Skins 4x04: Katie.
Every single episode this season has surprised me. My first reaction to “Katie” was: this is why people love “Skins”, why it’s not just a show that you like and enjoy, but one that makes you suffer with the characters, smile with them when they’re happy and fear for them when things go wrong, which they do a lot.
I can’t really decide why I love this episode more than the ones before. In a way, “Thomas”, “Emily” and “Cook” had a happy ending. Thomas helped his family move into a better place. Emily decided to go back to Naomi, instead of giving up. Cook ended up not only seeing his own mistakes, but taking the blame for a friend, an altruistic gesture we would have never expected for him, and his reward for this was that he got his friends back, and Effy told him how much she respected him, which certainly meant more to him than he let on on screen.
But “Katie”. This episode just breaks my heart, and mends it in the last minutes, in the most ridiculously uplifting scene, and it’s not two girls in love walking away from a ball, it’s not Sid going to New York to find Cassie, it’s a family, sitting on the floor of a house they’ve lost, united, to eat pizza. Because in a show like “Skins”, this is the most unlikely scene. A family that is working in spite of the fact that the individual members are all a little bit fucked up, that the world is unfair and horrible, and that there are so many mistakes to mend.
“Katie”. I don’t know why, but this was perfection.
“I’m Katie fucking Fitch, who the fuck are you?”
When Emily walked away from the love ball, holding Naomi’s hand, she had everything she so desperately wanted the entire preceding season. Katie, on the other hand, lost the one certain thing she always had: the younger twin sister who always used to be in her shadow, who, in her definition of herself in Kieran’s class room, chose words that clearly depicted how much they defined themselves over each other (“I’ve never not had a boyfriend” / “I’ve never had a boyfriend”). Katie tried to become Effy’s best friend (“we’re the best looking in here. We should hang out.”) and ended up being hit over the head with a rock by her. Her boyfriend cheated on her with Effy while she was passed out in the woods. It’s a small moment in “Katie and Emily” that indicates what all of this means for Katie: “I’m rubbish at everything. Not like Emily”. Our initial impression that Emily is the one that is the weaker twin is completely reversed: actually, it’s Katie who is left behind and unsure of who she is by the end of season three.
This episode takes away every other sense of certainty Katie might have left. Since Emily is living with Naomi now (the episode is set in February, so a couple of months must have passed since “Emily”), she is the one who has to deal with the fall-out of her dad’s decisions. After Rob lost his gym, Jenna’s wedding business is the only source of income the Fitchs have left, which is why the first thing we see of Katie this episode is her transformation in front of the mirror in her bedroom: she becomes the girl that works alongside her mother, and wears clothes that are clearly Jenna’s, not hers. She puts on a face to help organize a ridiculous wedding (“A trained owl, to bear the ring”), while her parent’s marriage falls apart. Later, she finds out that she will never be able to have children. It’s poignant that she goes to the doctor’s office fearing that she might be pregnant, and walks out with another on of her dreams shattered, realizing immediately that her ridiculous boyfriend her mum considered “definitely a keeper” is not the person she needs (“you can pretty much fuck off now” / “you’re dumped, fuck off”). She gets rid of the people she doesn’t need, but the ones she actually does need are not emotionally available to help her deal. Emily doesn’t pick up the phone. Her mother finds out that Rob kept the family bankruptcy a secret for months (he hid the threatening letters under the sofa cushions), and never even lets Katie finish a sentence from that point on. She never has time to be by herself (when she is, she is putting on another costume to fill someone else’s expectations) to work through what is happening to her (not even the music throughout the episode ever really settles).
It’s exactly at that point in the episode when Katie questions everything she used to believe about herself that she finds herself confronted with an earlier version of herself at the hen night. The second dressing scene she has in this episode is her, still putting on clothes to stand out and shine, in spite of everything that happened before. It’s her way of being resilient, although most other characters would probably already be drunk and passed out after the amount of horribleness she’s put up with already. It’s relevant that she is the one standing out from the girls there after the theme was changed at the last second (from “sluts and studs” to “WAGs”), and that the best friend of the bride is the girlfriend of Danny Guillermo, the unbearable boyfriend she had at the beginning of season three. She knows that she used to be that girl, but isn’t anymore (reflections and mirrors play such an important role this episode – how perfect is the moment when Katie dresses the second time around and erases Emily’s E from the mirror?). When she hears the ridiculous speech the mother of the bride gives in celebration of the upcoming wedding (along the lines of: you are pretty. Mostly because of my surgeon. And you are pregnant, which is why you are the perfect daughter), Katie realizes that whatever she has imagined her future to be, it’s now neither attainable nor, possibly, even something she genuinely wants, as it’s pretty much the future that her mother wants her to have, especially after she felt so disappointed by Emily.
