Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Skins - Life. Can’t stand still, can we?

I apologize in advance for this. Maybe I'll come back and try this a second time, but this is the best I could do for now. 

Skins: 4x08 Everyone.

This is probably the most difficult review I will ever write.
I disliked this episode massively when I first saw it. Like many other people, I’d seen the “True Love” clip a week earlier and, after the initial feeling of warmth and fuzziness, I realized how… unlikely it would be that this ending would feel deserved, after how fucked up Naomi and Emily seemed in “JJ”. I was hoping so badly that the clip would work in the context of the episode, that it would feel…achieved, somehow, deserved…instead of an easy fix to something that has dragged on for far too long, something that had me thinking maybe they shouldn’t get together again, if this is how much pain they cause each other, if this is who they ARE when they are together.
About half an hour into the episode, I realized that there just wasn’t enough time and enough scenes remaining to build up to this moment. They introduced a completely new element in the penultimate episode. They had to find a way to show where all the characters not involved in the two main story arcs of the seasons would go. In the end, the episode felt like a very long trailer for an entire season that we’ll never get to see.
Somehow, my initial impression of the episode changed the second time around (probably because I knew what to expect and couldn’t be disappointed anymore). It still feels like a collection of scenes more than a cohesive whole, but then, this is what the entire season’s been like: episodes centres around one character, but the whole thing not really coming together very smoothly in the end. The upside to this is: I care much more about these characters than I did for the first generation. I loved the first as a group, but only three or four of them were really dear to me by the end. With this generation of “Skins”, I care about almost everybody, although a bit more for some (which should have been obvious from the reviews). I feel I know them much better, and that each of them had this one opportunity to shine and really grow. If you compare them now to who they were in the beginning of season three, none of them hasn’t changed and grown radically, and really, I feel it’s a deserved kind of development, despite the unlikely and unrealistic plot twists – because “Skins” does these subtle moments so well, that happen in-between the grand gestures and the over-the-top adult characters and the horrible things that randomly happen.
So… I can either judge “Everyone” by whether it does the grand stuff well, or whether it succeeds with the smaller things, and I think… that there are so many things, tiny things, about the episode that I really love, which make me almost forgive everything that goes wrong. And I say that fully conscious that most of the people who care about this show enough to write stunning stories that beat what the “Skins”-writers have done this season hated this season and the finale, and what happened to the characters.

Synopsis (the tone just happened, it wasn’t intentional, sorry. While I love the characters, I still have to admit that summing up what happens to them this episode in a serious manner is a bit difficult. So I didn’t.)

As the second generation of “Skins” comes to an end, some characters reveal unexpected futures and new talents (Pandora and Thomas), while others will probably remain broken and stuck, irreparably scarred for life and with no apparent plans for the future (Effy, Cook), or simply stuck with their girlfriend’s kid to pop up randomly in scenes but never really get any just for themselves (JJ). Naomi tries hard, but finally comes to a decision when she realizes the naked girl she finds Emily with isn’t straight, only to reverse that decision in a final, surprising speech that changes everything we thought we knew about her. Katie develops a crush on a boy who doesn’t love her back, and learns how to say “how many times will we fuck” in really bad French. Cook is hunted by the police, has a new girlfriend who looks like Effy when you squint but sounds like something else (not quite human), and contributes to Naomi not feeling very  much at home in her own house, a situation she tries to solve by drinking, smoking, dancing and making a baby cry. Karen, Freddie’s sister, is the only one pointing out that someone’s missing, but in the end, only one of the characters finds out what happened to Freddie….

I like that Thomas got the first shot of the episode, because he didn’t in his very own (which started with Sophia, moving through the crowd, not even passing him first) – because Thomas is far removed from any of the two grand storylines this season, and he is the one character who is alone in the beginning of the episode, except for Karen. The entire group has been apart for most of this season – so seeing them all together at Naomi’s (of all people, the character who cherishes her privacy most is stuck running a hostel) right at the beginning of the episode would have been a bit much. So instead, it’s Thomas running, and as it will later turn out, running IS his future, because while some people need to make elaborate plans and work hard to achieve their goals, others just have their future fall on their heads, in a good way.
Cook is having sex at Naomi’s, waking up Emily in another room, and Emily discovers, as she comes to herself, that she fell asleep in their bed, but not with Naomi – because the girl beside her, naked, is Mandy. Emily brought the girl she wasn’t sure whether to have an affair with home, and realizing that, wordlessly, she also figures out that she doesn’t know herself very well anymore, because she doesn’t know whether she slept with Mandy or not. She is just as big a mystery to herself as she is to the viewers at this point.
Somehow, siblings in “Skins” always have a very intense and close relationship. Emily and Katie are twins. Effy and Tony don’t have anyone else to rely on but each other. Freddie and Karen, even though it was only really portrayed in the short scene when they were both folding the swans at the hospital, are close because they lost their mum, even though they dealt with it in a very different manner. It was a brilliant decision to first introduce what they believe to be Freddie’s disappearance from her perspective rather than Cook’s or Effy’s – because she is certain that he wouldn’t just run away, he left all his things behind, and she is the first character we see trying to make a direct connection with him, by putting on his favourite t-shirt and talking to him. Cook and Effy are going to resort to a ritual too, in order to get a hold on him – but all that remains are ghosts and voices.
The other girl, doing the same, is Effy, but she is at the mental hospital, and she hears Freddie “in her head”. Katie comforts her (it feels so strange to see Katie taking care of Effy, but she does it without hesitating), and then they watch as Panda gets confused for a mental patient in the distance and flees from a therapy group on a space hopper (“Go Panda! Bounce for me!”). There is something oddly comforting about the closeness between these three, because nobody else’s relationship is uncomplicated, and the other group of friends that was there from the beginning is now irreparably broken: the three musketeers are nothing but a memory on a wall, a reminder of the last minutes of “Effy” and all the blood.

