Friday, 5 February 2010

Skins - I thought I could keep you safe.

Skins: 4x02 Emily.

Oh “Skins”. The cuteness. The drama. Oh Naomi.

Before I can even start to discuss the episode, we have to talk about something else: the fact that “Skins” pulls off something that no other show could. We do not know these characters. They get one episode tops per season, and play more or less important parts in the episodes of the other characters, but they certainly do not get enough screen time that we could really know what motivates them, understand their background and anticipate what they will do. “Skins” is a show that makes it impossible to use phrases like “out of character” – because seriously, how could you tell whether it’s out-of-character for Pandora to cheat on Thomas, for the mysterious Effy to fall in love with Freddie, for Naomi to cheat on Emily and then (and this is what shocked me more about her character this episode, to be perfectly honest) lie about it for an entire episode, not even telling the truth at the end because she didn’t have to, as all the evidence (the whole story, you could say) was neatly delivered to Emily in a box. The miraculous thing about “Skins” is that the characters don’t lose any depth. I have no idea who they are and only a vague understanding of what they are about, yet I care about them (well, most of them, anyway) deeply, I follow them through overly dramatic twists in the story (all these things probably happen to like a thousand people in 20 years in real life, in “Skins”, it’s ten people living through the drama of several lifetimes in two years), I am emotionally engaged. But why does it work? What keeps this show together? How does it not fall into pieces every week? One of the first thoughts I had about this episode was that two hours into the new season of “Skins”, we still haven’t really seen all the characters. There were barely any group scenes. Both “Thomas” and “Emily” took the characters out of Roundview and away from the group, and this generation of “Skins” feels far less contained than the last one. I couldn’t imagine something like the scene in which all the characters apart from Cassie and Tony were building the pyramid with sugar cubes (in “Effy”, Season Two) because I don’t see them as a group of friends. They are smaller entities, barely connected, which makes watching this season a bit harder because even if things got really bad in season two, you at least had this feeling of community and friendship to fall back on. These two episodes feel dark because there is nothing to rely on once we see the characters falling apart so badly.
One thing that certainly holds the show together is the acting. The actors seem to have a very firm grasp on their characters, which is incredible because they all seem so changed after the break. The events at the end of season one of “Skins” didn’t bring a radical shift in all the characters, it only forced some of them to grow up, and the change occurred more subtly, over the course of the next episodes. After the events of season three, most of these characters have changed over the summer, without us seeing the circumstances that facilitated this change. Cook is even more on the edge than he used to be not that he’s lost Effy, Emily seems happy and content for once until things start falling apart, Katie is calmer and seems to be looking out a bit better for herself after having been hit over the head by a rock, and Naomi…. Well, more about her later. All these characters have changed without us really seeing it – I guess we’ll see Pandora grow up a bit (although I believe she won’t have her own episode this season), and I am looking forward to see what this season has in store for JJ, as these two seem to be the only ones who made it through the summer without growing up and into someone slightly different than before.

Now, on to the episode.
First of, I usually don’t write about whether I think that something looks particularly pretty or that I noticed the directing being better than usually – but this time around, everything just seemed perfect. The selection of music for this episode was gorgeous (from the Tiny Masters of Today’s “Skeletons” to Dinosaur Jr at the very end – and the awful eighties music playing over Rob Fitch, midlifecrisying his way through the garage, cracked me up), the wardrobe department did a great job, and the small decisions about scenes – like the fact that Sophia’s brother and Emily turn away from Naomi when they open the box – added another level to this episode. In addition, it was incredibly well-structured: Emily looked at Naomi’s childhood pictures in the first scene, trying to get a grasp of this person that she is so in love with, and about midway through the episode, she admits that she does not know her at all (neither do we, really).

