Thursday 28 October 2010

Skins - Dad, what do I do?

Skins: 2x03 Sid.

Oh, this episode. The first time I watched the entire first generation of “Skins” was in early spring 2009, when the third season was already halfway finished. It took me only two nights to get through all the episodes, but the rush probably kept me from identifying with the characters too much. There is so much in the first generation that I can understand better than I’d like to: the coma, the after-effects of a haemorrhage, the sudden and unexpected catastrophe, the handicapped parent – and it is slowly turning into an impossible task to keep this out of the reviews. I’d seen some of the other episodes for a second time before, but this one, I’ve always avoided, and it became apparent while watching it again that this would probably be an impossible review to write.

I’ve pointed out before that Sid and Mark are more similar than Sid would like to admit. Their charm comes in good part from their clue- and helplessness, from their inability to take care of themselves. Sid has always been with someone else: he has idealized Tony for a good part of his life, but now, Tony is no longer the person he can talk to; Cassie is in Scotland; his mum has left his dad who can’t even assemble the Dyson they bought together. There is a sense of isolation even before the tragic thing happens, because the episode stays with Sid for more than 30 minutes of the episode, Sid is stuck in the dreary house playing family with his parents who aren’t even together anymore, for the sake of Mark’s tyrant of a dad, wanker of a brother and creepy monsters of cousins. The first generation does such a good job at showing these characters together, the reasons why they are friends, how, while they occasionally make each others lives miserable, they also are a better family than their individual biological parents. This episode almost mirrors Cassie’s in the first season, who was also completely separate from the circle of friends (Tony’s episode this season will be an even more drastic example).
There is a certain established way in which bad things happen to Sid: usually, he gets himself caught up in horrible situations because he is either a huge klutz, or is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, or his friends make him do it. Early into this episode, he misinterprets something he sees on a video chat with Cassie as proof of her infidelity (the viewers find out immediately that he is wrong and that the Scottish guy she is with is gay and commenting on the underwear that she is picking out for Sid). Admittedly, anyone would have seen the situation the same way Sid does, but he is so used to being betrayed that he doesn’t even question it, or remember how devoted Cassie is to him. 

Sid: “Stop trying to console me. I’m inconsolable, okay?”
Mark: “Okay, okay. It’s just, women, you know.”
Sid: “Are we comparing women here?”
Mark: “I don’t know.”
Sid: “Because mum left you because you’re a total world championship cretin, and mine’s done this because I’m a trusting, gullible soft-touch who’s far far far too fucking nice for his own good. There’s no comparison, okay?”
Mark: “Well you worked it out then, didn’t you?”
Once Sid’s mum comes home, everything works out fine. It’s not even that she does all the work, but Mark and Sid need her presence and her organisational skill, they need to be told what to do. At the same time that we re-visit the idea that they are both useless but strangely charming, we meet Mark’s family, and that feeling is replaced by amazement at how well Mark turned out, against all odds. It’s not just the kids in “Skins” that have terrible parents; in this case, it’s the parents too. His father is apparently rich and owns a chain of dry-cleaning shops that Mark’s brother will get to run, despite the fact that Mark is the one who has the education for it. It seems that Sid, as he watches his dad with his grandfather, realizes for the first time that Mark is a good person and a loving father:
Sid: “Kinda weird. They’re all called Alexander.”
Mark: “Yeah.”
Sid: “Except you.”
Mark: “Except me.”
Sid: “Why don’t you stand up to him?”
Mark: “I think every time I see him it’s gonna be the last time, and you can’t take chances with that.”
Sid: “He calls you stupid and useless and crap.”
Mark: “My father’s disappointed. They often are.”
Sid: “Is that how you see me?”
Mark: “Never.”
Sid: “I’m useless and crap. I fuck everything up and it drives you mad.”
Mark: “You hear me, Sid? Never.”
This is the most heartbreaking moment of the episode: Sid finally realizes that his father loves and respects him. This is going to be Mark’s grand day: he will come to realize that he has is own family now and that he does not need to try and gain the respect of someone who doesn’t deserve his. He will throw his father, his brother and his nephews out of his house. He will make the first step to win his wife back. And finally, as terrible as the unfolding events are, his last conversation with Sid is meaningful.
I have mentioned before, several times, that I don’t think that Cassie and Sid are well suited for each other. Sid needs to grow into a less selfish human being before he can be in any kind of relationship, and Cassie needs to gain more self-confidence before making herself so vulnerable to another human being. The conversation they have over the internet reveals their weakness and incompatibility: Sid isn’t willing to trust her, although she has never given him any reason not to, and Cassie doesn’t have the strength to deal with his jealousy, especially not after she has just spent a couple of months seeing him ignore her while he pines over Michelle.
Sid: “I could fucking see everything you were doing.”
Cassie: What? Oh, god, no that was….”
I’m such a tit. I just thought, I’m so stupid. Nothing ever works out, does it. Nobody ever waits. Nobody ever loves anyone properly, do they.”
Cassie: “You’ve got it wrong, Sid.”
Sid: “Just leave me alone.”
Cassie: You rang me.”
Sid: “Alright, alright.”
Cassie: “Don’t you trust me, Sid?”
Sid: “No. I don’t trust you. You’re out there, fucking Rory or whoever the fuck it is…”
Cassie: “I can’t talk to you.”
After that, after the house is quiet again and all the strangers are gone, Mark gets his small moment in which he gives the one piece of advice Sid respects (“They’re always with some guy. If they’re special, you just have to make sure that that guy is you, alright?) – and then he drinks his glass of whiskey and smokes his cigarette.