Is this bad?

This is my favourite scene from the entire episode including the happy ending, because it is exactly what I would have needed to see in previous episodes. It’s Naomi trying so hard, resorting to a charade because nothing else works. She still plays her part well in this scene (she’s sober, so that helps), but there is something in every single look she gives Emily that completely betrays how composed she is trying to appear. She offers to prepare the perfect breakfast. She bought a gossip magazine – it’s like playing house, and she sounds so cheerful, so full of energy, and all Emily does is wait for everything to crumble once Naomi realizes that there is a naked girl in her bad, but even when she does, she tries so hard.

Naomi: “You were both so fucking trashed. So I slept on the sofa with Panda.”
Emily: “Right.”
Naomi: “She’s quite cute. For a straight girl.”
This probably answers the question from last week, when Naomi said she thought at moments that they were okay – maybe she really didn’t see and realize before how far Emily has gone. The “straight girl” is a lie she tells herself, she needs to tell herself to still be able and try. 
Naomi: “Whoa. In the scud. When did that happen?”
Emily: “I didn’t notice.”
Naomi: “Good thing, you might have got, you know, tempted.”
Emily: “I was wrecked.”
Naomi: “Yeah, you were both pissing gone. Like I said, cute. Is this bad?”
They are both telling lies here for their own comfort. Emily needs to believe that she was too drunk for anything to happen, and so does Naomi. When she asks “is this bad?”, she says, in a way, “I trust you”, and it’s so hard. At the same time, she’s flirting with Emily (and basically, I was just smiling throughout the entire thing, no matter how complicated and fucked up it was, because finally, the blank look is gone and all the complexities and conflicting emotions are back in Naomi’s face, I’ve missed this so much).
Naomi: “Wanna do breakfast, I can fry you, poach you, scramble you, do you any way you look. But shower though, cause Ems, you smell of something, and it ain’t roses.”
Emily doesn’t respond, and in a way, she’s stuck with the “is this bad”, and what any of the possible answers would mean, but she only really deals with it when Mandy confronts her with the question (when Naomi leaves the room and looks back, just for a moment… it gets me every time).

At some point between “Cook” and “Everyone”, Cook and Naomi turned into siblings. It’s how I feel about them in the kitchen, as Naomi flips through the pages of “Heat” and doesn’t even have to state explicitly how much she disagrees with the girl Cook brought home, because really, ugh. There is the visible moment of disconnect in her face when she sees her come out of the bathroom, and she is dressed exactly like Effy would have been, a couple of months ago, but once she opens her mouth, the illusion disappears entirely (and Naomi immediately knows why Cook hooked up with her, while he still doesn’t have a clue, because he is “moving on”). Anyways, at some point between learning Arcia’s name (“it’s pretty”) and calling Emily and “Mony” (good continuity on Naomi getting the names of people wrong she doesn’t care about – like “Laura”) down for breakfast, Naomi decides that the only way to deal having all these strangers around and not being able to have a conversation with Emily is getting drunk and high (this also helps to get rid of Arcia, as it inspires Freudian slips that lead to a revelation on Cook’s part, and to Naomi’s hilarious, drunken “Did I do that?”. Lily Loveless does comedy well, I don’t understand people who didn’t like her acting in this episode). 

