Thursday 24 June 2010

Skins - You’ll be fine Chris, okay?

Skins: 1x04 Chris.

“Jal” is circular, in a way. It starts with Jal playing the clarinet and ends just as she is about to play the first note. Chris doesn’t exactly move forward in this episode either, but he includes someone into a part of his life he’s kept secret from all his other friends, he shares something behind the façade of “Fuck it” with Jal. For the first half of the episode, he is exactly as we’d expect him to be: he gets up in the morning, suffering from the after-effects of pills (in this case, he’s taken some generic version of Viagra), feeds his gold fish drugs, pins the empty package to a wall that portrays his teenage years, and finds an envelope with a lot of money on the kitchen table of the slightly desolate house, from his mum who’s gone away “a few days”.
There are several visual references to Chris in the characterization of Cook in the second gen. Cook lives in the same room Chris’ gets in this episode (there is a “Chris likes Fish” painting on the wall), he sometimes wears the same clothes, he drinks a glass with a gold fish in it (just that Cook drinks the gold fish along with it). Both of these characters are extremely physical. There is barely any salvageable dialogue in the first half of this episode, just Chris, stumbling forward through unnumbered days of party at the house, with mostly strangers and a lot of drugs (the use of the fishcam here is brilliant). Things go wrong slowly, and then suddenly. The first thing that happens is that Chris’ attempt to woo psychology teacher Angie fails miserably (“I think, right, that dancing is like the best thing in the world because it makes you healthy in your body but also it makes your head better too, so I just…would you stay, and dance, please?”).

Tony and Michelle.

I think I missed all those scenes the first time around in which Tony’s way of dealing with Michelle completely destroys her, her self-esteem.
Tony: “You know what I like about your body?”
Michelle: “No.”
Tony: “One boob’s bigger than the other.”
[Sid comes in.]
Michelle: “Sid. What do you think of my tits? Is one bigger than the other?”
Sid: “What. I. don’t. What would you prefer? I don’t…[…] They’re nice, Michelle.”
Michelle: “You know what Tony? Your eyes are supposed to fucking blur too.”
Michelle has these small moments of clarity and then she loses it again and again because she just can’t help herself, with Tony. I should be more troubled by the fact that both Michelle and Cassie are in such unhealthy relationships, but somehow, I’m not (in fact, I was more troubled by Naomi and Emily in season four, and how dysfunctional this was and how maybe, just maybe, two people who cause each other so much pain shouldn’t be together. Go on, bring the hate.)


I think we learn more about Jal in this episode than in her own. She is the first one to care, to realize. She sticks with Chris because that’s what she does; she cares about her friends, and she actually has the resources to help and the bravery to be around when it gets difficult.
Chris: “Do you want me to walk you home?”
Jal: “It’s miles but thanks.”
Chris: “How did that music competition thing go by the way? Did you win?”
Jal: “Chris? Where’s your mum?”
Chris: “Don’t know mate.”
I love the little throw-back to last episode, the reveal that Jal “only” made second place (presumably because somebody else answered the question of the press with more than just a sequence of “no”), because Chris remembers it. Then Jal sticks around, helps him to summon the bravery to go to his father, where he gets none of the help he desperately needs. His dad, like so many other parents in “Skins”, has abandoned him and built a new, shinier family with a new wife, and Chris comes as an unwelcome reminder of a life he left behind (“I don’t want him here, okay?”). In the end, friends are the better family (isn’t this one of the basic ideas “Skins” conveys?). Chris loses so much in this one episode: his mum, his house; but none of it is his fault or his responsibility (it’s Angie who tells him that).

After all the staggering, the drunkenness, the partying, there is nothing more effectual and sobering than the scene in the graveyard. It’s one of those scenes, not unlike the one where Cassie explains how she keeps her secrets, that works miracles. Jal chases after Chris; she doesn’t let him down, and then he explains, slowly, and apparently for the first time of his life, and in a way he is trying to explain why he is the person he is, why he “wallows” in life (once again, Cook comes to mind).
Chris: “Do you wanna hear about the best day of my life? Cubs. I’d pissed myself by accident. They’d had us sitting down for ages and I was trying… trying to get out to leave the room but this kid kept blocking me, stopping me leaving, he was playing a game or something and, um… So I told him, right, that he was a dickhead, and that he’s gonna “get out of my way, dickhead”. And then the whole place went quiet cos I’d said “dickhead”. And then they were all laughing, everyone, and I couldn’t work out if it was cos I’d swore or if they’d seen that my shorts were wet, so I tried to cover my shorts with my hands, right, but that meant they all definitely noticed and then there was more laughing. But, yeah, Peter, my brother, he was, um, he was youngest-ever sixer or something. They’re the ones in charge, sixers. […] He stands up, yeah, sixer, and, um, and they all liked him, and, um, he takes my hand and took me to the toilet. And then he had me take my shorts off, and then he cleaned me up. And then he took off his shorts and put them on me. And then… he kissed me on the cheek, and took my hand, and we both went out there. Him just in his pants. No one laughed. Best day of my life.”

Peter was just the first person he lost, and since then, person by person has abandoned him. The reveal is handled so beautifully: he just gets up so that Jal can see the grave, and says “She’s still around / She left flowers by the grave again”.
Of course, in the end he returns to the beginning. He moves into the student accommodations, and takes the same drug he had in the beginning, and gets a new goldfish. The difference is that he is a fully developed character now.

Random notes:
I wonder if they told Joe Dempsie beforehand that he’d be naked in fifty percent of his own episode.

So Cook’s uncle Keith has a second career as a dump-owner? (He turns up again next season in a different role).

“You’ve got a good face….for memorizing”

A girl throws up all over Sid. Of course she does. Also, a dog pees on him. Oh, the running jokes.

Once again, the small but significant scene between Sid and Cassie only makes it to the notes, because is has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the episode and they make me feel completely miserable about Cassie. It’s supposed to be the point of the first season that Sid doesn’t see what’s right in front of him and that he needs to grow in order to understand this, but it’s not very enjoyable to witness how his inability to grow turns another character into a victim (I know that everybody else but me loves them together. I am weird.).

Cassie: “Sid.”
Sid: “Yeah.”
Cassie: “You know there are other girls, don’t you.”
Sid: “Where?”

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