’ll want to come back and watch Misfits next week, but I don’t know if I will. And considering how much I loved this program, that should be shocking. Looks like it’ll be Simon and Alisha instead of Kelly and power trader dude. Still better than focusing on Curtis, more.

This episode could have been wonderful. Could have presented a positive image of gay and transgender people whilst also dealing with the challenging issue of date rape. I’m beyond disappointment. Going to go watch Dexter. I need to watch something violent.

Misfits, Series 3, Episode 1

Misfits, series three, with new guyMisfits is back – wooooooooo!

Y’all may remember from last year that I’m a little bit nuts about this TV show, so I’m pleased to see it back, but I also had some trepidation. You see, I was a big, big fan of Nathan, and (spoiler for the pre-series mini-episode) he’s gone! I guess Robert Sheehan, the actor who played him, has gone on to bigger things; I know he’s been doing some films, including the moderately well-known Killing Bono. Not that I didn’t like the other characters, but it was clear that whatever happened this series, it wasn’t going to be the same. It could flower beyond its original set-up; it could lose cohesion and peter out into obscurity; or it could try to placate its audience with a Nathan substitute, which would necessarily appear pale and dissatisfying. I’m not sure, yet, that it will fall into none of these categories, but it’s made a promising start into something that is not so easily typed.

The New GuyThis (right) is Nathan’s replacement – the new guy… or guys. (Rudy Wade, played by Jospeh Gilgun.) I don’t think this is a spoiler, as it’s made obvious to us very early on. I have to admit, this is the sort of character that is tailor-made to win me over. He may not be as attractive or charismatic as Nathan – in fact, he’s largely a dick – but his ‘power’ just hits my sweet-spot. What we have here, my friends, is a split-personality combined with multiple copies of the same person – be still my beating heart! Imagine if Jekyll and Hyde could have existed at the same time and conversed. It’s like that episode of Buffy where Xander gets split into his confident and underconfident sides. Awesome.

As for the big reveal on the new powers… jury’s out. At the end of the last series the gang were off to the power-trader (a guy whose power is to take powers from and give powers to others), so, what did they get?

Simon apparently has the power to foresee the consequences of his actions, which explains how he could become both hip with the parkour and how he could suddenly become a smooth operator with Alisha – of course he always says and does the right thing. Still no explanation of how he gets to travel in time, nor how he becomes immune to Alisha’s previous power, but all in good time.

Kelly becomes a rocket scientist, which I sort of love. From the stereotypically feminine telepathy that was becoming a dead-end plot device, to the stereotypically masculine aspiration of rocket scientist. It’s awesome, and she clearly thinks it’s awesome, but it also allows for brilliant and cutting comedy as no one takes her seriously, even though she is able to present revolutionary technologies. My prediction? Kelly designs the time machine that is ultimately able to send Simon back. Maybe she designs a ship that can actually go faster than light, making him both a spaceman and a time-traveler, as well as a superhero. I hope I’m right, because that would be awesome.

Alisha can now see through other people’s eyes, which is both useful and rather dull; don’t really have much to say about that.

Curtis’s power, however… Gah, there are two sides to this. The first is that it’s obviously interesting in introducing transgender topics. He can become a woman. Curtis says he takes the power because it was the only one left, but I wonder. They spent a lot of money getting their new powers, why wouldn’t he just keep the cash if he didn’t like the power? Plus, the times when we see him use his power he does sort of seem to like it. There’s also a question about whether this could maybe allow him to get back into sport. If he’s another person he wouldn’t have a drugs record anymore, although presumably he would need fake identity papers, and that might not fly.

So, that’s the up-side. What I don’t like about this is that it seems a completely out of character choice. Not that he would take a power that involved becoming a woman, you understand – I don’t think we saw anything previously to contradict that – I’m talking about the fact that he specifically went to the power trader to get a power that he could use to somehow save his girlfriend. Not only does he seem to have given up on this very quickly, he doesn’t even seem cut-up about her death in any way, shape, or form. Doesn’t sit right.

Same goes for Nathan’s new power. I know he’s not in the series anymore, but why not discuss it? Don’t get me wrong, the whole ‘be a magician and try to pull one over the guys in Vegas’ thing is very believable – very Nathan. However, Nathan’s motivation for getting his power (or someone else’s power) back was that he realised he couldn’t take care of his new girlfriend’s baby if he could be easily killed. I get that choosing a power that could earn him some money also makes sense in the context of taking care of a family, but then… why not keep the money?

Of course, I grant that what Curtis says suggests that the power trader guy had run out of, or at least low on, powers, but I’m not sure I believe him. Power trader guy seemed to have loads of powers at the end of the last series, and he still seems to be running a business on this basis. Plus, as I mentioned above, I think there’s an indication that Curtis would have chosen his new power regardless of whether there was a shortage of choice, and he may just be saying this because he thinks his friends will mock him for chosing to become a woman. But we shall have to wait and see on that one, too.