One of the reasons why this episode is so endearing is that Katie gets all these grand scenes, scenes in which she looks fabulous and makes a spectacular entrance. Last season, Katie wasn’t allowed to be more than the shallow, mean, self-involved character for the most part – but this episode celebrates her and proves that she is more than just that. She does care about the impression she leaves behind, she cares about being the centre of attention, but at the same time, she is so much more. When she retaliates for being humiliated in front of Effy and Freddie, of all people (why exactly were they there in the first place?), she gets one of the most spectacular scenes on “Skins”, ever: she doesn’t slap, she punches (there’s blood). She is Katie fucking Fitch, and nobody fucks with her. She gets carried out by the security guards with her pride intact; no minor character can take that from her.
Katie and Effy
I am wondering whether the next episodes will reveal Effy’s motives in trying to make up with Katie. It seems genuinely important to her, even if it’s not in her nature to give away too many emotions. Their scene is beautifully conducted, as their complex history is present in every single detail. Katie is suspicious and actually flinches when Effy touches her, while Effy, usually so unwilling to share any information about herself, basically tells Katie that she is not at all okay, despite being in love. It’s telling that Katie shares her insecurities with the girl who hit her over the head with a rock; with Emily unavailable, she doesn’t actually have anybody else, and whatever the weird emotional connection between her and Effy is, it’s the closest relationship she has left. Their first interaction inside the club suffices to establish this:
Katie: “I can see straight through you.”Effy: “Likewise. Ever gonna let this smile falter?”Katie: “Only when yours does.”
The scene by the harbour is the first time this season that Effy doesn’t dominate a scene. She tries to, but Katie takes the opportunity away from her, cutting her off every chance she gets. She was clearly not Effy’s equal last season, but this new, evolved Katie completely is. It’s also interesting to see Effy actually making an effort to make a connection with someone.
Katie: “Why are you being nice to me?”Effy: “Life’s too short.”Katie: “You are such a fucking cliché. So what’s it like?”Effy: “What’s what like?”Katie: “Love.”Effy: “Great. It’s really lovely.”Katie: “That sounded convincing.”Effy: “It’s fine. Nothing’s ever perfect, you know?”Katie: “I thought it could be. I wanted the perfect boyfriend, perfect marriage, perfect everything.”Effy: “What’s changed?”Katie: “Me. I don’t know who I am anymore.”Effy: “I thought you were Katie fucking Fitch?”
Naomi, Katie and Emily
One of the most important things about Katie this episode is how she reacts physically to the situation. Her first reaction when her mother started to yell, scream and punch Rob was to assure James that everything was going to be fine – and although the initial instinct of the viewer, based on previous experiences, might be to assume that Emily is the one of the two twins who would be better suited to give emotional comfort, it’s actually Katie who is doing a pretty good job here at taking care of her little brother. She holds his hands, which is surprisingly affectionate since James is usually on the receiving end of kicks delivered by either twin. The side of her that would punch the annoying girl at the hen night isn’t new – but a Katie that would try everything she can to provide comfort for her little brother, who is completely freaked out by how violent Jenna’s reaction is, a Katie that would hide her own emotions and try to keep it together for the sake of somebody else, is new.
Katie is also the one who “saves” the family after they are evicted from their home. She comes up with the idea of going to Naomi’s house (which is quite remarkable, considering how antagonistic they were in season three), even though Jenna protests (she only agrees to stay at Naomi’s after James begs her).
The exchange at Naomi’s doorstep is written and acted perfectly. Naomi is vulnerable and her defences against Katie don’t really work anymore. Both acknowledge that they don’t really like each other (and probably never really will), but there is also some of the old bantering that defined their relationship after Emily admitted to Katie that she was actually the one who kissed Naomi, not the other way round.
