Skins: 6x08 Liv.
What is happening between Liv and Mini? It’s one of those questions that I’ve been asking myself for most of the season, and I’d never really felt like the show was actually offering an explanation for their conflict, it just seemed like another necessary thing to do if your theme is “the group is falling apart after Grace’s death”. They seemed to be okay after last year’s season finale. They were both uninvolved in the accident. Why can’t they talk about Grace’s death? Why does Mini mistrust Liv so much that she can’t tell her about the pregnancy?
I think this episode proposes a twofold answer (if answer is the right word) to the questions: one is a fundamental point about how devastating it is when people discover irreconcilable differences in the way they deal with grief over a mutual loss, the other sort of demands a re-examination of the dynamics between Mini, Grace and Liv (and subsequently, Franky) before the traumatic event happened. That last bit is more complicated because the show never really portrayed their relationship thoroughly before Franky came in and changed it, there are only hints of it in the dialogue (and in the case of Liv and Mini, the video they shot as children and the looming sense that they used to be really close before something started to eat away at their friendship).
Here’s my theory about Liv and Mini: they would have drifted completely apart if Grace hadn’t come in at some point before the last season. There are hints that Liv had severe difficulties dealing with the fact that Mini attracted all the attention, and Mini’s possessiveness is still very obvious now. Grace came in and provided balance – a precarious balance, because Franky doesn’t actually cause the cracks when she comes in, she just makes them visible. That’s what the first season was mainly about: Franky came in, examined their relationship, decided that the underlying foundation of it was solid and good and had potential, and proceeded to try and force them to deal with the things that didn’t work (this simplifies it, of course, because there’s another layer of Franky realizing she wants something for herself, too).
But Grace was the first person to change the dynamic between Liv and Mini, and I think the idea here is that the conflicts that existed before Grace arrived were never actually resolved. Grace just made it possible for them to communicate and stay friends in spite of them, and now that she’s gone, they have to figure out how they can still function together. That’s what Mini’s “not without her here” when Liv begged her to talk to her was about in Alex’ episode.
Liv blamed Mini for avoiding her, but that’s not at all what Mini’s been doing this season. She’s always been exactly where she is at the beginning of the episode, at the party in Alex’ house: on the fringe, waiting. Last episode, she was waiting for a sign that Alo was ready to step up and support her if she told him she was pregnant – and that moment never came – and now she is watching Liv for the same reason.
I’m not entirely sure what Mini is expecting, and maybe she isn’t, either, but I think part of it also has to do with how Franky reacted, and how Franky just knew what was going on even though Mini never told her. I think in part, Mini is convinced that if other people she loves – and she definitely loves Liv – really loved her back, they would see it too, and she wouldn’t have to tell them. But Alex is never far away (“We don’t need new friends”), and that moment where she finally trusts Liv to tell her the secret never comes (instead the secret is revealed in the most devastating way possible).
Wake up, Olivia.
Mini is preoccupied with her pregnancy, trying to figure out how to surround herself with people who will help her – and I think it’s significant that she is the one character (of those connected with Grace – Alo and Nick arguably had least to do with her, and Alex didn’t even know her) who hasn’t seen Grace, whose episode wasn’t about dealing with grief. She doesn’t have the energy to face that as well, and Liv blames her for it because, as this episode shows, Liv is haunted by her grief. Nobody else seems to be. Rich is studying for his tests (“That’s not right. How come you just get to sit here? How come you’re okay?”), Mini can’t talk about Grace, Franky is distant at best and openly hostile otherwise. Liv is completely alone in this – the person she is closest to at the moment didn’t know Grace and can’t share her grief (and he fucks off at the beginning of the episode) – and as she grows more isolated, the haunting escalates. It starts with visions of Grace, in the distance – and Liv’s downward spiral as she tries not to deal with them, while little mementos of Grace keep appearing (a note she finds - “Fuck Tragedy, Love Gracey”, a wake-up-call video of Grace, demonstrating her new bouncy bed). She starts to experience crippling pain in her stomach and finds a lump.