In retrospect, it’s still one of the most unbelievable things in this episode that Emily shares the most lines with Mandy, not with Katie, not with Naomi.
Mandy: “I thought you don’t sleep with her anymore.”
Emily: “Yeah well, people keep moving in.”
Mandy: “This isn’t what you told me, is all.”
Emily: “Mandy, we haven’t done anything. I mean, we didn’t do anything last night. Did we?”
Mandy: “You wanted to. If you hadn’t been totally fucking AWOL.”
Emily: “No. I didn’t.”
Mandy: “Yeah, otherwise, what have we been doing? What have you been doing? She thinks I’m straight.”
Emily: “What, how do you even…”
Mandy: “She said when she was looking at my tits, didn’t she? A bit fucked up, that. I don’t wanna be fucked around Emily. Just cause she might take you to Goa.”
Even Mandy, who is a new character with a very specific function within the story (you know, not being Naomi), gets her own little scene in which she asserts her own identity and defends herself, and she is the one asking the most important question of Emily: what has she been doing, all these months, in the house? I still believe that some of the resentment Emily feels towards Naomi isn’t just because she cheated, but because Emily understands Sophia all too well, but now she is using Mandy, keeping her around in case she should ever decide that she can move on, or even cheat properly and not in the half-hearted fashion that has dragged on for months now – but maybe waking up beside Mandy and realizing how close she’s come to doing just that has made Emily realize that she won’t, ever, be able to leave, because now she doesn’t let Mandy kiss her.
Emily: “Don’t.”
Mandy: “I’d take you. We go dancing, sleep in a hut, I’d make love to you on the beach. Isn’t that what you want?”
It’s exactly what she wants, but not from Mandy. I almost feel sorry for Mandy, because she cares enough to stay and not leave immediately once she realizes that this is going to be difficult, she cares enough to make an effort.

Naomi is spinning out of control, but I was missing the one scene that explained why, or maybe I just misunderstood her state in the first scene. The dancing with Mandy was inspired though – she was trying to emulate Emily, to copy the moment in which she first realized what Emily was doing, at the barbecue – but it looked so painfully awkward and graceless in comparison, mostly because Naomi picked Mandy for her “pantomime”, and didn’t mean it.
Naomi: “You dance pretty good for a straight girl. Yeah, we have problems, me and Emsy, cause I was, I was bad. Isn’t that right, Ems. See. I’m forgiven. It’s just been heaven these last months. Fucking heaven."
The last thing she says, before Emily is out of ear-shot (running away to cry, coming to a decision on her own, but too late):
Naomi: “I’m only saying. I’m only saying, because…”
And somehow, this is the “almost”. She might have done the speech she later gives, but it wouldn’t have worked, because she isn’t there yet.
Mandy: “Naomi.”
The first time around, I was cheering for Naomi to throw Mandy out, because really; but by the second time I realized that Mandy was somewhat entitled to this moment in which she made it perfectly clear to Naomi that she wasn’t straight (although touching and kissing Naomi was … a bit drastic), not harmless, and someone Naomi was supposed to take seriously. 
Naomi: “Eh.
Mandy: “If you don’t want her, I do.”
The camera stays on Naomi’s face after she slaps Mandy, who leaves immediately. It takes her forever to realize what just happened, and that it changes everything, because she told herself that Emily wasn’t cheating, that probably Emily sleeping beside a naked girl wasn’t bad, and just for a tiny moment at the end of the scene, before there’s a cut, there’s finally anger, not sadness, or depression.
Emily doesn’t realize that everything changed when she wakes up the next day, because this time around it’s the right person half-naked beside her (once again… “Skins” with the unexplained details.), and Emily says “I love you”, but exactly a day too late. Naomi says “don’t lie”, and that her mum is coming back, and that Emily should leave.
The absurd thing is, Naomi and Emily have been doing this to each other for months now, but we only see how Naomi is without Emily in this episode, and if that’s even possible, she becomes even more blank and empty than before, she’s nothing but a shell when the police turns up, and later, when everyone is finally gone and she has the wrecked house to herself, with her things in ruins around her, but still having to pretend everything’s okay when her mum calls. The difficult thing is: as well acted as it is, and as powerful as the images of Naomi, completely broken, are, this all happens within ten minutes. Ten minutes for Naomi to realize that she can’t do this (lying completely exposed on her bed, trying to evoke Emily in the same way Cook, Karen and Effy have been trying to capture Freddie, by embracing her shirt). Ten minutes for her to burst into the shed, to hold her speech and expose herself completely in front of all her friends (I kind of love that the only person who we see throughout the scene, apart from Emily, is Katie), to win Emily back.

Ace of truth
JJ: “Who’s gonna start?”
Naomi: “I will.”
“I’ve loved you from the first time I saw you. I think I was twelve. It took me three years to pluck up the courage to speak to you. And I was so scared of the way I felt, you know, loving a girl. But I learned how to become a sarcastic bitch just to make it feel normal. I screwed guys to make it go away, but it didn’t work. When we got together, it scared the shit out of me because you were the one person who could ruin my life. I pushed you away. I made you think things were your fault. But really I was just terrified of pain. I screwed that girl Sophia to kind of spite you for having that hold on me. And I’m a total fucking coward because I got... these, these tickets to Goa for us three months ago. But I couldn’t stand... I didn’t want to be a slave to the way I feel about you. Can you understand? You were trying to punish me back, and it was horrible. It’s so horrible, because… really, I’d die for you. I love you. I love you so much, it is killing me.”

