Thursday, 2 September 2010

Skins - It's a wild world.

Skins: 1x09 Finale.

Even though I would probably pick the second generation of “Skins” as my favourite if only because it has my all-time favourite character, the first season finale is still the one that I think works best of the four we’ve had so far. Episodes like “Cassie”, “Chris” and “Effy” already hinted that “Skins” aspired to be more serious if you were patient and waited, but the season finale truly drives home the point that anything can happen to anybody, that no one is really safe.
It also reveals the strength of the first generation. While the second already felt insular in its first year, where the finale was an episode that only focused on a handful of characters and one storyline (and isn’t exactly a fan favourite at that), this episode manages to tie together the storylines and gives everybody space to grow – in part also because these characters are friends, not a vaguely connected group of strangers. 

Anwar and Maxxie

I am quite fond of the fact that the conflicts between these two weren’t resolved in their own episode. This was heartbreaking because it was clear how much they cared for each other and that both understood that it shouldn’t matter, but Anwar is still trying to figure out who he is, and he wasn’t willing to compromise. Neither is Maxxie, when Anwar proposes a sort of “ask and tell” policy: he wants Maxxie to turn up to his birthday party because it “won’t be right” otherwise, but Anwar doesn’t want to tell his parents that his best friend is gay. “Seventeen. The year of telling the truth. The truth, yeah mate?” So many episodes of “Skins” deal with characters trying to figure out how to be who they want to be, and how to overcome all the obstacles that present themselves on the way; there’s Naomi in the beginning of season three, fighting against being defined by other people (“People tell lies about me”) and being in love with Emily nevertheless. There’s Emily, saying “I’m many things” and “I’m gay” and “I’m still Emily” and “I’m in love with her”, although her situation is far more complicated than Maxxie’s.

Actually, both Maxxie and Anwar have more loving and stable families than anybody else in their circle of friends (I probably like Anwar’s dad more than I’ll ever like Anwar himself…). Anwar has a way of not seeing what is important in his eternal struggle to figure himself out, and his dad points out to him that you don’t just lose a friend like Maxxie.
Istiak: “We don’t see him these days.”
Anwar: “We had a fight.”
Istiak: “You fight with your friends?”
Anwar: “Yeah.”
Istiak: “What would you fight Maxxie about? He’s a good boy. Always well turned out, respectful, the best kind.”
Anwar: “Nevermind.”
Istiak: “Whatever it is? Forgive him. And don’t be a bloody fool.”
Maxxie is waiting in front of the pub where Anwar’s party is, and Anwar is looking around for Maxxie inside the pub, especially after kissing the girl that was in no way related to him because he can’t really enjoy good things happening to him unless he’s able to share them with his best friend.
Maxxie: “I'm gay, Mr Kharral; I always have been.”
Istiak: “It's a fucking stupid, messed up world. I've got my God; he speaks to me every day. Some things I just can't work out, so I leave them be. Okay? Even if I think they're wrong. Because I know, one day he'll make me understand. I've got that trust; it's called belief. I'm a lucky man.”
I think the speech earns Anwar’s dad a Rob and Gina Award for Unexpected Awesomeness.

Cassie and Sid

I think it’s been clear over the past few episodes that I am not exactly a big fan of Sid and Cassie as a couple, but I’ll make one exception for this episode. I like that being in love turns Sid into even more of a helpless goof than being Tony’s sidekick, and that the bits and pieces he gets right actually surmount to something in this episode. The awkward love letter he composes in the beginning of the episode is such a stark contrast to Tony, standing under Michelle’s window and perfectly reciting Shakespeare because he likes the idea of doing that. Tony’s gesture is fake, while Sid’s is heartfelt, and that’s exactly the sentiment Tony later shares with Cassie, when he gives her the letter (which might be the first thing we see him do FOR Sid).
Cassie, I don't care if you think you're odd, because I feel like singing when I see you. And you're beautiful. And I've been such a fucking chapstick these past few weeks. And all I want to do this morning is sit on top of Brandon Hill and hold you, and tell you how wonderful you are... and stick my hand down your knickers. And…and… I love you.
Sid has taken being in love with Michelle for granted for years now, and it probably hasn’t even crossed his mind before that there really are other girls. Maxxie points out to him that Cassie is beautiful, and I think he only realizes how he feels about her as he writes these words. There is something very safe in the hopelessness of pining for a girl that is basically unreachable; and something essentially more terrifying in being in love with someone who loves you back (again; Naomi learned that lesson the hard way too).
Dear Sid, it isn't easy to tell you this, so that's why I'm writing. Don't try to ring me, because you're not allowed to here, and anyway I don't want to speak to you. And there's nothing you can say to change this. My mom and dad decided that things aren't working out, so I'm moving to a place called Elgin. It's in Scotland, and everyone's happy there. They're coming for me tonight, and then I'll be gone and we won't have to play this silly game anymore. I want you to know that I really liked you, Sid. But... it's too late now. Goodbye.
“Skins” always has to make a very conscious choice about which fragments of the story will be shown on screen and which will just be alluded to, as there are so many characters and so little time that we actually get to spend with them. Cassie has been as elusive to the viewers as she was to Sid in “Effy”: more like a ghost, occasionally haunting a place or another character, then disappearing again. The letter she writes to Sid is a heartbreaking testament to this: “my mom and dad decided that things aren’t working out” sums up perfectly the feeling you got from her family in her own episode: that she is more like an intruder, an unfortunate obstacle to their happiness, than someone they truly care about. Sending her to the clinic didn’t suffice, so now they send her away even further and there is nothing she can do about it (and how terrible does “they’re coming for me tonight” sound, when you think about it?). The “silly game” was what she considered potentially life-saving in her own episode, and she has almost completely given up here. Sid has already helped to save Effy, but now he is on his own to try and do the same for Cassie (and while I don’t like the idea of one character saving another that is no longer able to help themselves, I can’t help but like Sid more in this episode than in any before. I just don’t like the implications about Cassie, for the same reasons why I hated the idea that Effy would need to be saved by either Cook or Freddie. I would have been fine with Katie though.).
Of course, Sid trying to be heroic just ends up Sid being ridiculous, as he gets dressed in wacky clothes to go to the mental institution, and ends up being locked up himself.
“I’m not mad for fuck’s sake, I’m fine. I’m fine!!
While Sid is stuck where Cassie used to be, until Tony comes to his rescue, Cassie goes to his room and quietly says goodbye to his cushion, leaving the letter behind.

