Saturday, April 10, 2010

Skins: Series 3

Read my introduction to the cast members (second generation) of Skins Series 3. 

I find that when people talk about Skins, the first things that come up are the surface things like the sex and the drugs and the partying. But what Skins is really about are the characters and their interactions with one another. The show really hinges on the chemistry of the group and their individual friendships too. I don’t know how to do that without rambling on for ages, so I thought I’d highlight my favourite relationships in Skins and my favourite scenes. 

Katie and Emily
The twins have a really difficult relationship because Katie is the Alpha Female who increasingly finds that Emily, who she’s had under her thumb all this while, becomes to develop into her own person. I think this is where her denial of Emily’s homosexuality comes from, because it is something that will change her twin into something different than she is. While I mostly hated Katie for all of S3, in Episode 9 (“Emily”), where they tentatively start to resume their former roles before it all blows up in their faces at their school’s Love Ball, I warmed up to her, in relation to how she was trying to come to terms with Emily and their relationship. In the episode, they “talk twin”, which shows how desperate Katie is to return to their older days, but also shows the bond they share. It’s also really funny. At one point Katie is getting dressed to go out, and their little brother James (who has picked up cursing and likes to flaunt it) comes in and exclaims “Whoa, you’re naked, bitch!” Katie then says to Emily, “Bamba mamba jim jams” and Skins provides us with the subtitles.

Naomi and Emily
Emily really comes into her own by the end of the series, because she becomes brave enough to claim her identity and own to it. At first she has to deal with Katie, but then when she develops a crush on Naomi and Naomi brushes it off because she refuses to take Emily seriously until she comes out to herself, and to other people, it really forces her to take a look at how she’s been hiding. When Naomi suddenly becomes the timid one, refusing to acknowledge things that happen between them, Emily really gets fired up and demands her rights. She has some really great lines for this in Episode 6 (“Naomi”). SPOILER ALERT Once, after they have sex for the first time, in the woods, Naomi leaves straight away. As she wheels her bike away, Emily wakes up and runs after her, yelling “Don’t you dare leave me in your bed again!” and also “Be brave and want me back!” which I thought was very poetic.

Cook and Naomi
Also in Episode 6, Naomi is persuaded to run for class president by her politics tutor and Emily. Cook is trying to get into her pants (what else is new) and she says the day he wins class president is the day she’ll let him near her, so he takes her at her word (reminds me of Barney Stinson’s “Challenge accepted!”) and runs a “Cook Guevara campaign”. He wins, and etc etc they end up macking in a classroom. I’m not giving anything away, trust me, because with Skins, everyone ends up in everyone’s pants. It’s basically a delayed, prolonged orgy disguised as a show (that is what she said?). But then Naomi stops him and he’s fine with it and says to her (a line that makes me melt, embarrassingly) “It’s obvious you have a reason why you don’t want to fuck me, it’s probably a good one cause you’re, you know…clever.” Imagine the accent, and melt along with me!

JJ, Cook and Freddie
We really need a new collective name for a group of three, because I found myself rolling my eyes every time these three referred to themselves as the Three Musketeers. They even had a photo of themselves dressed in Musketeer garb, which was cute, but also, *eye roll*. But other than that, their friendship is the strongest out of everyone’s. Cook and Freddie act like pseudo parents to JJ, and sometimes this turns into infuriating (to JJ) patronizing. JJ’s episode is the best indication of their friendship, as he walks around and goes to all of their houses, trying to get them to make up and be friends again, and also to assert himself. This storyline runs concurrently to JJ’s struggle with his mental health issues, and how he has to be normal, for his mother’s sake. There are two twin moments in his episode – almost entirely underscored by Debussy, which was really beautiful I thought – where JJ watches his mother, asleep by the couch, a bunch of doctor’s reports and diagnoses on his health beside her and then at the end of the episode when his mom watches him and contemplates her son. These two moments were so gentle, it was a nice change from the ‘violence’ of Skins.

JJ and Emily
In JJ’s episode, he becomes better friends with Emily. They’re sitting on a hill, discussing what he would do if he were “normal” for a day when he accidentally blurts out that he loves Effy. He starts chastising himself, and curses up a storm, getting “locked on” as everyone else on the show calls it. Emily tries to stop him, and when she fails she flashes him and chirpily says “Look at these!” which immediately shuts him up. JJ says, “That worked”. I’ll also put here the conversation they had before hand, cause it’s JJ being adorable:

JJ: I’d give anything to be normal for a whole day.
Emily: Hey. If you were normal, what would you do?
JJ: I’d lose my virginity first. Several times.
E: Uh-huh.
JJ: Then I’d have a choccy nut milkshake without going into anaphylactic shock. Then I’d tell Freddie and Cook to stop fighting over Effy before they hate each other forever and not make me take sides. And they’d listen to me for once and not fucking ruffle my hair. Then I’d tell Effy I loved her, and lose my virginity a few more times.