The Body

It always strikes me how adequately Joss Whedon managed to capture this horrible, horrible feeling in “The Body”, this period of time that a human being requires to realize what has happened, this strange state of mind in which everything is a little too clear and a little too close, yet impossibly removed, at the same time. Your body just starts working like a machine, and communicating becomes incredibly difficult because you can’t really express something that your mind has not processed yet.
Moments of happiness and moments of drama have always been incredibly close in “Skins”, but the structure of this episode works. The first part is as much about Mark as it is about Sid. We understand their relationship, we understand Mark. Sid has found new respect for his father, and his father has expressed for possibly the first time that he is not disappointed in his son, that he does not think him inadequate. I don’t really remember if I was surprised by this when I first saw it: Sid walks into the kitchen the next morning and, as he is stumbling around the living room, we see Mark in the background, a presence even before Sid notices him. Sid’s slow realization of what has happened: the burnt down cigarette, the glass of whiskey that is still in his father’s hand, and finally, the most terrible thing of all: the open eyes.
Everything that follows is Sid’s body functioning without his mind working. He goes to school, with the chaos of the last evening still obvious in the yard (Manfred crashed his car into the house). In school, he avoids his friends on the green because their random banter seems so inaccessible and irrelevant to him, and he couldn’t tell them what happened anyway. In class, when he is asked whether he has his homework, he just says “no” in the most indifferent way possible because he knows that it is completely irrelevant now.
I would not dare to pick a favourite moment in “Skins”, or even in either of the seasons, but what the series accomplishes in the last ten or so minutes of this episode is still incomprehensible and stunning to me. Tony has been broken from the beginning of the season; he does not remember that Sid visited him in the hospital, but he chooses this moment to talk to his best friend, and Sid answers his questions.
Tony: “Sid.”
Sid: “I didn’t know what to do so I came to college.”
Tony: “What’s happened? … Everyone says you looked after me when I was iconic. Intimate. Fuck. Fuck. Ill. I mean ill. Just can’t remember you. I reckon it was pretty scary. Is that why you stopped coming? I would have too.”
Sid: “It was awful. You were so awful. That bus fucked you up so bad, Tone, I just couldn’t.”
Tony: “Right. What’s happened?”
Sid: “Can’t say.”
Tony: “I know how that feels. Let’s go for a drink. Sid?”
Tony understands the inability to put emotions into words even though Sid has different reasons, but it doesn’t matter because they still care about each other, no matter how complicated the events of the past have made their relationship. They go out, although neither of them enjoys being in a crowd at the moment. Abigail tries to claim Tony for herself but Sid, in his newfound inability to lie, tells her that Tony is supposed to be with Michelle because he loves her, and Tony tells her that he is here with Sid.
And then, as Crystal Castles plays “Alice Practice” and Sid and Tony get separated by the crowd, Sid closes his eyes, the music drowns out, and he realizes. He articulates. His defence mechanisms disappear, and Tony is right there to hear about what happened, and then they just cry and Tony holds Sid, in this crowd of dancing people.
 Then they go home and Mark is still there, unmoved, in the living room, and both just stare at him.
Sid: “Is this really happening?”
Tony: “I think so.”
Sid: “He was so happy. My mum, oh Christ. Dad, what do I do?”
Sid isn’t alone. He has his friends, and he has his mum. As he drives away from Bristol in the train, Cassie goes by him in a train heading for a different direction, as they continue to miss each other.

