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Misfits’ wayward British teens are not to be fooled with. From left: Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon. (MARK JOHNSON/NYT)
Misfits’ wayward British teens are not to be fooled with. From left: Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon. (MARK JOHNSON/NYT)

Andrew Ryan

Misfits: When deadbeat slackers become real, live superheroes Add to ...

Imagine the freedom that comes with having superpowers.

The notion of a normal person endowed with extraordinary abilities created the comic book, and it currently drives a film industry that seems to crank out a new superhero movie every several weeks. If the stories of Spider-Man and Batman have taught us anything, it’s that with great power comes great responsibility.

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So what happens when that power is handed over to the wrong people?

Therein lies the unique twist of Misfits, a weirdly wonderful sci-fi series that began airing on British television in 2009. Created by TV veteran Howard Overman, Misfits puts a darkly comic spin on the superhero genre by focusing on a group of young people who really shouldn’t be superheroes at all. Welcome to the dark underbelly of Heroes, mate.

Set in a drab suburb somewhere in southeast London, in its first season the show introduces five young slackers sentenced to perform community service for various petty crimes. While painting benches in a public park, the grotty five are exposed to a freak electrical storm, replete with car-crushing hail, which inexplicably gifts them with profound new abilities.

Suddenly, the sad-eyed Kelly (Lauren Socha) has the power of telepathy. Sullen Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) can rewind time. Alisha (Antonia Thomas) can send people into a sexual frenzy with a single touch. And the truculent Simon (Iwan Rheon) can now turn invisible. Only Nathan (Robert Sheehan) remains unchanged by the experience, much to his chagrin.

Bending to realism, the principals of Misfits react to their new abilities much the way you’d expect young people to react: with shock, initially, followed by the slow realization that it’s pretty darn cool to have superpowers.

All of which factors into the first season, which deals primarily with a coverup. That electrical storm also gives the group’s probation officer, Tony (Danny Sapani), super strength and a sudden murderous hatred toward his young charges. And thereby hangs one plotline and various twists.

It’s always obvious when young people are keeping secrets. And even more obvious when they’re hooking up: Over the first six episodes, there are several inevitable love connections.

Box-set extras include behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and creators, and the entire run of mobile-camera films created by the character Simon, which are best left until after watching the full first season.

By any measure, Misfits is clever TV drama and highly addictive. A running subplot of the first season introduces an ominous cult-like group attempting to brainwash the local youth into becoming proper, law-abiding citizens; the only people capable of stopping the cult are, naturally, the five juvenile delinquents. Even the most reluctant superheroes eventually rise to the occasion.

 

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