“We just have to act like everything’s fine.”
I tried to pinpoint the exact point at which Naomi must have realized that this wouldn’t go well, and how often she tells Emily to let it go, as she just sinks deeper and deeper. After the happy first scene between them, when she gets her the goggles, and the glorious ride to school that not even the small scene at Emily’s house can thwart, there is this tiny little moment: they kiss and Naomi suddenly stops, having seen the posters of Sophia – and this is when it all changes. Naomi seems to be a different person from here on, and not even the small interlude when she thinks that she got away with it (when she says “she stalked me”, it almost sounds like she is happy about it, because this is the perfect explanation for Emily) brings back the lovestruck Naomi of the first scene. She says “I forgot for a second”, and when Emily responds “Forgot what? Nothing to do with us”, her face already tells the viewer almost everything – that this has everything to do with them, as a couple.
Everytime Emily found a new piece of information, she had to find another lie (or half-truth) to explain herself, and the fact that she never decided to just tell the truth about what happened, although it must have been clear to her that she wouldn’t get away with this, was to me even more shocking than to find out that she cheated on Emily. Looking back at that very first scene, which seems so incredibly truthful and heart-warming when you first see it, Naomi must have been at a very complex emotional state. She just bought her girlfriend goggles with money she made selling to a girl she cheated on Emily with, who killed herself after seeing them kiss at the club (in fact, they are the last people Sophia passes in that scene at the beginning of “Thomas”, although we’ll never know whether she made the decision to jump at that precise moment). She says “I love you” (“Yeah I know”) / “Don’t you forget it though” – which already sounds like an excuse for what Emily will find out, like Naomi, close to tears because she can’t deal with being so badly in love, already knows what is going to happen.
Her “I thought I could keep you safe” is foreshadowing for the entire episode, only that we realize that she is trying to keep Emily safe from herself, safe from the knowledge that she is not the good person Emily thinks she is, we thought she was because we assumed it, from how much Emily cared about her.

“I’m gonna find out if you’re lying.”
Emily isn’t any less conflicted about this than Naomi is. She tells herself to stop this again and again, already guessing that she isn’t going to like the outcome once she does find out the
truth, but unable to stop.
The fact that her family is going through a crisis at the same moment only puts her into a more precarious situation: after all, she has just moved in with Naomi. She has just defied her mother and Katie who both told her that there is something about Naomi they don’t like – and there is a speck of truth in that statement, at the end of this episode. In her first confrontation with her mom, she is so self-assured, the fact that her mom tries to bribe her into leaving Naomi doesn’t concern her because she can leave and ride to school on her ridiculous moped with her girlfriend. Later on, as she starts to suspect that Naomi is keeping something secret, her protective shield against Jenna’s homophobia disappears,
Katie: “You know mom doesn’t mean to be a total bitch.”
Emily: “Yes she does. And you let her.”
Katie: “She’s trying to help you.”
Emily: “It’s all fake. This whole family is fake.”
Katie: “I’m not fake.”
Emily: “Ugh. Fake tan, fake boyfriend, fake concern.”
Katie: “I am concerned, bitch. And for your information, I was in the sun for five hours today. And as for my boyfriend: he may be little, but for your further information, he’s sweet, trustworthy and totally hun, okay?”
[note: there seems to be consensus that the last line goes "and totally hung". This didn't even occur to me while transcribing, but of course Katie WOULD totally share this with her very gay sister.]