I've been losing all my friends
I wave another empty bottle in your face,
Like I'm hitting it hard
But it's just pretend
'cos you know I'm not
I wouldn't know where to start
I've been there before
I went and got lost,
Always the back end of this pantomime horse
Withered Hand: Cigarettes
The only person who is with her is her little sister, Maude. This is probably one of my favourite sibling relationships on the show ever, because it’s pretty clear that Liv had a great part in providing for Maude, since their mum is constantly absent, and in turn, Maude takes care of Liv as well.
Maude: If died, would you cry?
Liv: Shh. What?
Maude: You never cry. I used to think it was because you were super-brave, but now I just think you’re emotionally stunted.
Liv: That’s probably it.
Maude: But I’d want you to cry if I was dead.
Liv: I’ll do my best.
Maude: Don’t die. Ever.
So Liv tries to break out of her isolation and the most heart-breaking thing about the episode are the almosts. Franky is guarding the door to Mini’s house and makes ominous hints at the thing that Mini will talk to her about “When she’s ready”. Mini isn’t there, Alex is absent, her mum is away – and surprisingly, the one person who actually does provide a bit of help, both mentally and with practical advice, is Doug.
Doug: I was thinking about Grace this morning. She came into my head.
Doug: It was funny. It was like she was helping me remember this thought. Once, I danced to help a girl get through an exam.
Liv: You danced?
Doug: Disco stylee. It was what she needed. What do you need, Liv?
Liv: I want to tell someone that I have a lump on my front. It’s getting bigger and it hurts. I’m terrified.
Doug: The nurse will look at it and… and it will be nothing.
Liv: Can you guarantee that?
Doug: I wish… I wish adults could make more promises.
Liv: It’s OK. I hope you like horse riding.
Doug: I hope you like everything.
I absolutely loved this conversation – because it perfectly strikes the balance. You can still laugh about how ridiculous Doug is, but it is also a reminder of how adult characters can sometimes step up to the plate and offer that piece of advice that is needed, without talking down to the kids they give it to. Doug admits that he can’t make promises – and he probably remembers how it used to be, years ago, when Cassie and the others lost a friend (and the many awful things that have happened to Roundview students ever since).
But… the almosts. Mini tentatively reaching out to Liv, using their shared memories – Mr Hinckles, the teddy bear – and it almost works, there is this moment when it seems like an excuse could be the beginning of this necessary conversation, and then it goes awry again when Franky comes in.
Mini: Look, I’m sorry about before. I was feeling sick.
Liv: You’ve been hanging out with Franky a lot.
Mini: Yeah, but she’s with Nick now, they’re doing a shit-load of fucking and everything. It’s romantic.
Liv: Yeah. And you’ve got nothing to say about that. How screwed that is. Whoring around all year.
Franky: I’m right here, you know. Clearing out my locker before I go whoring.
Liv: Am I the only one who dares speak to you about your bullshit?
Franky: Bullshit? You know, it’s not my fault you’re jealous. Because Matty and Nick chose me.
Mini: Shit, no.
Liv: Like I said. Nobody calls you out. Nobody can say it.
Franky: What? About what?
Liv: That Grace wouldn’t be dead if you hadn’t been fucking over Matty and every other boy you get your hands on.
[Franky slaps Liv]
Liv: Better out than in.
Franky: Just tell this stupid bitch what you’re supposed to tell her. Just tell her, okay?
Mini: I’ve been having sex with Alo and…
Mini: Yeah, with Alo and.
Liv: No. No no no no no no. How long.
Mini: A few months. But we stopped.
Liv: No, stop there. Is this what it’s all about? You’ve been fucking Alo and you didn’t tell me.
Mini: No, that’s not it.
Liv: Shut up. It doesn’t matter.
Mini: Liv, I…
I think… and this is also just speculation, or maybe holding on to something that the writers have already given up on – that Liv’s “how screwed that is” isn’t really about Franky being Nick, necessarily – all the “whoring” comments are just part of this stupid game, really, calling each other names to make it as painful as possible, maybe as revenge for what Franky said earlier, I take it as a comment on the fact that Mini used to have a crush on Franky and now Franky is sleeping with her ex-boyfriend and apparently living with Mini. I think that’s the “And you’ve got nothing to say about that”, because Liv is still the only one who knows that this used to be something different, a couple of months ago, and now Mini is pretending like it wasn’t.
