Monday 25 January 2010

Skins - I’d give anything to be normal for a whole day.

Skins: 3x07 JJ.

The thing about JJ is: it comes with his medical condition that he doesn’t like change and fights. And in the case of Season Three of “Skins”, Effy is responsible for both these things in his tightly knit circle of two friends.
 Emily, on the other hand, craves change. Change is what will give her the bravery to be honest about who she is. Change is what lets her have Naomi, and become her own person in her fight for independence from her sister. .
In the beginning of the episode, we start with the violence and chaos JJ has created in his room, and we see his huge diagram about how his life is complicated. His clock says “headfuck” to remind him of his medication, and as we follow him through his day, we realize that his life resolves around having Asperger’s syndrome, and that he desperately tries to be okay for his mother, while secretly craving nothing more than a day of being normal.
Like every other character in “Skins”, the grown-ups in his life act irresponsibly. In JJ’s case, it’s not a parent we see as extremely unsettling, unconcerned and ruthless, it’s a psychiatrist assigned to his case. He fails to listen, and the only advice he has for him is to prescribe another kind of pill (STUN) and tell him not to worry.
JJ: “Or maybe they just don’t like me enough.”
Doc: ”Who?”
JJ: “My friends.”
Doc: “Your friends don’t like you?”
JJ: “I’m pretty sure of it.”
Doc: “And why is that?”
JJ: “Because if they liked me, maybe they would listen to me occasionally instead of fighting all the time and hating each other.”
Doc: “I’m sure they don’t hate you.”
JJ: “I didn’t say they hated me. They hate each other.”
Doc: “Well, there you go!”
It’s interesting to see him react to Emily then, who is at the psychological health centre for different reasons (“I don’t usually see people I know in here.” / “Why not?” / “Because normal people don’t come here.”). She is trying to be more honest, and has a prescription for the same STUN. With her, JJ articulates what he wants (“I’d give anything to be normal for a whole day”) and she actually tells him what to do, tells him all the things that the more conventional person of trust, his doctor, should have said (“You know, JJ, all those things you want, why don’t you just ask for them? Why don’t you ask?”)

The Odyssey of Asking for What JJ Wants

JJ’s rather circular list includes losing his virginity, proclaiming his love for Effy, forcing his friends to solve their problems by telling Freddie “to forget Effy because she is not good for us”, not get his head ruffled, and losing his virginity all over again. For some reason, Emily decides to become his sidekick in this odyssey, and it quickly is about her as well, when JJ finds out that Freddie is sleeping with Katie, and then accidentally tells both that Emily is gay – which is probably not exactly how she wanted to break this news to her twin sister.
The confrontation with Freddie doesn’t go well either: He tells JJ that things change, and that JJ has to chose between him and Cook, and then he ruffles his hair. It’s then that JJ decides what the viewer probably figured out in any of the previous episodes: that he is the normal one in their circle of friends.
When he goes to see Effy, he thinks that she will be with Cook (after a confusing phone call he received from Cook) – and it is adorable to see that everybody does figure out how to deal with him when he articulates what he needs (“I usually drink mango-juice when I get over-stressed”).
Effy: “Come on JJ , don’t be pathetic. It’s easy. Just tell me something true. Tell Me. Tell Me Now.”
JJ: “I love you.”
Effy: “Well, everybody loves me.”
JJ: “That’s a relief.”
Effy: “With the possible exception of ma and da. They don’t love me so good.”
JJ can’t go off the rails because his mom needs him to be ok, it’s why he takes the pills, while Effy is just experiencing what happens when parents fall apart violently, when she as their daughter becomes an obstacle to their newly found liberty.
JJ: “Please leave them alone, Effy.”
Effy: “Who?”
JJ: “I don’t mean to be rude but, Cook, Freddy and me, they’re the only friends I’ve ever had, and you’ve basically ruined everything, And I’d like you to stop now please.”
Effy: “I can’t do that J.”
JJ: “Why not?”
Effy: “Thanks for loving me.”
JJ: “No problem.”
Effy: “I’d like to be your friend.”
JJ shakes his head at this last suggestion, indicating that he realizes that Effy can’t be anybody’s friend.
JJ is also the first one to find out that Pandora is still sleeping with Cook, and although Cook doesn’t admit to it (just tries to make sure that he didn’t see her on her way out), JJ asks him why he does anything that he feels is wrong.
Cook: “Cause it’s life, J. You gotta get in there and never fuckin stop. Shit is waiting to be done and if you’re not going to do it you’re a pathetic little pussy fart.”
JJ: “What’s so pathetic about stopping. What about other people, Cook?”
Cook: “Fuck other people.”
JJ: “Thing is, Cook, you didn’t answer my question. What would happen if you stopped?”
Cook: “Look at me, J. What else have I got?”