We’ve watched Naomi lose herself more and more over the past months, and now she, the girl who keeps all her feelings to herself, is holding this speech in front of everyone – and admits that she is who she is because of Emily. This rewrites everything we thought we knew about Naomi. It turns Naomi and Emily in season three from being about the chase: Emily making Naomi fall in love with her, into Emily convincing Naomi, who has already been in love with her for five years at this point, that they can be together, even though Naomi is so afraid (and when she says “ruin my life”, I don’t think she is referring to how other people would react – she means losing herself completely in another person, and not being able to deal with so much at once).
This scene is supposed to be the answer to all the questions raised in “Emily”, when Naomi remained silent throughout the episode, and was a complete mystery, a stranger, to Emily and the viewers. Emily takes her back, because she was already willing to do it before the speech, before Naomi threw her out. They can’t be without each other, despite all the destruction that happened the months before. I’ll have to discuss this scene some more, but I’ll do it at the very end.

 “Some days are disasters that you wish could just end. Other days are bastards just like a bad boyfriend. But it makes me feel much worse than this to see your face masked with a frown. I’m not telling you to smile but don’t be down. Don’t be down, my friend, don’t do your wrist any harm; you don’t belong on a funny farm. And I’d rather see you in a party dress than in a hospital gown. I’m not telling you to smile, but don’t be down.”
People bursting into song and dance for no apparent reason and with no demon to explain it all is a well-founded tradition in “Skins”. In this generation, Cook has done it twice in his first episode, Panda, Panda’s mum, Katie and Effy joined in on “London’s Burning” while baking magic brownies, Karen performed “Ass2Ass”, and JJ won his love back with a Ukulele orchestra. Among all these songs, Panda’s is my favourite, because it sums up exactly who Panda is. She doesn’t ignore all the bad things that happen, but she is who she is in spite of all the horrible things in her life – and while she is loving, and supportive, she is still completely inappropriate, and that’s what Effy loves about her. This is as good as it gets, for her, and even in this one moment of happiness, there’s Dr John looming, looking, and waiting.
John: “Sometimes it’s hard to move on. How are you Elizabeth?”
Effy: “Better.”
John: “Sure?”
Effy: “No.”
John: “Your mother wants you to go home. She says she can look after you there.”
Effy: “Is that good?”
John: “Good? You know better than that Elizabeth. We have to forget about good and bad.”
Effy: “My boyfriend ran away. That was bad.”
John: “How can we know? How can we know how things will turn out?”
Effy: “Yeah.”
John: “I came to tell you that I’m leaving my job here.”
Effy: “You. You’re leaving?”
John: “Don’t be upset. I think… maybe it’s time.”
Effy: “Do I say thank you?”
John: “We don’t know yet. But I think…yes. You could be something I’m proud of.”
Effy: “I’ll never forget you.”
John: “No. You won’t.”
Somehow, when John was talking to Freddie about Effy, it reminded me of Effy’s almost sad “everyone loves me” to JJ in his episode last season: being the mysterious girl everyone falls in love with has never done her any good, it has only caused things to fall apart, badly. John is obsessed with her, but he has different ways of expressing his feelings than scribbling the same lines over and over again into his diary. He has power he can abuse. There’s Freddie’s voice, then.

Interlude: Katie, Panda and Thomas
These three characters get sidelined for the episode (but not as badly as JJ, who is basically a prop), but the small scenes they do share are all well-done. Katie tries to fix Pandora and Thomas because she CARES, but falls in love with Thomas in the process (her “don’t make me say it” was all kinds of terrible). It was a smart twist to have Pandora reveal her actual marks in this scene: listening to Thomas and Katie talking French, then we see she got an A* in French, and suddenly there’s subtitles (“how many times will we fuck?” / ““Your nipples will stand up for me”), and the honesty Katie adores about Thomas is exactly what probably breaks her heart seconds later: “You are beautiful. In so many ways. But I can’t stop loving her. Sorry.” It’s bittersweet because Thomas and Pandora get their “it’s destiny” ending, before the final scene with Cook, when  Pandora realizes that the most unlikely thing has happened and Thomas will go to Harvard too, and she doesn’t even tell him, she just smiles (when Pandora’s happy, everyone’s happy), but poor Katie doesn’t get a proper ending, her last moment is witnessing Naomi’s declaration of love.