The other part of that fight – Liv blaming Franky for Grace’s death – is more serious, and that’s probably something that won’t ever be resolved. It’s an awful accusation (and there’s a difference between “being involved in” and “being responsible for”), and Mini’s position in the whole thing is interesting, because she immediately and instinctually tries to stop Franky from lashing out because she desperately wants this to work, and it won’t if this massive thing keep coming up again and again. I think Mini is determined to tell Liv about her pregnancy in this scene but it gets out of control, and Liv storms off before Mini can tell her the important part (“No, that’s not it” – because really, this hasn’t been about Alo for a while now).
Another almost: Liv is sitting on Brandon Hill, smoking, when Mini calls and apologizes for not telling her about Alo –
Liv: You should have told me about Alo.
Mini: I’m sorry.
Liv: No more secrets. I can’t take it, okay?
Mini: Hey, you know what? Little Dorrit. I’ve never read it.
Mini: And I was hoping you could tell me what happens in it.
Liv: Why not ask Franky?
Mini: Cause she wouldn’t think it was funny.
I love you.
The meaningful, long pause between Liv’s “no more secrets” and Mini changing the topic – the unseen conflict, and then the decision not to use this moment to tell Liv – and then the immediate decision to remind Liv of what they share, that they have something in common that Franky can’t be part of. This is why the next scene between them absolutely slays me.
Right afterwards, Grace appears again, and this time, Liv talks to her.
Liv: You wanna explain?
Grace: Oh, you know I’d fuck it up. It’s nice here. It’s peaceful.
Liv: Yeah. Yeah.
Grace: She’s lying of course.
Grace: Use the bonce, lady.
Liv: Where are you going? Can I come?
Grace: Go home, black bitch. Sort your shit out.
And then, inevitably, it all falls apart, all the tentative progress is destroyed, because Matty comes back, and really, all if this only works if Matty stays away forever to carry all the blame and absolve everyone else – and additionally, he is such a painful reminder of what happened. I think this is part of Franky’s reaction to him: knowing he isn’t the only one responsible for Grace’s death.
They go over to Mini’s together so Matty can talk to Franky, and this is the hardest scene to write about in this entire episode, but it is filmed absolutely beautifully. We see their entrance into the house from the distance, too far away to hear the dialogue – Mini lets them in, Franky watches from the upstairs window – and then we just see them all isolated, not really talking to each other until Franky comes downstairs.
Franky: Please don’t go.
Mini: I don’t really know what my contribution in this is. Is there anything in particular you wanna say to me, Matty?
Matty: I’m sorry.
Mini: God that’s good, that’s good. They smuggled you back into the country so you could say that? I mean, fuck me, that’s good.
But of course, Mini DOES stay.
Franky: What do you want, Matty?
Matty: If I could talk with you. I want… I want you to explain to me what you’re doing with my brother.
Franky: I’m fucking him.
Matty: That’s not right.
Franky: No. It’s right. It’s really fucking right, okay? So you can just go back to Morocco. And live on that hill. I mean it, Matty, just fucking live there.
Matty: I’m staying.
Franky: Well, I don’t wanna see you anymore.
Franky leaves, Mini blames Liv for bringing Matty (“He just came, I couldn’t stop it. I can’t stop anything, okay.”) – and probably in a broader sense, she blames her for bringing Matty into the group in the first place, months ago, and then Liv just explodes with frustration.
Liv: I don’t know what you want me to do. You’re such a cold bitch.
Mini: Well, it feels right. You can’t even say her name.
Liv: Fuck you fuck you. You. You don’t know anything. You left me there. You all fucking left me there.
Liv: No. You would have told me.
Mini: Liv, it’s too late.
Is it too much? Is it believable that someone like Liv would hit Mini repeatedly until she bleeds and begs because she fears for the life of her baby, finally revealing what she’s been holding inside for weeks, not because she finally trusts Liv enough to do so, but because Liv has just crossed all the lines and is completely out of control? I honestly don’t know how the show will even begin to fix this, and… part of me thinks that this is a misguided attempt to make a scene that would have been just as meaningful without the physical violence more shocking. Maybe it was meant to serve as a final rift between Mini and Liv, because I can’t see anything that would ever fix this (and I don’t really want to face this idea, because their complicated friendship is probably my favourite relationship in this generation of Skins).