Katie: “God, you’re a selfish cow. Please don’t go. I’ll back you up.”
Emily: “I’m sorry.”
 It’s heartbreaking to see how Emily’s confidence in Naomi crumbles as the episode goes on, as the web of lies becomes visible. First, Naomi lies to the police about seeing Sophia at the club, then she admits that she was the one who sold the drugs to her, then Emily slowly realizes that there is more to the story, as she can not stop investigating. She goes to Sophia’s house and pretends to be someone else, and finds out that Sophia pretended that she was friends with her and Naomi. She finds a picture of Naomi and Sophia in a University folder, and upon being confronted with this, Naomi has to admit that she did indeed see Sophia: and went to an open day for a University although they made plans to go to Mexico (since we don’t really see them talk about their future, we just have to take Naomi’s word that Emily is a bit pushy when the decision-making-process is concerned). We don’t really see Naomi’s perspective in all this (at the end, we see Naomi from Sophia’s perspective) – but it’s clear that she can’t handle being in a relationship with Emily, although the most tragic aspect of this episode is probably that Naomi feels she can be the person she needs to be NOW, she is so obviously in love and so accepting of the fact that Emily moves in (calling her home “ours” is such a telling slip of the tongue), but she has to face up to what she did in the past. She told Sophia that she felt “trapped” (and it’s telling that Rob Fitch, when he talks to Emily after she found out the truth, immediately guesses that this is what Naomi felt). Last season, Emily pinpointed Naomi’s essential dilemma: she needs someone, but she has no clue how to deal with being in love. Now we find out that she also doesn’t realize the consequences of her actions, and isn’t willing to face them. The girl she kissed fell in love, got obsessed over her (and it’s an essential point of the episode to show that Emily understands that impulse, she tells a joke when she says “you are very stalkable” but she loves Naomi, and looking around in Sophia’s room and locker, she seems to understand what it means to be in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate that feeling. And she knows what it means to lock your secrets up in a box.), and finally killed herself over her.
“Can’t we just go home” / “I don’t think we can”.
I love the execution of the great reveal at the end: Emily walking away from Naomi, who begs her to let it go, when everything is about the box that contains the diary (Naomi knows what’s in there). They literally go from the darkness of the club into the revealing light of day, Emily and Sophia’s brother Matt sitting on the ledge of the building. The diary itself, or rather the story of “Love on a train” that Sophia, the ghost haunting this episode, tells, is well done as well: she doesn’t come across as pitiful or ridiculous at all (in that regard, she’s unlike Sketch in the second season of “Skins”, who was so badly written). It’s only a couple of lines, but we understand her character, and the connection she had with Naomi (two strangers sharing secrets). Part of Emily's shock at seeing this is that Sophia provided Naomi with something she couldn’t give her.
Emily: “You’ve ruined it. You don’t want anyone to care. I could be dead in a second. Everything’s so fragile. Didn’t you realize that? We were special.”
In her final note to Matt she writes: “Once I had a love and it was a gas. Soon turned out she had a heart of glass. So sorry. I love you.” In the end, on the rooftop, Emily doesn’t just blame Naomi for cheating on her, for destroying their relationship: she also doesn’t understand how Naomi could do this to Sophia, how she can be completely ignorant about other people’s emotions.
Naomi: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
In Naomi’s episode last season it was the surprisingly insightful and fitting words her mom found – and here it’s Rob Fitch who tries to explain Naomi to Emily (because he realizes how much his daughter loves her, and that she won’t be able to let it go). “people do stupid things when they’re trying to act like they’re not trapped.” Some people might think that Emily walking into Naomi’s house after finding the “I’ll do anything” note is a sign of weakness – but I think she knows what she’s doing. She knows what she’s going to ask for.

Random notes:
Before everything else: wow, how amazing was Kathryn Prescott in this episode? Emily just gets sadder and sadder in the course of this, yet remains so contained, and never really gives the extent of devastation away, until she breaks down in front of her dad. Lily Loveless’ Naomi is the exact opposite, and it’s frightening to see the previously seemingly untouchable Naomi so terrified and vulnerable.

I don’t want to, but I love this episode.

I love how Effy steals every single one of the tiny scenes she gets, usually popping up unexpectedly, but PLEASE, Effy, step away from Freddie. (“It’s you I spent all summer thinking about” GAH but I agree with her: Chlamydia probably liked him more than Cook).

I know that Naomi’s actions are horrible and you can’t find any excuses for them, but having sombreros, fake moustaches and a piƱata lying around is a bit redeeming, isn’t it? (“It’ll be great. You can be my pyjamas.” sounds like the kind of line you’d want to hear after forcefully U-hauling into your girlfriend’s apartment, right?)

Is Naomi getting her own episode this season? I feel like I need to know more about her, to be able to decide whether I can still like her. I mean I like complicated, flawed characters, but I certainly thought she was a more likeable person before this episode, and I guess so did pretty much anyone else.

Jenna: “He’s an adult, he’s earned the right to be gay. You’re too young to know what you are”. Homophobic and dumb. Also, kind of funny. (it’s also vaguely amusing that Jenna thinks it takes exactly a thousand pounds to pay away the gay – and how the fact that she won’t be able to pay off Emily after Rob lost his job is the first thing she thinks about, not feeding her family or providing a roof or anything)

Seriously, with the clothes Ems and Naoms were wearing that day, they could not have sneaked into military school. I take everything back I ever said about colour-coordination.

Also: giggly love scene over band music? Weird, but also cute. A bit of happiness to get us over the dread and drama of the rest of the episode.

Katie’s new boyfriend is hilarious, but she kinda has a point when she tells Emily that he is responsible and trustworthy – her decision not to date a complete idiot this time around is kind of a sign of her growing up (though I’m guessing he’s not a keeper), and I love how honest her impulse is to beg her twin to stay at the house, while everything turns into a shouting hell downstairs (after Rob admitted to losing the gym).

James Fitch. FTW. Well, everyone thinks Naomi is hot, but it’s refreshing how articulate the male members of the Fitch family are about it. (Also: “this is a six seater table” – so your girlfriend of months can’t come, but this random guy is totally welcome. Oh, Jenna).