Katie: “Good morning, Naomi. You’re looking sexy. You heard of a shower?”Naomi: “What do you want?”Katie: “This is difficult, okay, but we’ve lost our house.”Naomi: “Oh that was careless. So what?”Katie: “We need somewhere to stay. Your house is pretty empty at the moment.”Naomi: “You’re having a fucking laughKatie: “Yes, Naomi, I’m kidding that my money have no money, no house and are about to split up.”Naomi: “I’m sorry, but not my problem.”Katie: “Oh but it is. Cause it’s Emily’s problem. She is your girlfriend, that makes it your problem”Naomi: “No lesbian digs?”Katie: “That I can’t promise.”
What I love most about this scene is that both are smiling a little bit by the end of this exchange, which means that this is the first time we see Naomi smile since the rooftop scene, and it’s Katie of all people who achieves that. Later, she even defends her in front of her mum.
Emily’s interactions with other people in this episode are the exact opposite: Katie consoles, takes care, holds hands – Emily comes crashing into every single scene, drunk and out of her mind until the end of the episode. The first time we see her (and she hasn’t said a word since her own episode), she is fighting with Naomi over the fact that Naomi let her family move in (and Naomi reminds Emily that Jenna is still her mother, to no avail) – and then Emily ends up kissing Naomi, just to shock her own mother, and it’s so incredibly cruel because, as Naomi told Cook last week, “my girlfriend won’t even look at me”, and Naomi tries to push her away without actually pushing, completely helpless.
Emily: “This is my house, I live here with my girlfriend, and we’re having a barbecue.”
Katie realizes that something is terribly wrong, and the spinning out of control continues at the barbecue Emily organized. She sits with Naomi and Effy, all three clearly not okay, and they don’t talk to each other. When Emily asks for more drugs, she taunts Naomi even more (she resembles her mum this episode, who can’t stop herself from torturing Rob either) – “Naomi darling? Got anymore of your special powder? Where is Cook when you need him, eh?”, and there is absolutely nothing that Naomi can do (she mumbles “another fun day at Mrs and Mrs Campbell’s”) but watch, until Emily kisses another girl and throws Naomi into paddling pool (her “Naoms darling, am I making you nice and wet” after the haunting laugh is as far from the tender, caring Emily from before as possible). Naomi tells everybody at the party exactly what she did, although Emily doesn’t want her to (either from a sense of protectiveness or because this story belongs to them and to nobody else, and she just really doesn’t want Jenna to be right).
Jenna: “I knew you’d screw her up.”Emily: “Why don’t you all just fuck off. Look at you. Pretending to be happy families, pretending to love each other.”Jenna: “Don’t you dare talk to me like that.”Emily: “Get off your high horse.”[after Jenna storms off, to Katie]Emily: “A bit melodramatic. Remind you of anyone?”
After Katie slaps Emily, she stops. She’s an unstoppable whirlwind before this, she doesn’t hold still for a second, but this just completely brings her back to reality. We don’t get to see the fall-out because we follow Katie out of the scene.
Katie and Thomas
Katie’s scene with Thomas is a little bit like Naomi’s with Cook. Thomas is the only one at the barbecue who recognizes that Katie isn’t okay (asking her whether she wants to leave). It’s hard to imagine Katie being so at ease with being stuck naked in a bathroom with any of the other male characters, and it’s such a sweet moment when she can finally tell somebody what has happened to her, after everybody else was so involved in their own problems.
Katie: “Do you think I’m a bitch Thomas?”Thomas: “I think you are Katie. You should always be you. You’re strong and…”Katie: “I was too aggressive. Just like my fucking mom. I know it. I am a bitch.”Thomas: “Everyone relies on you to tell the truth, Katie. They need you.”Katie: “That thing you do, is it for real?”Thomas: “What thing?”Katie: “The lovely honourable thing.”Thomas: “I’m not. I screw up so often. Panda, College. Everything. Right now I’m Monsieur Screw.”
At some moment during this interaction Katie decides that Thomas is exactly the person she needs right now, and topples him into the bathtub (doing, in a way, what Emily did before), and kisses him, because she needs someone to tell her that she is still beautiful and desirable.
Katie: “I can’t have kids. They say I can’t have kids. Ever.”Thomas: “And you are sad. You think, maybe no men would ever want you. But I am a man. And I think you are a beautiful and magnificent woman.”Katie: “Panda is an idiot not to forgive you.”Thomas: “I was the idiot. I wasn’t honourable.”Katie: “We can be friends?”Thomas: “Yes. I’d like that.”Katie: “Yes. Me too.”
