Thursday 8 July 2010

Skins – Wake up, Sid.

Skins: 1x05 Sid.

None of the characters so far have made a transformation in their own episode. The first one wasn’t really about Tony; it was about everybody coming together the first time. Jal and Chris, even though minor/major things in their lives changed during the episode, came full-circle by the end (literally returning to the activity they’d started with). Cassie overcame being unable to eat (at least for the moment), but the core of the episode was realizing that she has to take care of herself because nobody else does, and especially not Sid.
Sid is the only character who has a literal transformative moment in his own episode. He starts out sleep-walking through his life (the first shot of the episode isn’t of him waking up, but he isn’t quite awake either, but daydreaming as he watches an old man dance wildly around in his apartment – then a pan out reveals that he is in class with a teacher and both his parents, being told that he’ll fail the grade if he doesn’t submit a paper in the next two days). So far, he has accidentally stumbled over a few moments of wisdom and clarity (enough to make Cassie fall in love with him), but more often than not, he immediately managed to fuck up right after.

Cassie: “Oh wow. I was really… I didn’t eat for three days so I could be lovely.”
Sid: “Er, sorry.”
Cassie: “Maybe I will come over and say hello.”
Sid: “Maybe.”
Cassie: “Safe. Wow.”
I think one of my biggest issues with Sid and Cassie, especially in season one, is that we are told most of their story through Sid’s perspective. We see him forget, make the wrong decisions, unable to make up his mind about what he should want – and then, in glimpses, what effect this has on Cassie. The episode isn’t about her, although she is the one trying to commit suicide after he completely fails to live up to his promise (“I care”), which makes her a victim, and it takes forever for her to become more than that. For me, her running away in the second season was supposed to be a decision to quit something that wasn’t working out at all, which is why I never really rooted for Sid to find her (I wonder whether the movie will touch on that, if it ever comes out). Cassie trying to commit suicide in this episode functions as a trigger for Sid to realize that he needs to wake up (he doesn’t, when she tells him), to sit down and write his essay and question his relationship to Tony.
Was the scene between Emily and Naomi in Naomi’s room a deliberate throwback to Cassie waiting for Sid, for him to crawl back beaten-up and smelling of somebody else’s piss?
Cassie: “Michelle’s so lovely. Michelle… my girl. I love her I love her I lover her. So, hey, wow, fuck you Sid, fuck you fuck you fuck you. I’m going home. […] It’s your choice Sid. Everything is your choice. Wake up Sid.”
The difference between Emily (“I could be dead in a second. Everything is so fragile, didn’t you realize that?”) and Cassie is that Emily had all this trust, this unshakable belief that she would eventually get there if she just insisted, stuck around, nudged Naomi until she was finally ready to “jump in”.

Jamie Brittain’s episodes usually contain elements of hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer symbolism, but the scene in which Michelle dances with Sid, and then Tony joins them and makes sure that Sid realizes that this isn’t his, but he is going to be involved in it anyways, because Tony wants him to be, while Cassie, the person who somehow got caught up in this and is the victim, swallows the pills on the bench overlooking Bristol, is done beautifully. Tony is like Effy. Sid and Michelle are a bit like Cook and Freddie, in way over their heads.

Tony is all about having power over other people and manipulating in order to make life more interesting, to beat his ennui. Sid and Michelle both become his pawns: he kisses Abigail in front of Michelle at the choir concert, he tells Sid to use the window of opportunity he opened, he takes Michelle away because he can, and she probably realizes that it’s a lie again subconsciously but she’ll always come back to him. Season one is about both of them, Sid and Michelle, trying to break out of the world Tony built for them.
Tony: “Go after her.”
Sid: “What?”
Tony: “Come on man. Life throws up so few opportunities.”
Sid: “But she’s your girlfriend.”
Tony: “Who you love.”
Sid: “What?”
Tony: “Change. It's a wonderful thing. Look, you know how subatomic particles don't obey physical laws? They act according to chance, chaos, coincidence. They run into each other in the middle of the universe somewhere and bang! Energy! We're the same as that. That's the great thing about the universe: unpredictable. That's why it's so much fun.”
I will always wonder where Tony and Effy came from. “Skins” only hints at reasons why they are the way they are, and mostly, Effy’s otherness fulfils a specific function in the first two seasons, while Tony’s way of shaping reality provides the playground for everything that happens between Sid, Tony, Michelle and, by proxy, Cassie, who unfortunately gets caught up in the thing. If “Skins” was “BSG” or “Lost”, Tony and Effy would be two creatures to break the fourth wall and discuss the rules of the game as they cast the die. Of course, it all falls apart with the decision to make Effy mad, which she isn’t and was never meant to be.