The diary is one way in which Karen, Effy and Cook connect with Freddie. Karen hands it to Cook, and he needs to read it to realize that something is wrong, and how important Freddie is to him, even though they both love the same girl (how bitter is it that it’s only after his death that Cook sees their shared love for Effy as something that connects them, rather than something that pulls them apart?). Cook tries to talk with Freddie, just like Karen did in his room before: “What? Freds? Ey Fredster. Look where we ended up. All back at Naomi Campbell’s.”, and Freddie pulls a little “Lovely Bones” and directs him towards John Foster (“John Foster wants to hurt her” says the diary), and Cook hears Freddie say “Cook”.
Cook gives the diary to Effy, once they’ve both escaped (he from the police, she from the mental hospital, at least for now), because Effy doubts Freddie but the diary clearly proves his eternal devotion. Effy just breaks, and Cook promises to find him …

 And then there’s the last moments of happiness, scenes that have been missing for the entire season, a last tribute to the person who is missing (it’s his birthday). Cook, JJ and Karen dance to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, which is appropriate for the moment. Everyone else comes over to drink, Naomi declares her love, but this isn’t how Cook ends, with his friends, waiting for his future to start.
The scene outside, when Cook throws stones at Freddie’s window, but nobody comes, is a throwback to the scene in “Cook” in season three, when Cook came over to Freddie after his encounter with Johnny White, the scene that ended with him telling Freddie “I fucking love you man. I fucking love you to bits.” (here’s the much prettier version of this theory in pictures). Cook sees a shadow, lurking, and follows him (we see that it’s Dr John), enters his office through a window, finds Freddie’s bloody shirt in a box – then there’s Freddie’s voice again, warning him to leave, but it’s too late.
Cook. “What have you done?”
John: “Don’t be stupid Cook. She told me all about you too. There was much to correct in this girl. I almost managed it. Perhaps I still can.”
Cook: “You. You did something to my friend.”
John: “This is wasting time. Would you kneel down please?”
Cook: “Mr Foster...”
John: “Dr Foster, actually. Kneel down please.”
It’s the moment when Cook realizes that John killed Freddie.
Cook: “I don’t think you know what I am mate.”
John: “I think I do. You’re nothing. You don’t deserve that girl. And, you know, I do.”
Cook: I’m a fucking waste of space. I’m just a stupid kid. I got no sense. Criminal. I’m no fucking use mate. I am nothing. So please. Please. Get it into you, you know, into your bonce, that you killed my friend. And… I’m Cook. I’M COOOK!”
While I hated this storyline that cost Freddie’s life, I love Cook’s final scene. It’s everything he is. He might be nothing, but he loves his mates, and he loved Freddie, and now he’s going to end the man who killed him. I don't need to know what happens afterwards.

Random thoughts

After “Emily”, it felt so wrong never to get an insight into Naomi’s head: she wasn’t talking, she didn’t explain, she was so alone (except for the scene with Cook). But now, by the end, I realize that Emily hasn’t talked to anyone on screen – not to Effy, not to her sister, never with Naomi. There’s the small scene with JJ, but that doesn’t really help, at all, to explain who she is by the beginning of the episode, and she remains mostly silent throughout this one too, she shares more lines with Mandy than with Naomi or anybody else. Kudos to Kathryn Prescott though for managing to convey all the emotions with her gestures and looks. The moment when she realizes that Mandy is lying in her bed naked, and she looks so completely lost and tiny all of a sudden beside her, is stunning, and so is the look after Naomi answers “I love you” with “Don’t lie” – because she didn’t cry, she didn’t even look particularly sad, she just realized that it ended, and there was nothing she could do, because Naomi doing “anything” wasn’t enough for either of them.

Somehow Emily sniffing her fingers after waking up besides Mandy to “check” felt more explicitly sexual than Cook actually having sex in the other room. It was also very much the kind of scene that an American show would never do (and Joss thought he was being risqué with the tongue-piercing remark in “Chosen”. Hah.)

Yeah talking about sexually explicit, Cook’s “grab my balls” was a nice throw-back to the first episode. They’ve come far, but not that far.

Oh Panda. Sometimes I think I’ll miss you the most. She was so awesomely inappropriate throughout the episode (when she told Katie “I’m suicidal”!), with all the lines about “not being mental” and suicide, and it was fabulous to see Katie reacting to that. Also, her reaction to Katie’s “Because your boyfriend smashed your heart into a thousand pieces months ago.” when she was trying to get a reaction that confirmed she would actually care about Thomas giving her French lessons was hilarious:  “Yeah: He did that. Tragic, isn’t it. Bummer.” Imagine Emily saying the same thing about Sophia!

How unlikely that of all the people, Katie would be teamed up with Panda to take care of Effy? I’d have loved to see a bit more of how she got there, it’s one of the many losses of this season, because the build-up with the rock-incident (in which – remember – Effy was wasted when she hurt Katie, but Katie was perfectly sober when she tried to choke her!) would have made for a fantastic episode in which Katie and Effy sort it all out – that’s wasted on a badly written novel currently not available in my country of residence. Sometimes I feel like “Skins” really fails badly at picking which fragments of the story it is trying to tell are shown, and which are meant to be added by the imagination of the viewer.

