Friday, 17 February 2012

Skins - Don’t you ever be any less because of anyone or anything in this world.

Skins: 6x04 Franky.
Geoff: There are no dress rehearsals in life, my darling.
Franky: Then it’s a good job that I learned my lines.
There is an interesting parallel between Franky’s function in the first few episodes of last season and Alex’ last week: without Franky, there would be no group. She was the unlikely fabric that held everyone together, the stranger crashing into the established structures, questioning and reshaping everything. That’s the “fucking awesome mates” – the attempt to build something and to see potential in others instead of threats. And then there’s the other thing, the “bulimic fucking Barbie” – what bullying sometimes does to people, make them sharp and hungry for revenge and always look for weaknesses so they can hurt back if it is required, even if it’s not a conscious process, figuring out secret fears as a precaution against future pain. 
Franky’s crash in the first episode (“the brakes were fucked”) was constructive, in a way – it was the beginning of something that lead to the final scene of the season finale, this awesome moment of shared joy in the face of a possibly hostile world. The same thing – even though not literally a crash – has had the opposite effect in this season. When Franky and Matty arrived in Morocco tearing each other apart, they were the first fracture, by the end of the episode, everything was in shreds, at least until Alex provided a temporary moment of shared grief that brought almost everyone together again. 
Dealing with grief is one thing, but Franky (and notably still absent Matty) also have to address their guilt. Regardless of whether Franky can be made responsible for Matty’s actions (I think the answer is no), she feels like the accident was the result of a decision that she made, and she spends the entire episode denying this feeling. There’s Grace – incredibly well-used in the episode, even though it is still painful that Jessica Sula doesn’t get to play her own character anymore, only other people’s interpretation of her – who appears to haunt Franky, and from the first time (“wakey wakey, sleepy head”) she seems to be kind and yet accusing at the same time, a reminder of something Franky is desperately trying to forget but still a friend she doesn’t want to let go of. 
If Luke isn’t actually a bad guy, then it’s all Matty’s fault. If Matty is entirely to blame (in their first conversation, Matty ends up somehow blaming her for everything – “If you hadn’t started flirting what that fucking psycho”), she is guilty of nothing. And if she could just not care – if she could forget – things might also stop feeling so terrible. 
All of this is fine. Franky’s in an even more complicated positions because her parents (and she must have pretty much the best parents ever on Skins?) are so very understanding of her grief, and try everything to help her without pushing too hard – but they don’t know about the guilt that keeps her from seeking out anybody’s help. She can’t talk to her friends because they are still stuck in their own ways of dealing with Grace’s death, and mostly absent.