Speaking of power trader guy, I kind of like that Kelly seems to have a crush on him. I suspected this when she tried turning to him for help despite the fact that there was no indication whatsoever in the previous series that he was in the least bit likeable. Why do I like it, then? Well, it’s a part of rounding out his character, which it looks like we’re going to be seeing more of, and we’ve seen hints, too, that he might have a softer side, which is interesting. Plus, if you were reading my Misfits reviews last year you’ll know I ship Kelly/Nathan, and I’d like for Kelly to be able to move on and find someone else if Nathan’s out of the picture.

So, some pluses and minuses on the powers, and some interesting new plotlines hinted at. I’m not sure yet that the New Guy is sufficiently distinct from Nathan. He has the same tendency to speak his mind in an excessively crude fashion (at least half the time), the same boundless confidence (even if this is fueled by the fact that he’s able to physically expel the part of him that is ashamed). His power is interesting and new, however, and there’s no question that the show is still entertaining. I am a little disappointed that the old Misfits had to wind up back on Community Service detail again in order for the programme makers to feel their show still worked, though. I mean, I know it’s amusing to have them all in bright orange jumpsuits that look a little like superhero costumes, but they can’t be on Community Service forever, and I had sort of hoped that they were moving past that at the end of the last series.

Overall, I’m feeling positive and excited about the new series, but it remains to be seen how the questions I do have will be answered.

Misfits, Christmas Episode

Premise: Community service ends and three months passes. In the meantime, some dude has discovered he has the power to take powers from people and pass them on to others, which he is doing for money. Another dude is a vicar who’s not getting much of a flock for his community centre based services. The misfits are down and out and tempted by the prospect of exchanging money for powers. Vicar dude is tempted by the opportunity to buy powers and pretend to be the second coming of Jesus, thus attracting a much bigger flock, and pulling people for quick shags.

There were many things about this episode that were glorious. Let’s just start with Nathan in a Santa costume pulling a pregnant girl who turns out to be as dappy and blunt as himself. Much as I am firmly Team Nathan/Kelly, I thought this was wonderful, and worked perfectly from start to finish. I instantly liked her, and I instantly believed in the relationship.

Alisha wanting to sell her power was utterly convincing, and probably necessary. A six or even 12 episode arch about how shit it is to not be able to touch people without them being driven to have sex with you has some mileage. But it felt like this series they were really struggling with the fact that this is not only a fairly useless power, it’s really hard not to make episodes that involve it creepy from the point of view of thematic implication.

They also handled the ‘second coming’ storyline with all the shocking good humour you would expect from the Misfits crew. I’m not religious, and so not really in a position to gauge the offensiveness of this, but seeing as it’s not really Jesus, it seemed to me that they were dancing rather skillfully around the edges of blasphemy.

I did have some issues, though. I believed that Alisha would sell her powers. I found Nathan’s attempt to sell his power for money for his new girlfriend’s baby rather touching. I found it funny that he got so little for it, despite being aware that, yes, he does have something from the A list. I’m not entirely convinced he would have done it, but I could go with it. But Nikki and Curtis? I just don’t think they would. Curtis has a power that doesn’t affect him adversely at all, and, whilst demonstrably frustrating for her, if I had the power of teleportation I’d be willing to spend more than 3 months trying to work out the kinks before getting rid of it. Also, unlike the other misfits, they both have jobs and seem to be doing OK for themselves.

The other big issue I had is that Alisha and Simon appear to have got together as a result of the reveal in the previous episode… which didn’t happen, because Curtis rewound time. Might they have gotten together in the preceding three months anyway? Probably. But that’s not how it’s presented, and the only person with any memory of the future where they got together (Curtis) didn’t actually have the opportunity to find out that they were together.

But ho hum. For all its flaws, it was still greatly entertaining, which is what I want from Misfits, really. What I want to know is how the cliffhanger we’ve been left with will be resolved in the next series. If you don’t want spoilers for the end, look away now:

So, the misfits have lost all their powers, and have the chance to get their old powers back, or have some new ones.

Alisha can’t have hers back, and I think that’s probably all to the good.

It’s not actually clear whether Simon sold his power – we don’t actually see it. So, I’m intrigued to know whether he has or not, and whether he might now get two. It looks as though some form of ‘power immunity’ is on the cards for him anyway, but where does the time travel come from?

I’ll be disappointed if Curtis doesn’t get his back, as he could actually save Nikki, and, apart from the fact that I really liked her as a character and don’t like losing her so soon, I don’t think it would sit well with his character to just abandon her. Or does Curtis get a better form of time travelling power? We shall have to wait and see.

