Thursday 22 July 2010

Skins - If you drink, problem kaput, ya?

Skins: 1x06 Maxxie and Anwar.

Maxxie and Anwar are at this point in the story the least developed characters. Even though Michelle’s episode comes next, we’ve already seen plenty of her before. These two have always been on the periphery of the story, providing comic relief. The episode turns exactly the only two things we know about them (Anwar is a Muslim, Maxxie is gay) into the divisive point between them. What surprised me about the episode was that it actually doesn’t rely on clichés and is more complex than I had remembered it at first. We haven’t seen Anwar have issues with Maxxie being gay before. In the first episode, he even went to a “gay night’s out” with his best friend and Chris, if only for the hope of picking up girls with less competition. Even though it’s not explicitly spelled out in the episode, Anwar’s issues with Maxxie’s sexuality have more to do with his own that with his religion. When they wake up on the plane to Russia (or some former Soviet country, it’s a bit unclear where they are exactly – Moldavia?), we get the first sign that things are a bit off between them. Anwar has an erection, and immediately deems it necessary to point out that it has nothing to do with Maxxie.
Of course, it’s an episode about the character who still functions as the comic relief after others have been hit by a bus, parents have died and nothing seems as light-hearted as it still is now, so the balance between serious drama and comedy usually favours the latter, which somewhat disturbs the pace of the episode a bit. There is, for example, the comedic establishing of Anwar’s intention to get laid, a lot, in Russia when Maxxie discovers the contents of his suitcase (lots of condoms, and his favourite pair of pyjamas in case he gets homesick. Packed by his mum) – then there is a more sober moment, when Anwar discovers that Maxxie must have drawn him naked while he was sleeping on the plane – and before he can even fully work through the implications of that, he sees the “Love interest” from his window, leading to a running joke about how the hot pants wearing Russian girl always disappears when he attempts to show other people (“Wank. Or tell group? Tell group!”).
I don’t think that the conversation Anwar and Maxxie have afterwards would have gone the same way if Anwar hadn’t found that sketch. In a way, he isn’t that much unlike Katie in the second generation: he isn’t homophobic because Maxxie is gay, what makes him uncomfortable is what the implications of having a gay best friend are, especially since he talks a lot about having sex with girls, but is actually still a virgin.
Anwar: “Have you ever tried being with a girl?”
Maxxie: “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Anwar: “Well, have you?”
Maxxie: “Have you ever tried being with a man?”
Anwar: “No. Don’t be sick.”
Maxxie: “You’re calling me sick?”
Anwar: “No. I don’t know what I think. I’m just a Muslim. Gay is just wrong.”
Maxxie: “Then you don’t want anything to do with me.”
He evokes religion, but that is just the easier way of dealing with it because he doesn’t have to think about the real reasons for his issues (just as it was easier for Katie to hate Naomi instead of confronting the fact that her sister had a box of secrets under her bed and posters of girls all over her walls).

As Maxxie tells the translator about his problems with Maxxie (with the help of Neil Diamond and lots of vodka), Anka finds the picture Maxxie drew of Anwar and himself and says “he must be a good friend. He’d be there for you when the rain starts to fall.”- but in true “Skins”-tradition, just knowing that she is right isn’t enough for Anwar to change his mind, because things are usually more complicated than to be solved by a simple, moving speech (well, with the one obvious exception, of course…). Maxxie risks his own life to rescue Anwar from the raging husband (or so he thinks), and still, the problem between them remains, and there is no sugary happy ending to the episode.
Anwar: “You were right Max. I am a hypocrite.”
Maxxie: “Go on.”
Anwar: “No. I can’t. It’s not right.”
Maxxie: “It’s religion Anwar. It’s just stuff. You don’t have to believe it.”
Anwar: “And where does that leave me, Max? I’m a Muslim boy. I don’t get to choose.”
Maxxie: “Then where does that leave us? Fucking hell.”
Anwar: “I lost my virginity tonight.”
Maxxie: “Yeah? I sketched an old fat lady. Last drop.”
And he doesn’t take the vodka. Instead of agreeing with Maxxie, that religion is just stuff, he tries to solve the hypocrisy problem the other way around. 
Maxxie: “Okay. I’ll see you mate.”

“We’re in Russia. I wanna try something new.”