The episode is about Sid, starting to question Tony. He does it in a conversation with his mum:
Sid: “Do you ever feel like you know someone, think you’ve seen everything they’re gonna do and then they just trump it? I’m not talking about Dad. It’s Tony.
Sid’s mum: “Oh. Tony’s lovely.”
And it fails, because nobody but Cassie realizes who Tony is (Maxxie will too, in the next episode).
Michelle also has a short moment of clarity before it’s all taken away again, when she meets Sid at the bar and they start dancing to Tricky’s “Hell Around the Corner”:
Sid: “What was that for?”
Michelle: “For forgetting that you and Tony are different people.”
Sid: “Is that easy to do?”
Michelle: “Well you come as a package. But you’re sweeter. Nice.”
Absent parents are an important part of “Skins”. Most of the characters have terribly dysfunctional homes: parents leave, and even when they are there, they are too caught up in their own lives to contribute anything helpful to their children’s. Sid’s mum leaves, and at the end of the episode, after the longest day of his life, after having to question his best friend, visiting a girl in the hospital who tried to commit suicide over him, Jal calling him out on his betrayal (“why do you care now?”), he finds his dad alone, abandoned in the dark house. Mark isn’t by far the worst parent on the show – he is like Sid, stuck in a life he never really wanted and without the resources to take charge of anything. He is a bit like Xander’s parents in “Buffy” who always worked as the thing Xander feared most to become, as he slowly worked his way out of the basement and into a better life.

Mark: “Relationships are complicated. Sometimes, you know, you shouldn’t blame yourself.”
Sid: “I don’t blame myself. I blame you.”
Mark: “I know.”
Sid: “Shut up. Why did you let her go?”
Mark: “Sid, I can’t…”
Sid: “Because you’re fucking useless, aren’t you. You sodding idiot. You stupid bastard. You fucking stupid bastard. That’s my fucking mum, and she’s fucking gone.”
Mark: “Sid I’m so sorry.”
Sid: “It’s a bit late for that. You’ve gotta ring her. Ring her, or you’re fucking grounded, until you get her back. You fucking hurt me. Say goodbye to sunshine, sunshine. I’ve got things to do.”

It's always a hard point in everybody's life when they realize how fallible parents are. Everything in this episode works to show Sid what happens when he doesn’t try, so at the end, he learns his lesson and does try, sits down and writes his essay and it feels a bit like a new beginning, a transformation.

Random notes:

In a way, Sid’s dad Mark signifies everything “Skins” is: He is a comic relief this episode, the man who makes it so clear he’d rather have any other son, for example in this piece of dialogue from the beginning of the episode:

Mark: “Did Tony fail it?”
Sid: “No.”
Mark: “No, of course he didn’t. And why didn’t he fail it?”
Sid: “Tony doesn’t do history.”

At the same time, he is so clearly Sid, all grown-up. He isn’t any more focused than his son. In this episode, he is the comic relief – in the second season, his death really drives home the point that “Skins” aspires to be more than light entertainment. The fourth season felt the same way in comparison to the third: the first season with a generation serves to build up the characters, the second, to slowly take them apart, to test them.

And of course, the low-budget version of Angel/Devil occurs here, that is later repeated under very different circumstances with Cook and Katie in Freddie’s fourth season episode. It’s not really significant though, just funny.


The genius comic timing of Sid’s dad coming into the room the second he turns on the telly and then he takes the porn and the stereo. AND FALLS DOWN THE STAIRS. Peter Capaldi has played much more complex characters, but in a way, I’ll always think of Mark Jenkins when I see him (he was in the brilliant third season of “Torchwood” last year).

Abigail: “Ow! I'll kill you, you fucking flat-chested cocksucking spastic horse-fucker!”
Sid: “Whoa... good swearing.”
Sid: “Michelle would never, never fuck a horse.”

I wonder how that will work out for MTV.

I love the tiny bits of Jal we get in this episode. She is the one telling Sid how important the date is for Cassie, that he needs to try harder, until he fucks everything up and she ends up riding in the ambulance with Cassie (later, Cassie will say “that’s what love feels like”). Cassie is going to do the exact same thing later when she knows what’s going on with Chris and tries to tell Jal she needs to be more observant because everybody has secrets.

1 comment:

Varun said...

I wouldn't say Tony is only about manipulating things to make life more interesting. He is, in fact, one of the more interesting characters of the show.
This is how I saw him:He is intelligent, athletic, handsome, virtually everything you could want to be. He has it easier than virtually all his friends, majority of whom come from dysfunctional families, as you noted. He lacks for nothing and hasn't been able to take anything too seriously. In fact, you see his more vulnerable side surface when he takes things too far with Maxxie and is excommunicated by the entire gang. And in season 2, you do feel for him when he's lost everything that he had and had to learn it again. His character arc doesn't scream of angst filled moments and emotional conversations with the parents but I would really applaud the writers for developing a three-dimensional character like him .