Nathan: I want him to get his immortality back. Yes, he could have a more useful power for his everyday life, but immortality seemed to suit him pretty well, and he said the reason he wanted it back was so he could make sure he was there for the baby.

Kelly: I’m not sure if I want her to get rid of the telepathy. It suits her, but they haven’t used it well this series, and I have a suspicion that the writers are bored with it. In fact, I have a feeling there may be a general shakedown coming for that reason. I suppose whatever keeps them interested and writing this show I love is good. Plus, telepathy is one of those stereotypically female powers (like empathy), and while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with Kelly having that – as I say, it suits her – it might be good to have them mix it up a little bit.

So, it’s wait-and-see pudding, as we say in my family. And that could be what I want, or not what I want, but I suspect it’ll be pretty good anyway.

Misfits, Series 2, Episode 6

Those people at Channel 4 are cheeky devils for getting two episodes out in the same week, so I’m playing catch-up. It’s also a bit weird in that it’s like they had two end of series finales. It wasn’t a traditional Christmas episode, as it was neither slap-bam in the middle of a series, nor off on its own divorced from everything. But enough of the Christmas episode, that’s for a different post. This one’s all about Episode 6.

And it was glorious. A lot of pay off to things that had been building up. I said when I started reviewing this series that we’d look back and see things we’d missed, and that’s certainly true. I admit, I was wrong about the new probation worker. Not wrong about him being awesome, but wrong about him giving two shits to the people in his care. Basic plot of the episode (note: there’s really no way to talk about this without massive spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you should go do so now!):

Mousy looking chap discovers he has power over milk (indeed, all dairy products). Milk Dude gets in the papers and becomes famous for his power. A publicist shows up offering to be his representation. Lots of people start coming out of the woodwork, revealing their powers. Meanwhile: Our Heroes are still working community service, and Nathan moans loudly about it to the other two guys whilst taking a piss. Unbeknownst to them, the new probation worker is also in the loo, and overhears this. He sells them out to the papers for the dosh. Publicist lady shows up and offers to manage them, and everyone but Simon accepts. They get lots of money and attention, along with all the other people who have cool powers. Milk dude feels left out, and goes on a killing rampage.

All in all, this was awesome. I’m a sucker for superpowers, but I’m even more of a sucker for when ordinary people find out about the superpowers our heroes have. That’s why I’m so in for superhero set ups that prime for Secret Identity Angst. Lots of people hate Superman these days because they things having so many cool powers is dull. I have never felt this way, and part of it is because Superman isn’t just Superman, he’s Clark Kent, and you’ve got the whole ‘Will Lois/other people find out?!’ thing going on. So I’m digging this whole plot-line right from the start.

There’s also the fact that the Weird Storm has been shown to have affected quite a lot of people over the course of what is (from within the series) a fairly brief period of time. Something like this had to happen, at some point.

And the killing rampage itself is a thing of beauty. On the downside, I can’t help but be a little sad at the way that superhero shows far too often end up showing people who get put upon turning into raging psychopaths in a way that is utterly unfair. Smallville suffers from this in a big way. But Misfits also has its share of fairly nice people who just come to unfortunate ends. I will always love them for the Old Lady storyline. Also, it was awesome, so I let them off.

It was awesome because the killing was so relentless – carefully undercut, of course, in Misfits style, by the fact that it’s being done with milk. This is Misfits at its most bleak, yet somehow keeping things from getting too grim. It starts beautifully, with Milk Dude setting out to kill the Healing Lady at the same time that Nathan realises he’s got an STD from all the girls he’s been shagging, and tries to persuade the Healing Lady to rub her hands on his cock. She falls on her Award for Being Awesome whilst choking on some dairy product she had for lunch and Nathan thinks he accidentally killed her. In a sense, it’s all quite horrific, but it’s undercut by the fact that Nathan was trying to get her to rub his dick at the time, and, well… it’s the sort of heightened mix of grimness and vulgarity that only Misfits could mix together and make work so well.

But that’s not really the true horror – it should be, after all, that woman was going to ‘heal the world’, but we all know that in fiction it’s the characters we know that pack the real punch. The real horror is the relentless cutting down of the Misfits themselves. The scene where Nathan realises he’s talking to Kelly’s ghost, because Kelly herself is dead, is particularly powerful. (And, damn it, I wanted this to be a catalyst for them getting back together!) What Milk Dude does to Nathan (as he can’t kill him, of course) is simply unspeakably horrid. And then having Simon start to get his awesome self on to save the day, and get killed anyway… It was nicely done.