So she seeks out Luke. Which would also work, somehow, if we pretend that Liv never bothered to explain to her what she knows about him, if she doesn’t know anything about him, and if only Luke weren’t the comic villain with the evil laugh and the worst written lines, none of which explain Franky’s wide-eyed excitement over how different and interesting he is. Luke promises an easy escape, both physically and mentally, and tells her to “let that shit go” (except, “It won’t let me go”). Like the (obvious) creepy predator he is, he immediately recognizes her weakness and exploits it. He cuts her off from her friends and family, successfully suggest she change her attitude and looks, and somehow also plays into that one mysterious line from the finale about “being wrong” because she considers extreme violence beautiful, and blames the fact that people abandon her on that “wrongness”. The episode still doesn't elaborate on what her issues are, exactly – it’s a conveniently unspecified disorder providing the writers with a chance to do pretty much anything without fact-checking, which is as frustrating as it was in the fourth season. 
Franky watches Luke and his gang beat up a rivalling group of drug-dealers and is immediately drawn to the violence – she ends up participating in it, and what follows is a spiral of sex and violence, already disturbing before the rape scene because Luke is brutal even in his gestures of affection, pinching, hitting, pulling her and still getting the same inexplicable reaction from her – the timid smiles in the morning when she wakes before him and he finally looks somewhat peaceful in his sleep, her public pride when he drives her to school and kisses her in front of everyone, making her a different kind of hot topic on the school yard than she is used to being, and causing her friends to wonder. 
Mini: Way to go. Again.
Franky: What do you mean, again?
Mini: You’re outstanding taste in men. As if it hadn’t caused enough devastation already.
Franky: What the fuck did you just say? You think the crash was my fault, don’t you? You blame me.
Mini: What the fuck is wrong with you.
Mini – who’s been put aside for the most part of this season, so that we can’t really know if she actually blames Franky or if this is still the same fierce protectiveness (always the thin line between actually helping Franky and being possessive and keeping her from doing things because it might drive her away) from last season that made her give Matty an ultimatum – “you deserve better”. Whatever it is, it doesn’t work, and her parents also don’t get through to her – drunk Geoff, in his frustration and desperation, even utters the one line that is the absolute worst thing he could have told Franky: “A home that you should be bloody grateful for” – making her a stranger again, someone who makes other people abandon her. 
She ends up seeing a counsellor just to please Jeff, but doesn’t actually say anything – but the realization that the person that she needs is Grace, and that she feels responsible for her death (she repeats I’m sorry, again and again, and finally throws a chair) doesn’t help at all, it only drives her deeper into trying to forget everything. The violence escalates. Nick tries to save her but ends up getting laughed in his face when he reveals his feelings and beaten up by Luke, who grows more erratic and controlling whenever he sees Franky talking to anybody else. 
She runs away after he rapes her and pretends that nothing happened the next morning. 
Luke: How is my girl today?
Franky: Leave it.
Luke: Joke. Joke. Fuck is up with you man?
Franky: Nothing. Nothing.
Luke: Stay that way. 
I think it’s that moment more than anything that she realizes how wrong everything is: that Luke doesn’t understand a thing, that he wants her to be empty and without emotions, that the only way to exist the way he does, disregarding other people entirely and never facing the consequences of his actions, is to not have any human emotions. 
When she sees Grace again, she reacts differently: Grace is no longer a threat or a reminder of her guilt, she is the only person Franky feels able to talk to – and yet can’t, because Grace is no longer here. “I don’t know what to do. Grace. Grace. I wanna go back. I wanna go back to when you were still here. But I can’t. Oh Gracie.” Except there are people in her life who haven’t abandoned her. 
This is my favourite scene of the episode, and I wish it was all I remembered of it. 
Jeff: You came right out of left field, you know? Because when we got the green light to adopt, we planned on taking on a much younger child. And then Geoff saw your photo… you, peaking out of underneath that god-awful ski hat you used to wear, remember? And the first time we saw you, sat drawing away, like you did, head down, we knew then that you were for us.
Franky: Before we even met?
Jeff: Oh yeah. Yeah. Your dad, he said that it looked like the world had already forgotten about you. And he said he wasn’t gonna let that happen. And it might not be biology, Franky, but jesus, you try telling that to my heart. You are hope. You see? That’s what you are, and don’t you ever be any less because of anyone or anything in this world, okay?
This is the armour she needs to fend off what is the actual ghost haunting her in the episode: not Grace at all, but the psychopath who has eagerly exploited her weakness, this nagging fear that people leave her because she is wrong, that she doesn’t deserve any better. Franky needs to tell him to leave – this takes away all his power – and Jeff doesn’t need to hit him after that to make him disappear. “Go home”

Random notes: 

Was the “don’t you ever wonder what it all means” bit in the scenes from the last weeks actually a new sound bite, because I don’t remember it happening in any of the previous episodes? Was it Grace’s voice? 

This season gives a new meaning to “insularity” – Grace is dead, Matty’s hasn’t been on the show except as a disembodied voice since the first episode, Rich has been inexplicably gone, and the episode also didn’t have a single line for Liv, Alex and… Alo, cause IT DOES NOT COUNT.

It also feels like Mini has been put on hold until her episode which is also a frustrating reminder of season four – “hey, I wonder how Emily and Naomi are doing? Oh, so they’ve basically been fighting for almost a year? But don’t worry, there’s a minute in the finale to patch it all up!!” 

I don’t know if it’s because about five seconds into Luke’s EXISTENCE, BASICALLY, I got so frustrated with the entire episode that everything started to annoy me, but the music in this episode was… too much, too loud, too literal and unfitting at the same time… I don’t know. It takes a lot of effort to mess up with Marianne Faithfull and Thurston Moore but oh well. Perhaps making parts of the episode look like a violent and sex-fuelled video clip was the point and the music was meant to signify the emotional disconnect, but to me, it was mostly irritating. 

Franky: You’re not gonna tell me I’m adopted. 
Geoff: Oh, very good. 
Jeff: Humour. In the face of… that’s very… no. No, it’s about the g-word. 
Geoff: Grief. 

Of course his other fucking car would be VW Golf. 

Apparently, after Johnny White’s disappearance, sixteen year old kids have taken over the Bristol drug business?

The clothing department had the wardrobe thing all backwards, and I wonder if this will ever be addressed: when things go awfully, when Franky’s lost, her clothes least resemble the character that was introduced in the fifth season (I think that red dress was probably the climax of Franky pretending to be someone else to try and make her feelings disappear); when she feels more at ease, she still resembles Franky Badass.