Katie doesn’t need a boyfriend, she needs a friend, someone who is considerate and loving without expecting anything back. She is without a costume and make-up in this scene (once again with the symbolism. Cause she’s naked in more than one way, get it?) and there is this short moment of real happiness at the end, when she realizes that this can be fixed.
The last moments of this episode are pitch-perfect. Katie wanders through Naomi’s house, sees her brother filing through girly magazines (which one of the Mrs Campbell’s reads those?), her dad sleeping outside, and finally finds Emily crying on the bed, completely alone (I suppose there is a scene that was cut here, in which Emily and Naomi decided they could not possibly live with each other anymore). Before, Katie slapped her to stop her forcefully, and now she comforts her (I was crying!) because she has finally found a way how to be protective of her without hurting her in the process. By the end of the episode, Katie is the grown-up, the person who can actually carry the responsibility, and she brings her family together. The scene in which she actually has a conversation with Jenna, instead of just being talked to, is entirely hers, Emily, Rob and James are waiting outside.
Katie: “Mum. Mum, I can’t have children. I went to the doctors yesterday and they said there’s nothing they can do. I wanted to tell you but you were too busy shouting, it’s all about you. I don’t wanna let you down, but you let me down. I really needed you and you weren’t there.”Jenna: “My baby girl.”Katie: “It doesn’t matter mum. The house and the money, I don’t want it. I’m not gonna be you, I just want a mum who loves me, no matter what.”Jenna: “I do love you no matter what, I’m so sorry.”Katie: “And we love you mum, you don’t appreciate us, you’re just trying to push us away.”
At the end, it’s the Fitches who share pizza on the floor of the house that used to be their home and everything just seems okay, no matter what. I can’t remember a single scene in “Skins” in which a family seemed like the place you can actually return to the safe haven. Katie fixed them. Because she’s Katie fucking Fitch. And the marvellous thing about “Skins” is that a character like Katie can evolve into this fabulous person in only a couple of scenes.
Finally, Megan Prescott gets a chance to shine, and she does. Katie used to be one of the most underwritten characters in season three, and now she is… one of the most evolved (or most positively evolved, as Naomi clearly has come very far as well, but still has miles to go to be okay again)?
Kathryn Prescott does an incredible job at playing out-of-control Emily (it’s the first time that I actually see why the producers initially considered her as Katie and Megan as Emily). The paddling-pool scene is perfect – the sudden focus on Naomi before she charges for her, and then the look in her eyes as Naomi confesses, like she just wants this to stop but has no idea how, and then this look of complete desperation after Katie slaps her, when she finally runs away for the first time.
Emily in this episode doesn’t come out of complete nowhere. She usually is the character who tries to stay in control and who is kind to others (this is especially true in “JJ”), but we’ve seen her out of control before, in “JJ”, when Katie had to drag her away from Cook, and we’ve seen her incredibly mean before, when she told Katie “Nobody hits me over the head with a rock, loser.”, picking out the most cruel thing she could have said to her sister at that point in her story. In “Cook” I noticed that Naomi didn’t share the bottle with him, and in “Katie”, she once again stays completely sober, while Emily spins out of control – she doesn’t take the easy way out anymore.
Georgia Lester also penned “Pandora” last season, which was my favourite episode over-all, taking into account that I can’t objectively judge the quality of “Naomi” and “Katie and Emily”. “Pandora” was the episode that really managed to bring all the characters together, give each of them something meaningful to do, focused on the relationships between them, and mixed funny with dramatic in the best possible way. “Pandora” was also the first episode that showed a more likeable side to Katie, who was the only one at the party actually worried about Pandora after the MDMA-disaster (which she also caused, but well). The almost affectionate banter between her and Naomi (after Emily admitted that she kissed the other girl) also came back this episode, in the first interaction between the two after the love ball happy ending.
The usage of mirrors in this episode is very interesting, especially since it’s about Katie, figuring out who she is after her twin left, and so much of what we’ve seen of Katie so far was connected to how she looked (plus there’s the coincidence of “mirroring” relationships with Naomi and Emily / Rob and Jenna). The scene between Freddie and Cook last episode in which we saw Cook in the mirror was done fairly well too, although I’m usually not very perceptive when it comes to symbolism in “Skins”.