Speaking of Simon – the resolution of the Simon/Alisha plot is very nicely handled. I like that, in an odd kind of way, Simon and Nathan have sort of become best buddies. So having Simon hide out at Nathan’s is awesome, and then having Alisha drop just the right hint whilst talking to Nathan when not knowing that Simon is there… it’s a really nice moment. And it’s right that we should see this come out and have them get together over this in the ‘last’ episode.

Another thing I really like about this episode is that the PR woman isn’t actually evil. She goes where the money is, sure, but she doesn’t actually turn out to be a murderous bitch – a route so many other shows would have gone down. It looked for a bit like they were going to go there, but then they didn’t, and I love that. Her death was unfair, despite the fact that she’s dumped Milk Dude for the next best thing. I thought that was very nicely handled.

One thing that is a little clunky is Curtis just happening to be lactose intolerant. It’s just so convenient. But then again, we couldn’t have the emotional punch of what happens to the other Misfits without Curtis’s power to rewind time, so I guess it’s swings… roundabouts. They need to be careful about using this power to that effect, though – you can only have people die so many times and have it matter-yet-still-undone before it loses its effect. Perhaps that’s why they’ve decided to go the way they do in the Christmas episode, but that’s a discussion for another post.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. There may have been individual moments that trumped this earlier on, but I’m inclined to say that this episode is my fave – if there can be such a thing in a series that plays so well off its story arcs. It hits all the right buttons for me, personally, and does a good job of bringing things together all round.

Year End Review, Part 1: Music, Smallville, and Misfits

It’s been quite a year. This blog wasn’t even close to existing a year ago, and that’s just the least of it. Some of the biggest events of my life aren’t going to get a mention here, because I do want to keep this focused on my writing-centric and geekerific side, but there’s still been a lot going on. Why am I going to be talking about music, then? Well, why not? And it’s been an oddly musical year. Very much an audible year.

My parents were big music fans, and I always thought I would follow in their footsteps when I got to university. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t. A combination of things, I think. One was money – I couldn’t afford to buy new music on the off-chance – but then, my parents weren’t that well off at uni, either probably less well off than me. Part of it was the music itself. Just about the only decade of the latter half of the 20th Century I didn’t have a lot of time for, musically, was the 90s. (Not that there weren’t notable exceptions, like Pulp – Different Class was the soundtrack to my teenage years.) I was a student in the naughties, of course, but I’d pretty much tuned out of the popular music scene by the time that came around, and the new decade took a little while to ease in and get playful. The other thing is probably that I am hopelessly multi-interested, and I guess writing, reading, SF&F/role-playing, and my studies got first dibs on my time and money.

Anyway, that changed a very tiny bit this year. I finally discovered the awesomeness that is downloading individual tracks. I’ll be honest, sometimes it wasn’t that I didn’t want to buy a song, it’s just that buying a book or a DVD was more value for money than buying a whole album on the basis of one song. We learnt that lesson the hard way, didn’t we, The Coral? But this year, I’ve bought more music than I have done in the whole of the last ten years, probably.

It started in the cold, cold days after Christmas, when I was alone in the dingy Flat of Doom. I had the Internet, my DVDs, iPlayer, 4oD, and an Amazon voucher for company. One of the things that happened, as you may have gathered, is that I found the first series of Misfits. Which I ate like a hungry thing in pure, joyous escapism.

I was then sad, and alone, and had no more shows about superpowers to watch. Against long-term prejudice, I caved. Despite my firm belief that Smallville was awful and not to be touched for love nor money, I realised I needed a fix, and I resolved to try it from the beginning. I learnt that: a) yes, in many ways the first few seasons were god-awful; but b) it was better when seen in the right order; c) it got better as it went along; and d) it is highly addictive.

That was the Great Smallville Inhaling of 2010. I’ve had obsessions before, but never had there been so much left to absorb at once, nor so much need of distraction (not least because I was actually working quite hard, when I wasn’t watching Smallville). It was a glorious thing to behold. At least, it was from where I was huddling with my hot water bottle.

The other thing I did in that cold, drab winter was to take my Amazon voucher and apply it, for the first time, to songs… And these were the songs I grabbed:

(If you’re weird enough to share my taste in music, you can find a playlist of these on YouTube here.)

Ride Like the Wind, by Christopher Cross
The Boys of Summer, by Don Henley
Rhiannon, by Fleetwood Mac
We Built this City, by Starship
Don’t Stop Believin’, by Journey (Why yes, I had been watching Glee – how did you guess?)
Broken Wings, Mr. Mister
Streets of Philadelphia, by Bruce Springsteen
Hazard, by Richard Marx (I hadn’t seen the video before – the song’s way better without it)
As Tears Go By, by The Rolling Stones
As I Lay Me Down, by Sophie B Hawkins
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, by Doris Day (And yeah, that’s the Strictly Ballroom clip that first sold me on the song)
Sleeping Satellite, Tasmin Archer

Incidentally, if you decide you want to start jogging again (as I did, early this year) those first 6 are awesome running songs. 80s motivational rock FTW! On the other hand: yes, I am now sick of ‘Don’t Stop Believin”, just like everyone else.