Random notes:

This episode is in part so effective because Sid is still a comical character (though not as much as Anwar), and you don’t really expect anything serious to happen to him. It is also one of these cases were the tone of the episode completely changes after the first half, like almost all the dramatic episodes (especially “Jal” in the second season and both of Effy’s episodes in the second generation).

While I absolutely adore what Fat Segal’s music accomplished in the roof top scene in “Emily”, the sparse music in this episode that you barely even notice is probably the best use of his ability to set a mood in the entire run of the show.

I don’t care that Mike Bailey was basically playing himself in “Skins”, he is brilliant in this episode.

I just love that we see Tony being unable to light a cigarette early into the episode but when Sid needs him, he lights one for him.

Anwar isn’t picky: Sid points out to him that Sketch got the drama teacher wrongly fired, tried to poison Michelle and stalked Maxxie. Sketch isn’t picky either: “He never takes long” (later, in bed, as Sid’s mum walks in with the Dyson, she says “I’m far, far from being satisfied”).

National stereotypes are always funny. (“Hey, that’s Blitzkrieg for you, and Manfred’s gotta have his Opium-scented Lebensraum.”) I can say that because I’m not expecting Skins to ever parody “The Sound of Music” or “The Third Man”. Besides, Manfred plays in well with my prejudices against people who drive BMWs.

Chris: “Four months without sex, that ain’t funny. You wouldn’t understand that, Jal.”
Jal: “What?”
Chris: “You don’t have sex at all. You have clarinet lessons.”

While Chris and Jal are definitely my favourite couple in the first generation, I also appreciate the friendship that precedes it. Also, Angie isn’t coming back to teach, but “tell monkey man I’ll miss the spaghetti”.

Doug, about the fall-out of “Osama – The Musical”: “I explained that it was all meant to be ironic and he was very understanding. He is not exactly sure who imposed the Fatwa, but it wasn’t him. Possibly someone in Iran. So, what a relief.”

1 comment:

ohwowlovely said...

Hi, I've a few things I feel I need to say. Thank you for recapping gen 1 as I haven't been able to find any others of gen 1. Whoever called these mediocore is a twat because I am very much enjoying and agreeing them! Finally someone who understands rather than just judges Sketch (I must be the other 1% who doesn't hate her!) Yes she did some awful things and I can see why people would judge on those things and just see her as awful, but I've always seen past that and seen exactly the things you mentioned about her a d her life. So many other things you've commented on I also agree with, like Cassie/Sid, I never thought he was right for her, I was happy for them to be a couple if it made her happy, but she never really was even then. Not truly. Lastly I just had to say something at this point because of your intro for this episode, I'm so sorry you've experienced those things. I wish I could make things better for you, I'm not sure when you even wrote this, but I hope you're ok since. I don't know you but I still care. I can't imagine how hard it must have been for you to write these, I for one really appreciate that you still did, and I think you're very brave. I see you like mmfd too, well remember Kester said "whatever situation you find yourself in, there's always a way out" (or something) it's actualy helped myself to remember that now. Stay strong, be brave... (you don't have to want me back lol, I always turn to humour, feel free to just ignore!)