Let’s get fitched. Snort.

Pandora at the awful party, making Thomas jealous. Because Pandora’s dancing always saves the moment.

“Dance, muff-monkey?” Cook, even at his worst, is still pretty darn loveable.


junkster199 said...

You made me realize something that I really hadnt before. We really don't know these characters as individuals. We know more or less the surface of their stories. On many forums Ive seen that people consider what Naomi did was completely out of character. And I had agreed with them. Maybe it's that we all go by what we've seen in previous episodes. Your recap was the best Ive seen so far.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

Thanks! I've spent a long time thinking about this episode because I like it so much, even though it's painful to watch, and I tried to remember all the things that we know about Naomi. The assumption that this is out-of-character is based on the fact that she hates injustice and lying (but she states this about herself - it's a different story when she's actually in a situation where she doesn't see a different way out) - which is why I felt that the lying until the end was probably not very Naomi (and I am also guessing that this was
one of the instances where Lily Loveless disagreed with the writer of the episode), or doesn't fit in with how we've seen her so far (direct and honest, even if she came across as rude as a consequence). The cheating itself - I think most of the shock about this is more of a "nobody would ever do this to someone as kind as Emily" thing than a "Naomi would never do this". I thought it was an interesting decision not to have her cheat with someone completely random while drunk, and instead to try and tell a meaningful story.
I'm still trying to figure out why I am so invested in the characters even though I know so little about them.
And I've clearly put too much thought into this.

junkster199 said...

No I dont think you put too much thought into it haha. It's actually really refreshing to get so many different perspectives and thoughts on something that is cared for. I think the most common reason we're all so invested in them is because on certain levels we relate to them. That and/or the actors have brought to life these layered people we know or are intrigued by. This may be a poor example but I think it's the say with film. You only see their stories for an hour or two and yet some of your favorite films can impact you for so many years. (it made more sense in my head)

flame gun for the cute ones said...

That's actually a really good point: I've never really thought about this before, that "Skins" in terms of how the stories of characters are presented is more like a collection of movies than an actual tv series. Especially "Emily" feels like a movie to me, since it's basically structured like a film noir / detective story that ends in the discovery of the mystery (it reminded me of "Brick", ignore the reference if you haven't seen the movie). Despite the fact that "Skins" is in theory an ensemble-show, the fact that each episode follows one character so closely (I don't think that there was a single scene here without Emily) bascially means that all the other characters become... I don't know, distant (I couldn't come up with a better description of Naomi in this episode - it's why I'm looking forward to seeing her in scenes with other characters), like supporting characters in movies rather than main characters. I have to rewatch the first two seasons because I don't really remember if I felt the same way about them.

junkster199 said...

ive heard of Brick, it's with joseph gordon-levitt yes? ive only ever read review on it i think. I doubt i'll watch the earlier seasons of skins. To me theyre so detached from this group. it's weird, coming into this new cast i wasnt sure what to make of them, the old ones were more together, they were actually friends. And yet im more fond of these guys. I think when an episode is focused primarily on one character at a time, ultimately everyone else is more placed in the back, no? Though I can't say that really for Pandora's ep, to me it felt like it was shared by most of them.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I liked the old cast much more in the second season than in the first - with the new generation I feel like there is so much potential waiting to be realized (especially with Katie) - and I just hope they manage to tell these stories as well as they did with the first generation (I didn't much care about Chris or Jal until their storyline started in the second season, and then it became my favourite one). But you're right: I feel like I'm watching two different shows, especially since the Effy of this generation is so different.
I loved Pandora's episode for exactly that reason. It connected all the characters, there was a feeling of friendship (compared to the "Effy"-episode in Gobbler's end later on, it felt care-free), and I kind of miss this with these episodes so far. But the first generation started differently too, that phone call at the beginning of the series connected all the characters (except for Cassie) from the beginning, while the characters of the second generations were completely separate entities (and it felt odd when they came together as early as episode two: Why was Naomi at Cook's birthday party?).
I really liked Cook's episode, and I can't wait for next week!!

junkster199 said...

Remember first episode when Cook kept bothering Naomi and said he liked her. So I'm assuming he invited her. (At first I was thinking it was Emily, just based on her inviting her to both Pandora and Thomas' weed aid?)
Yes yes, I loved Cook's episode. So ditto on that. Though everyone is layered, he is still so very complex. I have yet to read your recap, I'm still trying to assess my thoughts on the whole episode before reading other perspectives. I look forward to it.