This list is a mixture of songs I have always loved, but never owned; songs my parents owned, but I never got around to buying for myself; and songs that I used to have on a mix CD I composed of a friends’ music collection whilst at Sixth Form College – the CD is now hopelessly scratched. ‘Hazard’, ‘Broken Wings’, and ‘The Boys of Summer’ were on that CD. What can I say – those songs remind me of a very special time in my life; a time of possibility and hope. I needed a little sense of possibility and hope this year.

Another fun fact: I spent quite a long time believing that ‘The Boys of Summer’ was ‘The Poisoned Summer’ – I thought it was a song about life after the apocalypse. It’s an easy mistake to make, and if you listen to the lyrics you actually have to get fairly far into the song to get to anything that doesn’t gel well with that interpretation. It’s got a very T2 feeling to it, to me – I get visions of the open desert road, long shadows, and warm orange sunset light. Possibly coloured the song a bit differently for me.

Tasmin Archer’s ‘Sleeping Satellite’ was another song that changed meaning for me on listening properly to the lyrics. It’s a song about how sad it is that we’ve stopped going back to the moon. Maybe it’s a metaphor about passionate love fizzling out too quickly, too, but if so, it’s really specific and involved. Anyway – I think it’s an awesome song.

And… this post is quite long enough, so I think I’ll pick up this tale later. If this sort of post bores you (and I can see why it might)… Oh well. I’m sure to be posting about Misfits or something else again soon.

Misfits, Series 2, Episode 5 – Undead Blogging

I’m catching up with this week’s Misfits. Misfits airs on a night that clashes with my Battlestar Galactica tabletop RPG aka – my most regular social contact with the outside world. As Misfits gets up on 4oD ready for the next day, Misfits loses, but not too much – I end up catching it anyway. I was working late last night, so here we are today. Just a breath in and I already feel like I have something to say, so I thought: what the hey – live blogging! Only it’s not really live, because it’s on catch-up, and I can pause, as I am doing now. So it’s more like undead blogging, or perhaps ‘alive again’ blogging, because I’m a Pushing Daisies geek. Whatever: to the ep!

*** to 06:27

Only a few minutes into this one, and I like it already. There’s been a lot of plot set-up in the last couple of episodes, and now we back to free and easy and playing with Nathan. He gets on form again right from the start. The image of him re-enacting his failed attempt to suck his own cock is a piece of comic genius. Someone just murdered you, and now you’re not just talking about that shit, you’re acting it out – that’s the Nathan we know and don’t quite know why we love! Nathan’s been playing second fiddle for a bit, but now he’s back on form as the spotlight returns, which is only right for an attention whore like him. Loved it.

Also loved the scene with Alisha waiting for/stalking Simon. Adds a nice bit of balance to the Future!Simon-stalking-Alisha scenes earlier in the series. And it was emotionally real. Misfits has always been in for the less shiny-happy world in contrast to what we’re used to from superhero shows. It makes it work by alleviating the stark reality with humour so vibrant that we’re pulled right back from what could be really depressing to laughing out loud. And that enables it to get away with moments like this. Alisha sitting on the ground in a council estate knowing that the man who will be her lover is going to be walking past soon, not knowing that she is grieving for his own death, and she’s not even sure how to connect with the man as he is now. All of that could be unbearably cheesy, but it’s not. It’s not because Alisha is shot starkly and simply from the ground – the sort of plain shot that can make any deserted corner look like it was part of some post-apocalypse-style empty world. She’s very alone, and it looks very real.

And then Echo and the Bunnymen starts up, and I’m in a whole Donny Darko place where things sound like love – doomed love, but young and excited and throw-yourself-into-it-love. Nice.

*** 07:24

The new probation worker is still made of seven kinds of win. I don’t know if I want there to be anything more to him than that or not!

*** 08:42

I LOVE that Nathan is still calling Simon ‘Barry’. 😀

*** 10:31

Aw – there’s clearly something fishy going on with everyone fancying people, but I gotta love the Kelly love. She needs to be told she’s beautiful more often. Especially by Nathan, like he did when she’d been warped into wearing dull clothes at the end of last series.

*** 13:36

OK, creepy fugitive guy is creepy, not sweet; but cute new girl may not be a murderer. OR MAYBE ALL MY INSTINCTS ARE WRONG.