I don’t agree with people who find Lily Loveless’ delivery of some of her lines in “Emily” weak (the scene on the field, in particular) and in “Cook” (her first interaction with him, when she tells him to “Deal with it”), and I disagree wholeheartedly that she is underplaying her emotions. The fact that Naomi used to be this outspoken character that usually came up with the most sarcastic come-backs on the spot (remember her conversations with Cook in her episode last season, which now seems like ages ago), but now resigns to this complete silent desperation is just another sign of how far she's come since last year. After all, her betrayal of Emily was all about how she could not deal with needing someone and being so completely in love. Emily chose to stay in their house, and this is tearing them apart completely, because she can’t forgive Naomi. Her helplessness was palpable in “Cook” when she was watching Emily sleep – and here, her simple “Em” after Emily’s complete loss of control that Katie interrupted forcefully told you everything about that bad, bad place she’s at right now. She can’t comfort Emily because she’s lost that right, and Emily has no idea how to deal with this, so we see her running away from Naomi for the first time. Although the pictures from the missing scene on the website are heartbreakingly pretty, I’m kind of happy that we didn’t get to see how exactly the conversation between Emily and Naomi after this went – how exactly Emily communicated that she was going to leave, because this clearly didn’t work out. After all, it’s Katie’s episode, not theirs, and it would have been a little too much reconciliation and hope for one episode of “Skins” (and once again we don’t linger on Naomi’s side of the story, and all we can rely on are these incredible tiny moments).
I’d probably buy that Katie currently doesn’t smoke, or doesn’t smoke regularly (though I am fairly sure that we have seen her smoke before) – but she DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO? She might not be a chain smoker like Effy, Emily or Naomi (who is clinging to those cigarettes as if they’re the only thing keeping her grounded), but Katie fucking Fitch knows HOW TO SMOKE. On the other hand, this premise made for a very surprising scene between her and Effy (hopefully we’ll get the pay-off for this set-up next week with in Freddie’s episode). I was disappointed not to see the fall-out of Gobbler’s End so far (apparently there was something in the “it’s like really bad fan fic” novel that seems to be canon), and their relationship has the potential to be one of the most interesting of the series. Effy has been on top of every interaction we’ve seen her in so far, she’s dominated all the small scenes she had with Pandora, Freddie and Cook – but this time around, it’s Katie who gets to talk to her at eye level – and immediately notices that Effy in love results in Effy being even more fucked up than usually (Katie is the only one at the barbecue who notices how many drugs Effy takes before she can even talk to Freddie, as Naomi who used to be so perceptive about Effy is currently too involved in her own issues).
Talking about that scene: Weird how even Katie and Effy have more chemistry than Freddie and Effy, huh (Effy keeping her cigarette case in her décolleté made me chuckle)?
No Panda. Sad (Panda dealing with Thomas cheating and Effy dealing with being in love yet either unhappy / wallowing in l’ennui meant that they can’t be there for each other because they are at completely different places right now, so Effy tries to reach out to Katie?)
I kind of… really like Thomas in these small scenes he shares with other characters – his scene with Emily in “Katie and Emily” is one of my favourite in this episode (he really knows how to talk to the twins – the first time he ever saw Emily, he told her that she “maybe a little bit prettier” than Katie, which was exactly what she needed to hear at that moment). This is probably the reason why his scene with Katie doesn’t seem completely unexpected (have they ever talked to each other before?). Yet, somehow I didn't really feel that involved in his episode, without being able to say why. I felt the same way about Maxxie in the first generation.
I just love how Rob’s first reaction when he realizes that Jenna has found out about the eviction notice is to run for his life. As so many characters find out this season: Fitch women are fucking fierce!
This season is exceptionally good at setting up future episodes with small, impressive scenes: both the interaction between Katie and Effy (“nothing’s ever perfect”) and the little bit between Effy and Cook last episode (“it’s a little bit of a mind fuck”) establish that Effy is not at a very good place with Freddie, and both of these scenes worked perfectly fine in the context of the episode and with the characters the episode were focused on.