“Grapes are for chipmunks”: That was supposed to remind everybody of Chris’ sickbed after the operation, yeah?

Naomi and Cook felt like siblings this episode, which is weird, because of all the past kissage. But I loved how she just judged the horrible, gross new girlfriend (“Arcia. It’s pretty”), then continued to read “Heat” – and she knew from the moment she walked out of the bathroom that Cook was sleeping with her because she looked like Effy, although he couldn’t have picked anyone less LIKE her.

Karen. I loved Karen this episode. Sometimes “Skins” introduces smaller characters and they seem to have so much back-story, so much…inherent personality, without any of it ever being explicitly shown on screen (I felt that way about Sophia. There were so many untold stories there). Her list of things she likes… probably secretly one of my favourite things from the episode. She likes so many things. Freddie only loved Effy. They couldn’t be any more different, but still, he was all she had, because he didn’t care about what she liked, and how contradictory she is. And SHE is the one to tell Cook that Freddie’s all he has. Because she gets that, while everybody else is busy dealing with their own future and nobody else even mentions that Freddie is GONE.

“Oh come on, what’ wrong with everyone? It’s almost half eleven.” Good to know that Naomi has SOME standards about when to start drinking.

Also: more proof that Naomi hates babies. She made Albert cry, and couldn’t care any less (but she took care of Paddy, so apparently it’s just small babies, or maybe babies JJ brings to her house).

Naomi, waking up Panda (Naomi! A bit loud!!) with the loud music after telling Emily to leave, just nodding her head while lightning a spliff. So funny, so painful, so broken. She didn’t actually have to say “this is my fucking house, get the fuck out”.

It’s really the small things in this episode that get me the most: Cook, running from the police, taking the time to turn around, to get a good look at Panda (“always looking good in lingerie Panda”) and Panda’s honestly happy smile to that when she says “ta”. These two. So weird (Panda was surprising throughout the episode: not only did she get the best marks out of all the group, and a full scholarship for Harvard, but she also had the mental presence to get rid of Naomi’s weed when the police came. But then, growing up with her mum probably made her sneaky like that).

Katie. I see why they kept Panda away throughout the season: it was so dark, so the light and happiness Pandra brings, no matter how serious the situation (as proven by this episode) would have been completely inappropriate. But there was not enough Katie, the character that surprised me most this season because she was just fabulous in every single scene, no matter how small – and this was really a horrible way to leave her, crushing on a boy who doesn’t love her back (and where has Katie been living these part months? Has she been at Naomi’s all the time, or is she just staying there now?).

It’s a different story with Effy. Effy and Cook, Cook and Effy. I couldn’t picture either of them in the future, leading a normal life. They’ve probably both been a bit too broken from the beginning, and there isn’t really… a way out, for Effy. It broke my heart a bit when she said “Freds probably got scared. I am a bit scary”, and even more when Pandora told her she’d leave for Harvard, and while Effy seemed happy, there was also this hesitation and sadness when she realized that she’d be the one to stay, be stuck, here and see her best friend leave.


Okay, so Panda is going to Harvard on a history scholarship. That is…unlikely, but the point was to say, see, Pandora hasn’t been around, she’s been up to something all along, but she didn’t tell anyone. And she can surprise us, because really, what do we know about her? But. Thomas going to Harvard as well, because a random guy decides that he is a good runner? There was a concept there first – what if Panda and Thomas accidentally ended up together at the most unlikely place possible – which sounds interesting, sure, but sorry, if this is how you decide to go about it, it doesn’t work, and Thomas would have deserved a more believable ending, after the gritty and depressing first episode. He is a nice guy. It’s always good to see nice things happening to good people. But not like this, “Skins”, and not in a final episode that deals with the death of a main character and the ruins he’s left behind, someone admitting that her entire existence is based on her love for one person, and Cook saying “I might be nothing, but I’ll fucking end you, because you killed my friend”.

Fart jokes? Arcia? (yeah, she was the farthest from Effy’s mysterious elegance and appeal humanly possible, I get that, but really. Just no)

Naomi’s hair during her speech. Because the straight hair looked beautiful, and yes, this was all about Naomi making an effort, putting on nice clothes, and picturing her actually dressing up for the occasion, and preparing a speech (because that was not spontaneous. She practiced that speech.) is part of what almost makes the scene work, even though there are so many things missing before – but the hair, it does not fit her character, and it doesn’t look good on Lily. And. Lily’s even made floral print look good before, so MASSIVE FAIL, otherwise usually pretty good make-up department of “Skins”.