*** 14:55

Oh well, the 4oD blurb spoiled it for me, and it looks like she is evil, and disappointingly so, as the ep goes on. Women getting cast as evil for (massively) over-reacting to legitimate complaints (being spied on when changing, being called a ‘prick tease’ for refusing sexual attention) illicitly de-legitimises perfectly reasonable negative reactions to such things :-/

*** 17:38

Aw, every time Nathan fakes dirty sex motions I can’t stay mad at them.

*** 19:03

Oh, Creepy Dude’s being sort of sweet again. I’m so confused!

*** 24:09

Music is thoroughly well chosen for this ep. The (Maybe)Creepy!Dude/Kelly sex scene is awesome!

*** 25:12

Nikki/Curtis: mwahaha – time travel for sex! I am a fan of this concept. And no, The Time Traveller’s Wife didn’t give me ideas for what Doctor Who could do – why do you ask?

I approve of this scene. And Nikki, for being full of character, just like the others, yet still different and herself. The writers are really ace at creating characters that are vibrant and real, and yet somehow we don’t see enough of in other shows.

*** 28:30

Has no one seriously found out that Nathan is living in the Community Centre yet? It was fun for a bit, and I don’t mind stretching credulity a little, but methinks it’s time for him to find somewhere else to live.

*** 32:55

Oh, there is nothing more glorious than them all in superhero costumes! And it looks like maybe Curtis wasn’t really a real superhero in the future anyway, because that’s the costume he was wearing when he travelled forward.

Also thought the Kelly/Creepy!Dude second sex scene was well-handled. Nice balance. I like taht she said no and he did stop.

Looks like it might be the Dad who’s the killer of the guys Cute!Girl fancies. I hope so. It’s a tired trope, but better than the prick-tease-turned-black-widow.

*** 37:30

The catching up to the future moment is handled very nicely. Love the music. Somehow matching the tone of the Echo and the Bunnymen song from earlier. There’s a whole tone of doomed love and sex that’s working very well for this episode. It all speaks to Alisha’s emotion in the beginning, but it’s coming together all around her for everyone but her.

*** 41:13

Yay! Alisha to the rescue! And after both her fellas have been screwing other women. Sucks to be her right now, but it also makes her rather awesome.

*** 41:48

Lol! and just like that, it’s all got very silly. An ape-man is climbing a building with Kelly on his back whilst being chased by the police. I feel like we just entered one of the sillier Incredible Hulk episodes – but in a good way!

*** 44:32

Hmm, sad moment rather spoiled by unconvincing rubber gorilla head, but nice idea!

*** Closing Shot:

AWESOME. Them outlined against the skyline in their superhero costumes (Nathan with his fake muscles!), and even a bit of colour in the sky for once. Nicely done. It all worked out alright in the end.

As for the undead blogging… well, I don’t know that I’d do it again, but it was fun whilst it lasted.

Misshapes, Mistakes, Misfits…

Misfits, Series 2, Episode 4 (WARNING: there will be SPOILERS)

The main plot: a crazed killer takes himself to be in a violent computer game and acts out the crimes to score points. This is stylishly done, and Matt Cross pulls of the role of the deranged man with real finesse. Nonetheless, it it’s a disappointingly unimaginative idea that draws on the tired trope of the danger of violent video games with very little criticism. It is semi-sent up at the very end when Kelly is used to lampshade the theme with a comment to the effect of: ‘This is what happens when men spend all day playing video games and wanking over women on the Internet’, but it feels tacked on and I felt it did as much to enforce the view as undercut it. I’ll admit that there was a reality and horror to the violence and a comedy to the ‘video game view’ that did much to make this a more mature and interesting take on the trope, but overall, it’s not my favourite thing Misfits have ever done.

But enough with the negative, let’s move to the positive:

My new favourite character may very well be Kelly. Despite being given the least to do, she succeeds in stealing the scene in most of the ones she’s in. One side-ways look from her as she dangles from a meat hook in the world’s ugliest wedding dress makes the comic moment.

We’ve seen tough Kelly. We’ve seen her kill several people with what may or may not be inhuman strength. I like that she was overpowered not by physical dominance, but in a way that effortlessly hammered home the terrifying ease with which guns can kill. I also like that they didn’t show her turning into a quivering wreck as she is taken hostage. What could have been the most boring, clichéd scene of a stereotypical psycho playing out a fantasy on a captive woman is brought alive by the fact that Kelly remains Kelly. The situation she’s in is dangerous and frustrating, and she just deals with it. She is both disarming and blunt as she responds to Tim’s (the deranged man’s) ravings whilst accepting that there’s very little she can do.