I like all the little things in this episode, this attention to detail: the fact that JJ is standing right behind Naomi when we see her reaction to Emily kissing the random girl at the barbecue (he is supposed to be the person she’s closest to, apart from Naomi and her sister). The place Katie goes to after finding out that she can’t have children seems to be the same spot that bore so much importance in the relationship between Sid and Cassie. Little James Fitch kicked the repo-men through the Fitches’ cat flap that is so charged with emotions (if there’s one thing Jamie knows how to do, it’s kicking. The twins taught that well).
My elaborate theory on why Naomi has a house: Kieran moved in with her mum, and left his house to her. It’s falling apart and looks rather shabby, and from what we’ve seen of his car, it would be exactly the kind of place he’d live in. Even if it’s not Kieran’s, the brokenness of the house still serves as a nice metaphor for Emily and Naomi’s relationship.
Garibaldis are like the snack of doom. I love that Naomi is actually putting an effort into dealing with Emily’s mum, it’s unexpected, but lovely, especially since she does it because Katie finds exactly the right words without even knowing what is going on between her and Emily (“it’s Emily’s problem. She is your girlfriend; that makes it your problem”). It was also surprising to see Katie stand up for Naomi in that scene, asking her mum why she was so sure that Naomi wasn’t good for Emily. Katie has come far since last season.
The “You are my lobster” / “I love you more than cheese” quotes on the blackboard in Naomi’s and Emily’s living room seems to come from an American show I never watched. This ties straight back to the scenes at the beginning of “Emily”: this incredible, cute happiness, so unlikely for “Skins”, and slowly and painfully taken apart in the course of “Emily”. It’s fitting that Emily and Naomi can’t bring themselves to erase these lines, and the fact that they are constantly reminded of this makes that they are living together yet are so far apart even harder to bear.
I’ve probably said this before but I love the change in wardrobe and make-up this season.
One thing Ive been trying to figure out is the reason behind Katie's early onset menapause. I wasnt sure if it was a ploy to make her a bit more endearing or something else. I understand more that it shows how much Katie's been stripped of, but Im not too sure if it was needed. Throughout the episode and even within scenes of "Emily" I had already found myself caring for Katie more and more. Not sure if it wouldve changed much of this episode had they taken it out except for giving Jenna some perspective on how self-involved she was.
I agree about the dilemma's of Effy and her emotions involving Freddie, one things certain it doesnt seem as if theyre really right for each other. With those promos for next week, and the scenes of this ep, their drug binge just shows the extent of how destructive theyve become for each other.
I find myself liking Effy of last season though. Im really not used to this one who opens up a bit more and doesnt always have a calculated expression. Its def shown in her natural makeup and curls this time around.
Ditto on the makeup and wardrobe of the characters. Its as if theyre all different people from last season as theyre realizing their true emotions and facing up to situations.
I find myself having an almost exact opposite read of the series so far to you; it's been almsot unremittingly bleak. Thomas, in tears after compromising all his values; Emily, stuck living with a girl she hates because the alternative is even worse; Cook, giving up his true love and his freedom.
The recurring theme throughout is a loss of identity, and the need to build a new one. Thomas must find a new way to live in a culture he doesn't understand; Emily, no longer half of a twin or half of Naomily; Cook, whose sacrifices enable him to find a personal responsibility. Katie has always defined herself in terms of other people (crap boyfriends, twins, rock assailants, her mother), and the fact that she continues to do so here (turning to her enemies - Effy and Naomi - for help, and so desperate she even looks to Thomas to figure out who she is) meant that I found this episode remarkably weak.
Don't get me wrong - Katie is an awesome character who pretty much carried the episode and it's great to see Megan finally showing some acting chops. But somehow it never really clicked.
Thank you so much for this comment!
We really do have a different reading of this series (and I actually like bleak, as long as I can believe in a silver lining at the horizon). I think it's important to remember that the character arcs don't end with the their episodes, and that they continue into the following episodes. I think each of the characters somehow...evolved in the course of their own episode. They evolve by questioning what they believed in (Thomas continues to find his new home a difficult place to live in, Emily's idealization of Naomi is demolished brutally, Cook figures out that he actually does care about other people, Katie stops being what others expect her to be, and the person that emerges is actually pretty awesome). I think the show needs these depressing moments because ultimately, the relationships between the characters will be more meaningful afterwards. If Emily had never found out about Sophia, they'd basically live a lie, and I think Naomi is only now figuring out that needing and loving somebody else as much as she does Emily doesn't mean that she is trapped (and this will hopefully keep her from turning into a female version of Rob). I don't think that Thomas ever really forgave Pandora, he just tried to move on, and once his life became difficult, his resentment returned and he justified his own betrayal with hers.