I knew that Freddie was inarticulate and single-minded, but couldn’t there be…something redeeming about him, at least in this episode? That diary was just creepy. Yes. You went mad over Effy. But characters on “Skins” have gone mad over each other before, and they’ve done it in a more interesting fashion than scribbling the same lines (which…become meaningless when repeated too often, remember) all over again into their diaries. Maybe Sophia can teach Freds a thing or two, you know, UP THERE, about how to creatively obsess about someone (okay, that was bad. I apologize.)


And I love the words. I really do. I love that Emily and Naomi get their happy ending, and that their story started when they were 12, and that they will probably never ever be able to live without each other. The thing that made them special in season three were all the small scenes, these tiny moments, that showed how they progressed, how Emily just kept working on gaining Naomi’s trust and respect and love. Season three was about showing progression and the process and the development of their relationship, and it was a wondrous little thing because TV shows usually never get it right, but “Skins” did.
This is the exact opposite. It’s all the things we didn’t get to see throughout the season, replaced by a heart-breakingly honest speech that still isn’t enough. I imagine there was a different idea about how this was going to go, one that included the embrace in “Katie”, and I am dying to find out what that was, but now I have to live with the fact that the grand finale doesn’t work for me.

This would probably be different if Naomi was always supposed to have always been in love with Emily, but she hasn’t. Lily Loveless confirmed in interviews that she didn’t know her character was going to be gay until “Naomi”, so I assume that this was a decision made at some point during the second season. When I first saw the clip, I thought it would work for me because the episode would give it a proper context (it worked when “Dollhouse” revealed that Boyd was the Big Bad, even though that wasn’t planned from the beginning: it was a well built-up reveal, and the emotional fall-out was fabulous enough to justify it), but the final scenes were so rushed, that Naomi entering the shed, giving her speech, and finally being forgiven before everybody could continue to party just felt like something they had to fit in, somehow. I am not criticizing the delivery of the lines, because that was just perfect (some people disagree, but I’ve always felt that Lily captures Naomi, and all her contradictions, incredibly well – Naomi just isn’t like other people), it was the same level of desperation and brokenness all the way through that were so effective in “Katie”, when Naomi said “Em”.

The reveal doesn’t make me want to go back to season three to see how it changes everything, because one of the things that I loved so much about it WAS that I thought I saw Naomi fall in love with Emily. All those small moments that are now supposed to be read differently: when Emily surprised Naomi again and again (I always thought that the moment when Naomi smiled after Emily showed her the posters she had prepared in “Naomi”, after “I get the message: I’ll manage” was when she first realized how much potential Emily had, how amazing she was). When she waited patiently for Naomi. When Naomi realized how brave Emily was after meeting her terrifying mother. I cherish these moments, and I don’t think that they are more significant now that I have to consider the fact that Naomi has been in love with Emily since she was twelve. But I get, and honour, the intention behind this, so it’s okay, if only because among the people who reacted to this differently are much better at communicating their feelings with sentences and better grammar than me, and the review over at afterellen.com almost convinced me that the scene worked. Almost.


Oh Freds, we’ve had a troublesome relationship. I hated how the writers ended you, but even more, how little you actually had to call your own (personality, original thoughts, good lines). I think my favourite moment is…when you saved JJ from Pandora’s party? Because you CARED about your friends, even if your eternal love for Effy overshadowed everything else by the end. And you came to Cook’s trial, I give you that.  (Funniest moment? “mushrooms?” in “Effy”, season three, and the excited look that came with it, while Katie sulked). Finally, I want to add that Luke Pasqualino is quite funny in interviews, so there's that.

I like the final scene. It sums up perfectly who Cook is. The little moment in-betweens, in which he showed how much he cared about his friends. Everytime he kissed JJ, or Freddie. And when he wasn’t a prick about Naomi in “Naomi”. 

When he realized he was “the normal one” in “JJ”, season three, and when he saw the look on his mum’s face in the morning after, with Emily, as much as I disagree with Emily’s timing (not with the idea of her sleeping with JJ, but doing it right after “Naomi”).

When she says “Everyone loves me” to JJ, because it’s true, but it never actually helps, it just makes things worse. (but naturally I am quite fond of every single scene in which she watches other people because they intrigue her, like Emily and Naomi in “Thomas”, or when she realizes that Naomi is watching her too, in “JJ”)
And the final scene of “Thomas” this year, because it was simply the best entrance any character made into the new season.

When she waited patiently for Naomi to kiss her, by the lake. When she told her family that she’d been “nailing” Naomi, because things could not possibly get any worse than Naomi denying their relationship. Her entire episode this season, because it still catches me unprepared every single time and she carries it all on her own (but especially the rooftop, when she finds out, because she’s tried to stop herself from doing just that, but couldn’t).