Chris and Angie

Chris’ story only takes a small part of this episode. Angie’s fiancĂ© comes back from Australia and claims back what he considers his, and Angie is torn between two completely different people (Chris, the caring guy she shouldn’t be with because he is a student, Merve, the more reasonable choice she shouldn’t be with because he’s a douchebag). We’ve seen Chris fight for something before, when he lost the struggle for his own house in his own episode, but we’ll only find out later that bit by bit of his security and the things he loved have been taken from him, first his little brother, then his dad, then his mum, then his house. His attempts to build something new don’t work out. He breaks into Angie’s house and goes through her photo albums which are filled with happy pictures of her and Merve, and then she comes back and tells him that he doesn’t really know her that well, which is unfair because obviously she kept secrets from him and none of this is his fault.
None of this really plays out here, but it’s the basis for what we’ll see next season.

Michelle and Tony

Michelle is trying to figure out how to not be with Tony when she still loves him despite everything he did, and she does this while talking to the girl who doesn’t answer in words, Effy.

Michelle: “I heard things got a bit out of control last week. You’re feeling better? Is that why they sent you to that posh school, they think that will sort you out. School on a Saturday, hardcore. Why don’t you speak Effy? Doesn’t anybody ask you why? It must mean something. Doesn’t anybody care? Tony really hurt me Effy. Why did he do that? Sometimes I think you are the only person in the whole world Tony truly cares about. I thought maybe he told you why he did that.”

And she thinks about it, looks at her, and when she asks she just shakes her head.

Michelle: “If I could I trust him to tell the truth just once, then maybe I could…It was nice seeing you Effy. I’m glad you’re okay.”

And she hugs her, and Effy seems to enjoy it.

We never hear Effy talk about what people mean to her, with the exception of Tony and Freddie. She’ll later tell Tony repeatedly that he is a wanker because of how he treated Michelle, but partly she does because she knows that Tony is suffering the consequences (like staring videos of Michelle and almost crying over them).

Tony’s attempt to help Sid win Cassie is like his first step towards redemption (“No wait, I’ve got you a going away present. You wanna see this. Style wise it could be improved, but he made several compelling thematic points.”), before he can even try to call Michelle.
Effy: “Fucking wanker.”
Tony: “Eff. What are you talking about?”
Effy: “Michelle?”
Tony: “I tried.”
Effy: ”No. Wanker.”
Tony: “I said sorry.”
Effy: “Wanker.”
Tony: “Effy. I liked it better when you didn’t talk.”
Effy: “Wanker.”
These are the first words we hear her speak, apart from the cryptic message before she blacked out in “Effy”, and they are about Tony and Michelle and what you should do when you love someone (despite the “love Love Love, what is it good for” we’ll later hear).
Michelle: “Hello Tony.”
Tony: “Michelle?”
Michelle: “What?”
Tony “Michelle… I wanna talk to you.”
Michelle: “I can’t hear you. Tony?”
Tony: “I need to tell you something. I’m a twat. I don’t know why I’m like this, but maybe I can change. I can change. You’re the only one. The truth is: the truth is I love you.”
And then, as he wanders into the street to get a better reception, he gets hit by a bus, and we hear Effy screaming her heart out.
“Oh baby baby it's a wild world,
it's hard to get by just upon a smile.
Oh baby baby it's a wild world.

I'll always remember you like a child, girl.
You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do,
and it's breaking my heart in two,
cause I never want to see you sad girl”
Music is an integral part of “Skins”. The lines in the songs chosen fit the scenes. The style fits the characters. It’s heart-breaking that there are so many changes in the soundtrack for the DVD version, and among other things, “Wild World” also got cut.
There’s Tony singing in the beginning of the season, there will be a musical next season, JJ wins his big love by bringing a ukulele orchestra to her window. Music is the beating heart of “Skins”, along with the actors growing into their roles and the different writers interpreting the characters.

In the end, Sid and Cassie sit on the bench overlooking Bristol, and say “Hi” to each other.

Random notes:

“Life is Life”, which Anwar’s embarrassing uncle plays at the party, is Austria’s second-most successful contribution to pop culture apart from Falco. And that is sad. Seriously though, being embarrassed by your family isn’t exactly the worst thing that can happen on “Skins”, is it, Anwar?

I love how the fights in gen 1 are always group efforts, while the second gen was mostly Cook getting beaten up. (but Chris laughing about it is very, very reminiscent of Cook doing the same in his own season three episode).

I’ll sum up the web content that came with the first season in two weeks; than I might take a little break before starting with the second season.

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