I don't see Cook giving up anything: he has finally accepted Effy's choice (I'm sure he'll be waiting for her to change her mind though), and done something selfless for the first time to help a friend (Naomi). That's not him giving up freedom: it's taking the responsibility not only for his own actions, but also for the mistake a friend made. There are so few true friendships in this generation of "Skins" (compared to the first) - so I perceived the ending of "Cook" as an uplifting moment. His friends are at the trial to support him. Effy actually bothers to explains herself (which is quite unusual for her).
Katie. I don't think that she considers Effy and Naomi enemies. I think someone mentioned that she actually gets along fine with Effy in the novel until some kind of fall-out, so they've worked through the events at Gobbler's end. I think it's important to compare the encounter at the harbour with the one she had in season three, when she was with Danny and met Effy and Pandora. In that exchange, Effy was clearly superior. Danny was hitting on Effy and completely ignoring his own girlfriend, and Effy didn't care at all what she had to say. Now, a year later, they are talking to each other as equals. Considering how important it seemed to Katie to become Effy's friend last season, this is quite an achievement (and she's not trying to impress Effy at all anymore).
Katie doesn't know what Naomi did because clearly, Emily hasn't told anyone. She seems to have accepted that Naomi is Emily's girlfriend, and she's taken to heart what Emily told her in episode nine last season (that she'll never really leave Katie, but just happens to be in love with this girl). I don't think that Katie resents Naomi anymore, because that resentment was based on the fear of Naomi taking Emily away from her. In this episode, Katie realizes that Jenna is the one who's driving Emily away.
At the beginning of the episode, after finding out about her condition, the only person she can think of to help her out is Emily. By the end of the episode, she's had meaningful conversations with three people, and each of them has somewhat contributed to this moment where she proves that she is the responsible one in the family.
I don't see Katie turning to Thomas to find a new identity. He doesn't tell her who she should be (ok he does. He tells her to be Katie, but...) - but that who she is is exactly who she should be. I don't think anyone has ever told her that before. She needed someone to support her in her choices, not someone to tell her that she should make different ones. She needed someone to tell her that she was a good person. I don't think that's a weakness on her part. Realizing that she was just fine the way she was is quite an achievement for a character who asked Freddie "There’s nothing I can do to make you want me more than her?" last season.
Maybe my general perception of these four episodes was so good because they surprised me, and because I came out of each of them with a completely new perspective on the characters (and because I feel like these episodes fulfill some of the potential of the characters, especially Cook's and Katie's, who I thought were rather underwritten last season).
The menopause thing seemed a little bit contrived, I agree, but on the other hand I think they just wanted to have something truly shocking happen to Katie (at least they didn't go for a pregnancy or a deadly disease...), and I guess if something like this happens to you, it always comes out of nowhere like it did in the episode (the actual reveal was done really well I thought, with Katie only realizing that this was going to be serious when the doctor took out the box of tissues).
Some obvious flaws in the stories I just ignore, they don't actually bother me. A barbecue in Bristol in February? Whatever. The police investigating the death of a girl but never actually bothering to search her room or her locker? I don't really care. It's more about the characters than the story. As long as they convey all these emotions so well, I don't care whether a particular plot twist seems too unrealistic.
I really like Effy this season because I felt that the translation between Effy as the side character in the first generation to Effy as the main character in season three didn't work out well (and not because of Kaya Scodelario's acting - she inhabits her character incredibly well). Before "Katie", we've only seen her in scenes that were about the other characters (Pandora, Freddie, Cook), not about her. I think that Effy losing control a bit this episode (in such a different way than Emily, but still) is supposed to set her up for next week, and it's interesting to see her being relatively vulnerable in front of Katie, who she didn't have much respect for last season.
They used the make-up/wardrobe trick on Effy last season: whenever she was supposed to be vulnerable, they took away everything that would distract you from the fact that she's just a 17 year old girl. This year, almost every character is raw and without the protection of an elaborate "costume" all the time. I'm still having a hard time to decide whether they evolved or became different people (especially Naomi), but as I said before, I find it hard to judge in "Skins" whether somebody acts "out of character".
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