Freddie and Effy
If I described this scene, I might spoil it? So enjoy the beauty of two really beautiful people being beautiful together. This is from Episode 5 ("Freddie"). 

These two have some really great love scenes, and I wish I could describe the one (and what follows after) that happens in Episode 8, but that would give away a really crucial event. Okay, I’m just gonna try: They all go camping in the woods and something bad happens. After this something bad, Effy (who is involved) finds Freddie and they have sex. After they leave the woods, the consequences of what happens surface, and Freddie is mad at Effy. He asks her when the bad thing happens, and she does my favourite bit of acting from Effy and goes super super quiet, does this amazing thing with her eyes and barely whispers “Just before.” And then Freddie looks at her in disgust (which I didn’t think was very fair) and walks away from her.

Thomas and Pandora
I think this relationship is the weakest and least convincing out of all of them. Their main bond is their mutual “niceness”, for lack of a better word. They’re both trusting and naïve, but then Pandora betrays Thomas and spends a couple of episodes gibbering and sniffling, begging him to take her back. The most convincing portrayal of their “love” is when Thomas isn’t there and Pandora is pining for him (before she betrays him). This happens when she wakes up after having slept over at Effy’s house, and she closes her eyes and runs Thomas’s wooden pendant up and down her face and throat, chanting “Come back.” She wakes up and finds that Effy’s mum has been watching them both sleep the whole time, and they have a discussion about love.

Panda: She’s (Effy) beautiful, not like me.
Effy’s Mum: Oh, seems like somebody likes you.
P: My boyfriend gave it to me. I only knew him three days, Thomas. And now he’s gone.
EM: Well, it was fun while it lasted, eh? (to herself) So much fun.
P: Yeah, it’s called love.
EM: That’s a big word.
P: I dunno, four letters is – Oh. But I’m sure it is love. All you wanna do is kiss him, and…you know, other stuff. Brilliant stuff.
EM: Yeah. (takes a deep breath) Brilliant stuff.

SS3 works really well when it comes to small moments, and smaller groups or pairings. But Skins needs to work on a larger level, and needs to have that big group dynamic. They don’t have to be particularly tight knit at first or all the time – more often that not we start with a few separate smaller circles of friends who converge and connect – but we should believe that they can be really good friends.

Having watched and loved the previous seasons of Skins, I judged this generation perhaps a bit unfairly by holding them up to a previous standard. And while I warmed up to them by the end of the third season, I also thought they didn’t succeed quite as well as their predecessor in having really natural, effortless chemistry between the cast members. The connections are less real and seems more forced to me.

This is a frequent complaint I have with SS3, because most of what they do seems stilted and artificial. They all curse like sailors, just like the first generation (and most teenagers), but sometimes someone will say ‘fuck’ or some other epithet and it will seem very much like they’re reading from a script. There’s also a woodenness in Freddie and also Effy (who, as a character, is an ice queen personified so she has to be pretty stiff) that bungles up their relationships with some of the others. Also, because Thomas literally just flies from the Congo in Episode 3, his integration also seems a bit forced and never fully fulfilled. Panda’s his only real connection to the rest, and not a very strong one. I think it really boils down to chemistry, and the actors in this particular group. I do think they have their strengths, and individually they’re all great but together they didn’t have the same impact as the previous group.

ALSO, by the end of Series 1, we see Sid from the first generation sing Wild World, with accompaniment from the blokes in the loo (hah, might as well do this the right way) and the bus driver. In Series 2, they had an episode where Maxxie and Michelle got roles in a school musical about 9/11 (I know, right?). So far with SS3, there wasn’t a big event like that to boost the overall show? And because they work on a 10-episode system, there’s what feels like a more pressing needs to make the most of your airtime. I know this is a different show compared to SS1 and 2, but I would very much like something awesome like what I just described to happen again for these new kids.

With all that said, I’m genuinely excited to watch Series 4 to see where the writers bring these kids to. I’m not too sure I’ll keep watching Series 5 (I heard the rumour is they’ll follow Freddie’s sister (who has appeared in Series 3) and her group of friends, and I’m not too interested in her, but we will see.

ADDENDUM: One really consistently awesome thing about Skins is the music. I have gotten almost every single track that was featured in Series 3 and I have quite a few from the previous series. They put quite a bit of thought in their music, and have dedicated pages and episode track lists on their website.