Shadows settle on the place, that you left.
Our minds are troubled by the emptiness.
Destroy the middle, it's a waste of time.
From the perfect start to the finish line.
And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones.
'Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs.
Setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong
The lovers that went wrong.
We are the reckless,
We are the wild youth
Chasing visions of our futures
One day we'll reveal the truth
That one will die before he gets there.
So Liv finally goes into the clinic to confirm her fears, to face her demons, and Grace waves her goodbye from the distance, as if she was meant to guide her to this place all along – and then the nurse feels her abdomen and finds nothing. The lump is gone.
Liv: My friend died. Grace died.
Nurse: Oh darling, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Liv: I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna die.
Nurse: I know.
And Liv finally cries and is being held by someone.
Later, Doug drives Liv, Maude and Rich to the cemetery where Grace is buried, and we get a sense that Rich is maybe dealing with this better than everybody expected because he was given the opportunity to be involved in the funeral, and Grace led him to where he needed to be by the end of his episode, like she did with Liv. They watch the video again, together – “Wake up, Olivia” – and they bounce around her grave, because that’s maybe what she would have wanted, but it’s what they need, and finally at least two people are no longer horribly alone in their personal grief, but able to share it with each other.
Okay, fine. Well done, Bryan.
In case this wasn’t obvious from the review, this is the first episode in a long time that I’ve really, really enjoyed. And I think I am currently experiencing a sort of cautious optimism about the remaining two episodes. It also seems like some of the stuff that bothered me will be addressed?
Doug, on the significance of the finals: “Everything that your parents have dreamed of, that their lives will finally add up to something.” Heh.
Josie has stripes, spots and diamonds! (and I almost cried imagining an Unseen with her if only they wouldn’t have used all that money on Morocco…)
I’ve decided to be all for the scenes in which Grace re-appears, because I absolutely love the way they are filmed – with the haunting metallic noise drowning everything else out, her singing, just the eerie nature of it (and at the same time, the peacefulness and kindness of her? I can’t really describe it, but it works incredibly well).
Hinted at but not really made explicit: Liv still has a bit of a crush on Alex, enough for Donovan to notice.
“I like fucking. You can’t make allowances for the world.”
Loved the music in the episode, especially Withered Hand (“Listen to your heart / All I hear is my body dying”) and the one song by Daughter. And M.I.A. for Liv’s been a long time coming.
Liv: I think you do kind of smell a bit, babe.
Maude: Yeah. I stopped washing.
Maude: I wanted to see how long it would take anyone to notice.
Maude: Three weeks, two days and six hours. Silly bitches.
I’ve kind of given up on Franky at this point. I just have no fucking idea what’s going on there. “Says he’s never really enjoyed it before” and “You’re just jealous”… IDK IDC.
Doug: Right… the menstrual… er. The divine mysteries of the female anatomy. Liv, do I sound like a complete twatting idiot sometimes?
Liv: No. We all respect you, Doug.
The mental image of Doug on a snowboard and in a kayak helped me over the more emotionally devastating parts of the episode. (Taxidermy!). “It’s now or never”.
After Liv doesn’t come in the second time:
Nurse: Well, whatever it is, you have to face it.
Liv: I don’t want to.
Nurse: Nobody does. Can you come back tomorrow?
Liv: It doesn’t matter.
There are several characters who tell Liv to face it, wake up, deal with it (Grace does, too) this episode, and she responds with “it doesn’t matter” again and again.
“OK. Now I’ll just say, the next time somebody tries to give you this excuse you absolutely must not believe them. I’m gay, it doesn’t matter that I’m naked.”
It’s almost a tradition that characters randomly start living with each other in seemingly parent-less houses, isn’t it? I assume we’ll find out where Mini’s mum (and her boyfriend?) have been hiding all the time Franky was supposedly living with Mini. At least it was acknowledged in the episode that Liv’s mum is worried about her whereabouts.
Does anyone have an opinion on whether “the lump is a symbol for all the things Liv isn’t dealing with, it hurts when she pokes it” worked?
Please someone explain to me how Matty knew about Alex's and how to get there... O____O
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