Tony’s revelation doesn’t come with being hit by a bus; he actually realizes that something is wrong in “Effy”, when his actions threaten the person he loves most in the world. After rescuing his sister with Sid, he tries to articulate why he is the way he is: Because this is what makes him special, the fact that things never get boring. Whenever he considers a situation boring, he changes it, no matter how many people get hurt in the process, just to keep things moving. Cook is a little bit like that as well, although Tony doesn’t share the same “no future” attitude he has: And it’s probably this aspect of Cook’s personality that draws Effy to him because it’s something she has, as well. Tony, after making Sid switch rooms with Maxxie, offers to give him “heads to cheer him up”, which Maxxie turns down, clearly shocked (“I’m not a hobby, Tony”) – although the episode probably leaves open a possibility that Maxxie is attracted to Tony, at least a bit, but he wants nothing less than hurt any of his friends.

Jal, meanwhile, also tries to be a good friend to Michelle but fails to tell her about Abigail.
Jal: “So why are you with Tony?”
Michelle: “He’s exciting. And he must love me, cause he could have anyone he wants.”
Jal: “Do you think he wants anyone else?”
Michelle: “Maybe sometimes. He always wants me the most though. And I’m his girlfriend, and that’s special, isn’t it?”
“Skins” spends a good deal of its storylines with asymmetric relationships and with the concept that love isn’t rational at all, and, like any good Joss Whedon story, leads to pain more often than happiness (because, after all, stories about happy people are far less interesting than the alternative).

When Maxxie finally does give in because Anwar doesn’t take back what he said and he’s just lost his best friend it’s the worst possible timing because Michelle sees everything, after Jal was unable to tell her the truth about Tony. It doesn’t go anywhere – “Tony. We finally found something you’re not actually good at.” – and this is probably the first time that we see Tony get shot down completely and not succeed. It’s a brilliant and subtle thing that gets picked up later, when Maxxie is the only one in the group apart from Effy who still gets through to Tony and who finds a way to help him after the accident.
Michelle: “Tony.”
Tony: “Yes Nips?”
Michelle: “Have you got something to tell me?”
Tony: “I don’t know. I like you hair. No. Your top’s nice. I love you. Any of those?”
Michelle: “No.”
Random thoughts:

“This isn’t just education. It’s total education.” I’d forgotten how gross teacher Tom is as a character. It’s kind of significant how we never get to see any teachers in the fourth season of “Skins” (just administrators, since Kieran is “on a holiday” with Mrs Campbell or whatever). Also an all-time favourite: “I’m trip leader. If anyone’s gonna be anally searched, it should be me”.

“Valentina Kovskaya. Translator. Come. I lock you in.”

The music in this episode is really, really pretty. Warsaw Village Band, Beirut, Portishead, Archie Bronson Outfit.

Chris: “Let me in and I’ll show you my reverse psychology”. I feel like the biggest hypocrite because I find the storyline between Chris and Angie charming, while I’d be utterly horrified if the roles were reversed (hence the grossness of Kieran kissing Naomi in “Naomi”). It probably helps that Tom is so utterly revolting.

THE GLUE FACTORY. Possibly one of the funniest scene in “Skins”. “then….glue”. Poor horsies. (also, Tom’s reaction to the class freaking out about “the shot” is “this is the real world, yeah? Real things happen. Deal with it.” Which made me giggle because there are so many lines in the first generation that were later used in the second in completely different contexts and I wonder, every time, whether this was intentional or just happened.)

For a change, we see Sid helping Anwar to “rescue” Anka (“I learned like from some of the best American shows ever” / “it’s like you so totally will have to pay them” – the American bashing of season four’s “Thomas” is, like, Skins-tradition), and ending up exactly as miserable and dirty as he did in his previous attempts with Tony (and Michelle – with the whole “did you just give me check” thing).
Sid: “Every time. Every fucking time. Buy three ounces of weed Sidney, oh yes sir. Shove a bag of pills up your ass Sidney. Oh, right away. Come help me save some random bin. Oh could I? What have we learned Sidney? Your friends are shitheads.”

Michelle: “If you flaunt it, they will come” – cue the Russian soldiers.

Tony is reading “Oranges are not the only Fruit” prior to seducing Maxxie. YOU ARE NOT A LESBIAN OR AN ENGLISH MAJOR TONY; WHAT THE FUCK?

Tom, after the “husband” comes in with the shot gun: “Oh my giddy aunt.” Or, as we like to call it, could you please step out of the frame for a bit or do we have to photoshop you out?

I love the scene in which Sid sees one of Maxxie’s paintings of Cassie and says “you made her look beautiful”, and Maxxie points out to him that Cassie IS beautiful, because Sid has never realized this before.

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