I also like the new girl. This is an episode hung together on deus ex machina from start to finish, and the fact that there just happens to be a new guy who just happens to have the power of teleportation and just happens to get killed and his heart just happens to go to Curtis’s new lady-friend… it’s a fair amount of coincidence to swallow, but if it brings Nikki on the scene, so much the better. She’s awesome. I only wish her coming to the rescue had been at all pointful beyond getting her to meet the rest of the gang and wind-up snogging Curtis. I could comment about the impotence of the female characters, but, let’s be fair, there’s no real self-directed action from any of the regulars, this episode.

So who was directing the action? Well, it was pretty much down to the ironically rather agentless Tim, who is directed entirely by his psychosis; and Future!Simon, who meets his inevitable sticky end, sacrificing himself for Alisha. It was a fairly moving exit scene, but it also felt a bit like an episode that was getting the job done. We’ve been building up to some character re-positioning: Curtis has broken-up with Alisha; Nikki is all better from her disease of the angst-gland, she’s also now with Curtis and has met the others and has a power of her own; oh, and Alisha now has a Cool Base of Awesomeness. I like that. She may not have set it up herself, but I like the power it gives her, and I wonder what she’s going to do with it. I hope it becomes her hero-lair, but one rather wonders how she can possibly get the others in to share it as a team base without explaining to Simon where it came from.

So: all in all, I don’t think this was their best episode, but they did it with the same style and talent as usual, and I like where they ended up. And I want to know what happens next!

Misfits, Series 2, Episode 3

Unsurprisingly, I’m enjoying series 2 as much (or at least, almost as much) as series 1. I haven’t got loads to say about it beyond, that. I watched the first season in a big lump after it had finished airing, so it’s a different experience to be watching it week to week. I want to see what the story arc will be this time. A few observations, though (caution, will contain spoilers):

– Love the new probation worker – yet another rich, interesting, and utterly natural character. With the rate they go through them it would be easy for the probation workers to be quite samey, but they’re not. I love that he’s both on their side and a bit can’t-give-a-shit. I love that they’ve managed to convey that he does care about them – that he’s willing to stand up to the police for them, and that his attitude is thus a part of that. I wouldn’t say he gains their trust (we haven’t seen that yet) but he’s worthy of it, open to it, because he treats them as independent adults doing jobs that we all know none of them care that much about doing. I like that. I like him. I hope they do something with him. I’m glad he isn’t dead yet.

– Like the Mysterious Stranger plot. Intrigued that it’s turned out to be Simon. The stark bare plot that Alisha would fall for him because he protected her and is all mysterious and for some reason she can now touch him without her power coming into effect – it sounds pretty unlikely. And yet, they make it work. The actors make it work. The subtle differences in Simon make it work, without stopping it from being him – a more mature him, but still reserved and quiet, and still a bit creepy: stalking is still not a flattering way to show your affection! Alisha’s understandable dissatisfaction with how her power is affecting her life makes it work, too. I like that they’re lamp-shading how creepy and unpleasant her power is – how it makes her feel about how men regard her, and what it says about broader issues that the ‘pretty’ girl has been given a power like that in a superhero show. And yet those could still both be incredibly awkward and forced if the actor wasn’t pulling it off as well as she is.

– Not liking so much that Kelly and Nathan failed at getting it on. The scene was well-acted, but given the obvious chemistry and passion those two showed – and how interesting, wonderful, and different the arc of their relationship was – I’ll be really disappointed if it stops there. Obviously, having a stable relationship in TV land is virtually impossible, yet this was one that, if anything, was clearly never going to settle down into dullness. I hope it’s not the end of it.

And that’s about it, really. We’re still waiting to see the rest of the plot unfold. I’m sure we’ll look back and see things we missed.


So, I haven’t blogged for a bit because last weekend I started a mahoosive post on cover art, and realised I had issues with one of my previously favourite pieces that I wasn’t sure how to resolve. I am, however, unreserved in my love for Misfits, which has just started its new season, so I say: bring on a whole different post!



Most people missed Misfits the first time round because the trailers didn’t make it look fun. I’m not sure how they could have made it look better, which is odd, because it’s masses of fun – probably more fun in one TV show than most other TV shows of 2009 combined – but there’s something about it that doesn’t translate well into a trailer. I have an instinct to say: ‘More Nathan. More Nathan would have got across how fun it was.’ But it’s entirely possible that if you just showed clips of Nathan you’d come away with the impression that the show was highly offensive, and never tune in because of that.

Nathan is highly offensive. Highly. And yet, we love him.