So in my head, the whole storyline where Cook clings to Effy because she is the one good thing that has happened to him works much better than the idea that Freddie is somehow her soulmate and a really interesting and good person. Cook is living the life of someone who doesn’t believe that things will ever get better for him, and he is unapologetic about it, while we’ve seen Effy transformed during these past episodes, admitting to somehow “not being right” for something she might want to do, and saying sorry when she made a mistake. I wonder if JJ really understands what Cook is telling him here, whether he understands the possible consequences of giving him STUN when they fail to score any other drugs to bring to Thomas’ party.

Interval: Naomi and Effy.

I love this small scene because it’s the first time that the two have actually talked to each other, and acknowledged how much they secretly know just because they are perceptive about what is happening.
Effy: “No Emily? Truth.”
Naomi: “Is it that obvious?”
Effy: “You don’t have to be a genius to work it out. So?”
Naomi: “So I’m straight.”
Effy: “Sure?”
Naomi: “If I said no, would I regret it?”
Effy: “Probably, but not because of me.”
Naomi: “We’re objects of lust.”
Effy: “Making you feel good?”
Naomi: “Not really.”
Effy: “So. I suggest we go in there and get so monumentally fucked up we forget all about…” (she sees Freddy)
Naomi: “No. Oh my god.”
Effy: “No!”
Naomi: “Well that’s fucked up.”
Effy: “No.”
Naomi: “You love him. You love the lips. Go on, lie to me. I want to see this.”
Sadly, the scene where they get “monumentally fucked up” is missing, but that’s what fanfiction is for, right? We see Emily inside, completely drunk, and it’s Katie who saves her from Cook’s advances (somehow I imagine that maybe Emily might have ended up with Cook if her protective sister hadn’t intervened – it’s nice to see this other side of Katie, the side where all her defensiveness actually amounts to being concerned and looking out for her sister)


In the end, when JJ finally gets all the three musketeers together, it’s not really what he has hoped to accomplish: Cook, bloodied from a fight he started but happy that Freddie of all people came to save him, is telling the truth (STUN, remember?), and it reveals more about him than we found out in his very own episode.
“Freddie, she loves you, you know. […] She loves you. But she can’t stand it, she can’t stand the love, so she fucked me instead. […] So I’m pissed off, yeah. She’s taking a piss, and it’s hurting me, cause Cook needs the love too. Cookie’s got nothing. Cook has always got nothing. And that’s why I do pout. That’s why I popped Panda […] I’m shit. I’m pure shit”.
Unfortunately, Thomas overhears this exchange (Panda doesn’t find out that he knows until next episode).

This is between friends, yeah?

In the end, when JJ finds the results of his experiment inconclusive, there is only one thing left on his list, and the episode moves in a circular motion again, pairing up Emily and him at the end too. Emily doesn’t want to go home and talk to her sister, so she sleeps over at his place instead, and finally seems to understand him when she sees his room, his diagram.
Emily: “I’m asking for something, JJ”
JJ: “OK. Yup. And I’m saying yes. But possibly a fazed approach might be more…”
Emily: “No, take them off.”
JJ: “No, that would be silly.”
Emily: “Take them off now, JJ and don’t be silly. This is a once only charity event, got it?”
JJ: “Got It. Cause you’re gay.”
Emily: “Yes. Cause I’m gay. I’m lots of things, JJ, and I really like this, so this is between friends, yeah?”
JJ: “Between friends. And I can be quite cute.”
Emily: “Yes you can.”
Afterwards when they are downstairs and JJ’s mom watches them, and then this huge smile spreads over her face, when she realizes that her son is probably going to be okay (she is probably the only parent we’ve met so far who was really trying hard to be a good parent) – it’s such a beautiful little moment. It’s why I was surprised to find myself liking this episode much more than I expected to. 

Random things:

JJ fainting after Emily describes in detail what she likes about girls – priceless.
Also how quickly she figures out how to help him when he’s locked on – pulling up her shirt.

I like that Cook knows about JJ’s appointment. He’s actually a pretty good friend, in a way. Maybe he’ll get to be a friend a little bit more in Season Four?

When the kids outside tease him again, and instead of beating them up (which we know he could do, given the destruction he caused in his room), he gives the bully a lollipop (“I’m not gay, I’m not anything”). Oh JJ.

Pandora still hooking up with Cook after Thomas returned? We didn’t expect that, did we?

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