The entire final sequence of “Katie”, her walk through Naomi’s house, comforting of Emily, the speech to her mum, until the pizza eating. The first time I ever thought I could possibly like Katie was in “Pandora”, when she was the only one at the party who cared (Georgia Lester, who wrote both episodes, just GETS Katie) – but the final sequence in her own episode is when she really became one of the most remarkably developed characters of this generation, and the most unlikely one at this.

The speech she gives Effy in “Pandora”, about how she has to actually CARE about her, about their friendship. And all the small, adorable moments, because yeah, we and she thought she was useless, but really, she just ISN’T. She’s a ray of sunshine in a very dark place.

I can’t pick, possibly. “When I’m with you, I feel like a better person, less alone, less lonely?” – but then it only takes one simple “Em” in “Katie” to convey all the pain and desperation of being willing to do anything but still not getting the chance to fix the only thing that is important to her. And I give her the speech, because well, it starts with “I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you. I think I was twelve.” and ends with “I’d die for you. I love you. I love you so much, it is killing me.”, and I absolutely believe her, even though it’s an easy fix for a situation that I thought irreparable.
(Secretly, though, “so you’re all prick” got me, it was love at first sight, and what could really compete with the cement mixer quote?)

For Naomi and Emily together? The scene by the lake. The entire cat flap sequence. The cute awesomeness before the horrible things start to happen in “Emily” (the goggles. The moped. The kiss on the hallway. “ours”).

“Emily, where are your shoes?”. Everything about that scene in “Katie and Emily” is perfect – the music (André Herman Düne's cover of "Smalltown Boy"), the acting, the lines.


jj said...

I found your reviews after 'Katie' aired, and have liked them a lot. I also disliked the episode at first, but after reflecting I'm happy with it. I think what troubled me was leaving Effy so fucked up, she didnt receive real closure to her storylines when she really is supposed to be the protagonist right? But the final credits for the actors focused on Cook leaving him to take the center, so im a little ok with it. Also, wasn't Karen's scene in Freddys room supposed to mirror a similar scene with Effy in Tony's room at the end of season 1 or 2? I have trouble placing it. Or maybe its just deja-vu. Oh and I read there's a Skins movie in production focusing on this set of characters, but including the 1st and (not yet seen)3rd generation. So we might get the resolutions we want after all. =)

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I'm happy that you've enjoyed my reviews!
There was just no way to give Effy any kind of closure after how they set her up for the final episode: she's lost Freddie, her best friend is leaving and she is still suffering from a mental illness. I was more disappointed that they didn't give any indication about what Katie is going to do in the future.

About the scene - after I read your comment, I thought I remembered a similar moment with Effy in Tony's room, but couldn't find it - until I looked up Effy's video diary from between season one and season two (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X94k5xKGKe0). Good catch, and thanks for sharing, it adds so much significance to the scene! I've loved all these little throwbacks to the previous generation without anyone being explicitly mentioned.

I'm wondering whether they set up the final episode this way to make it work as a real ending in case the movie doesn't get made, but also as a possible link if it should happen. I won't get too excited until any of the actors confirms their involvement (since they seem to be in talks with Nicholas Hoult, I suppose it's save to assume that Effy would be in it too?). I guess if it happens it might either set up the 3rd gen (but they won't finish it until then, probably) or bridge the time between season five and six.

Anonymous said...

I think I've come to terms with the finale now - it took a while (I was firmly in the "what the hell was that" camp for a day after the episode).

I can accept that Effy has no resolution. At the end of the day, she's Effy; she's always been odd and mysterious and giving the impression that every last thing we know about her is a lie, so leaving her ending just as mysterious is lame, but it fits. Katie bugs me, though; we don't even know where the hell she lives right now, never mind what happens next. The movie had better fix it.

And sorry to be the voice of dissent... but I loved Naomi's hair during The Speech. That hair has probably been my favourite character this season, gradually straightening out as things got worse and worse until by this episode it's in full-blown S3 straightness again; and then re-waving it for the final pourout. It seemed slightly more coloured too, a more yellow blonde than her usual platinum. Probably to make her glow, or something.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

Effy...I always thought that she was a great...concept. An idea. Let's create this person that is basically unknowable because she's so far above everybody else...and then they had to turn her into an actual character for season three and it didn't really work out (not because of Kaya's acting though, which I thought was great throughout both seasons).
Oh well, the hair: I appreciate and understand the intent behind it, but it doesn't work for me (maybe because I like all the stages before so much better?). This could be said for many other things that happened this season as well.
And Lily always glows regardless what haircut or costume (I obviously had to say it, *cue the invisible Naomi disclaimer*).

Martin said...

by accident i found your blog and i'm amazed. by your reviews on my absolutely favorite tv show, by your taste of music and the way you express yourself both in english an german.
keep it up!!

flame gun for the cute ones said...

Thanks! It's always lovely to hear that people have stumbled over my blog by chance because of shared interests.
I'll try to review both Skins US and Skins UK in January!