I think maybe the trailers didn’t work the first time round because it looks like a very British, very Channel 4 take on something that’s usually colourful and fun. By which I mean to say, it’s all grey, washed out colours (except for the bright orange of the community service jumpsuits), and about people being down and out and depressing. Gritty, is how it looked. It both is and isn’t those things. Here’s the premise:

Five people get thrown together doing community service for a variety of relatively low-level crimes. On their first day there’s some kind of weird storm, a bright flash of light, and afterwards they slowly come to realise that they’ve all been given superpowers. They’re not the only ones. The writers make the very wise decision of not going into detail about their ‘weird storm’, but it seems to have affected a fair few people in widely varying ways (usually connected to what they were thinking about at the time of the ‘phenomenon’). One of these is the probation worker, who’s pretty pissed off with them when it happens, and ends up turning into a sort of evil, murderous Hulk. He’s not a bad guy, the effects of the storm just work on the fact that he has a frustrating job, and his charges had been being pretty annoying at the time of impact. In the course of defending themselves, some of our ‘heroes’ discover their powers… and accidentally kill their probation worker. Dealing with the consequences of this, their new abilities, and other freaky shit that goes down as a consequence of the storm, forms the plot for the first season.

It does have that sort of hieghtened, grey-coloured realism that we’ve come to expect from various quirky, British twists on X. But it’s thrown into stark relief by some excellently written and acted characters, and a script that’s a master of that sort of comedy that never detracts from the dramatic elements, yet equally never loses its bite. Curtis, Kelly, Alisha, and Simon (aka: BARRY!) are well-drawn, entertaining, realistic, and funny. But the real star is Nathan.

Various people have told me recently that they regard Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory as the shining comedy character of the last ten years, but I think Nathan gives him a solid run for his money*. He has a mouth that stops for no man. He has literally no censor between thought and word, and the thoughts are usually crude, prejudicial, and offensive. And yet he’s so full of light and life and good humour, and somehow the fact that he crosses the line, runs happily past the line, and then just keeps on going to new levels of ‘OMG – what did he just say?’… Somehow you can’t help laughing at him, liking him, and even feeling sorry for him.

His life is pretty screwed at the start of the series. He may only have been done for ‘stealing from the Pick ‘n’ Mix’ (as he puts it), but it’s the last straw on what one suspects may have been a very patient mother’s back. She kicks him out, and no one he knows will take him in because, well, he’s just so offensive – he’s pissed them all off. And yet, as Kelly points out, with insight that is both surprising and unsurprising, part of what’s at the root of his behaviour is that he doesn’t care what other people think of him, and so he doesn’t really expect other people to mind what he says about them either.

Kelly is also an awesome character. Much credit should go to actor Lauren Socha. Kelly is so close to the worst caricature of a chav – scraped back hair, too much mascara, strong accent, tendency towards confrontational behaviour… And yet she’s also one of the more sympathetic characters. Even without her telepathy, she shows remarkable, yet believable, insight into those around her. Just little touches, here and there, lightly drawn, but it’s enough.

So, this was a six episode mini-series run in late 2009 that I, like most people didn’t catch on to until it was over. I ate it up on 4oD on cold winter nights in early January, then flailed about the Internet looking for someone to squee with, and finding no one. But I guess those of us who watched it both loved it and spread the word, because as season 2 loomed it got much more interest, despite the colossally poorly thought-through promo that spoiled Nathan’s superpower (just about the massive spoiler for the plot of the first season) for everyone who missed the first series the first time around – which was nearly everybody. The number of people on my Twitter feed or in person who said something to the effect of ‘FFS! They spoiled Nathan’s superpower – I wasn’t caught up on the first season yet!’ says something both about the ineptitude of whoever made the advert, and for the word-of-mouth popularity of the thing.

Anyway, I’m not going to link you to the trailer. If you haven’t seen it already and don’t give two tosses about spoilers, I’m sure you can find it. I say: just go watch the first season. It’s all on 4oD, if you’re in the UK, and if you’re not, you can get it on Amazon for pittance – it’s only 6 episodes long.

Season two started this week, and without giving too much away, I gotta say that they’ve still got it. Script, acting, everything is right up to par. I LOVE the new probation worker, and the mysterious masked fellow who comes to their aid has me all intrigued!

This is a great little series – dark, funny, has superpowers – and includes some really intelligent exploration of some truly modern themes. You know I’m the first one to complain about under-representation of race and gender, and they’re not doing too badly on that front, not just amongst the stars, but in the supporting cast as well. It even casts an interesting new light on chav culture, without ignoring or disguising the identifying tropes. Granted, one can raise an eyebrow at the pretty girl (Alisha) getting the power of ‘filling people with lust’ when they touch her, but I can’t deny I enjoyed Planet Story, by Harry Harrison, the classic illustrated book in which a man ‘suffers’ from a very similar condition. Of course, men aren’t traditionally regarded as sex objects in quite the same way as women are, but as TV Shows go, this is still leagues ahead of most others for female representation, so I’m not inclined to complain too much.

Go catch up on 4oD!

*I have half a feeling that I’m repeating someone else’s thought, here – possibly Alasdair Stuart‘s – but I can’t remember clearly enough.