So Nick’s in love with Franky. Since all we’d seen of this before were some hopeful and fascinated looks… I mean I guess Franky’s the only female character still available or something. I didn’t really appreciate Nick’s “duh, friendzoned” reaction (not verbatim – “what are you doing to me, Franky”) because it’s a stupid concept and also friendships are pretty cool too. And stuff. The episode should have ended with Jeff and Franky. The chronology of Franky getting raped and then realizing that Nick is A Nice Guy and deserves an apology was unfortunate, to say the least, regardless of whether the actual intent was to show that Franky made it out of the episode with one potentially healthy relationship (sort of subverted anyway because Nick doesn’t actually want A Friendship). I don’t know. I might just be bitter.

“Don’t walk away from me, Franky! Don’t you dare fucking walk away from me. From MEEEEE. FUUUUUUCK.”

Poetry man.


grifter said...

It´s funny that my reaction to this episode was apparently completely different from yours in that I loved it and it was the first in this series that really emotionally connected with me. Maybe it´s just because I love watching people on downward spirals pull themselves together. (That, at least, can be said for Franky, in contrast to Effy, who needed outside help for it...which actually could have been a storyline, were it not for the Skins-writer´s apparent hatred for any and all mental health professionals..."sigh*)

I guess Grace´s death didn´t connect with me because it was such a predictable let-down...every generation has to have a main character die, apparently. At least the contrast between the generations is nice, I guess; with Gen 1 being brought together despite their differences by Chris´death, while Gen 3 seems to completely fall apart. Gen 2, of course, seemed cut short at exactly the moment when Freddy finally managed to do something interesting.

Franky and Mini remain the only characters I truely care about in Gen 3 (now that Rich/Grace is over), so I´m just happy to get back-to-back episodes of those two. I really hope the uneven character development will remain to be confined to the wardrobe-department and not spread to the actual scripts (I´m looking at you, Gen 2).

On a shallow note, Dakota Blue-Richards looked really gorgeous this episode. I kind of want Franky to go tear the town up with Cook; if ever there was a cross-generational team-up surely those two should be it!

Thania said...

Hi, I just want to say that your recap of Skins is the only thing that can make me appreciate this gen.
I hope you never stop writing them :)


cathy leaves said...

To be perfectly honest, I've tried imagining my reaction to the episode if Luke hadn't been in it, or had been written differently. Franky's reaction to her grief and guilt seems consistent with her characterization in this season (and even to an extent with what we saw of her at the end of season five) - this fascination, basically, with sex and violence (her reaction to Liv/Matty, the 9/11 thing), and Grace's death escalated it. If it hadn't been for Luke, I would have probably found the episode compelling and emotionally involving, but I JUST COULD NOT GET OVER HIM, and I still have issues trying to fit the early fifth season version of Franky into all of this (she was my favourite character for a good part of that season).

The Effy parallels (and not in the "omg Franky is the new Effy" way) are interesting, because one of the most obvious differences between the two is that Franky has a functional safety net in her parents and a seemingly capable if only sparsely used psychologist. If anything, the episode was a reminder of the fact that Skins can sometimes involve adults without turning them into ridiculous OTT characters (and I'm not saying that seeing sort-of OTT characters evolve into something more serious - like David Blood and Rob Fitch - isn't gratifying, but I think the occasional "normal" adult is absolutely necessary to root the show in reality). I thought the fifth season painted many different parent-child relationships well, and one of the bigger let-downs of season six was the way Rich's parents (especially his mum) turned out - it felt like a first warning sign for the rest of the season, even more so after the premise of the whole Morocco thing completely disregarded how the respective parents would have reacted to the gang's holiday plans. That was a really complicated way of saying that I loved the scenes between Jeff and Franky, and my frustration with the episode is mostly the result of my reaction to Luke. I just couldn't figure out how to balance the two things in the review.

Also, lol at the Freddie comment. Harsh, but tragically accurate. I find it hard to judge how the group is reacting to Grace's death because the episodes are so insular and people are physically missing. Hopefully, there will be some group scenes in the future. And wow, was I hoping I'd never have to say that after season four...

@Thania: Thank you so much! I don't think I could stop writing them if I tried! It's a problem. Also I sincerely hope that the season picks up and the episodes alone provide reason enough to appreciate the gen. I can't help but love the characters and the buzz from season five is still kind of working for me... "you know what they say about hope: breeds eternal misery".

Julipy said...

"Thania said... Hi, I just want to say that your recap of Skins is the only thing that can make me appreciate this gen"

AMEN. I wasn't looking forward to watch this gen again because all I could remember was this awful feeling of nonsense after season 6. I was reading your reviews from season 5, finding myself really amazed by the fact that they were actually good (the characters and such. Not your reviews. They're always brilliant) As you said, they had that such a great potential... that somehow ended up like this. Anyways, I'm enjoying your reviews a lot. It's the best part of watching season 6 twice.