Thursday 25 November 2010

Skins - So let’s make a deal. I’ll start saying yes, and you’ll stop saying fuck it.

Skins: 2x05 Chris.

Chris and Jal

In Cook’s fourth season episode, everything was meant to make the viewer feel sorry for him; the world seemed to be out to get him, everybody was against him, everything he cherished was taken away from him – partly, or so the episode argued, because of his own actions, for which he had to redeem himself (which he did, until a different team of writers “forgot” about his path). Apparently, they also had a lot of fun with hinting that Cook might be a different version of Chris: after all, they shared a wardrobe, lived in the same room, and had a strange relationship to fish. Chris is wearing a “COOK” T-shirt at one point in this episode. The thing is: I find Chris’ way of celebrating being alive at all costs much more charming than Cook’s shifting ideology about no future and burning and accidentally getting “other people wet”, even though I do, in part, understand why aspects of this appealed to Naomi (I might or might have imagined what might have happened if Naomi ever met Chris, by the way, and it is one of my favourite potential cross-gen non-romantic relationship).
Jal is, of course, not that much unlike Naomi. She is headstrong and determined, and the one thing that I like most about Chris and Jal’s relationship is that they are on equal grounds, because so many of “Skins’s” relationships are terribly asymmetric. Freddie pines for a girl who doesn’t want to believe in love. Emily is in love with a girl who would rather build an entire identity on not requiting that feeling than be herself. I’ve said enough about Sid and Cassie, and Michelle and Tony took forever to come to a place where they see eye-to-eye (and I am just assuming that their relationship did not survive University, because I believe in Cassie’s ability to analyze a situation and predict an outcome).

In the beginning of the episode, Chris gets expelled (Harriet prefers the term “no longer permanently affiliated”) from college, which means that he also loses the roof over his head. The first person he goes to is Jal – they sit by the peer that so many exchanges have taken place at in the history of “Skins”, but this might just be my favourite.

Jal: “Dry your eyes, princess.”
Chris: “What?”
Jal :”Maybe you should stop being such a pussy and get  off your ass and do something about it?”
Chris: “Ah, fuck it.”
Jal: “Right, saying ‘fuck it’ works for you then.”
Chris: “Not really.”
Jal: “Then maybe you should, you know, try.”
Chris: “I do try. Don’t I?”
Jal: ”No.”
Chris: “Yeah, that’s all you ever say. No.”
Jal: “No way.”
Chris: “Ah, see, there you go. You’re always saying no. No to pills, to parties, to me putting my hands on your gooch.”
Jal: “Okay. So let’s make a deal. I’ll start saying yes, and you’ll stop saying fuck it.”
Probably one of the things I love most about their relationship is that it starts out like this: a promise to change, a promise to do better. They make a pact and exchange promises, and then they stick to it throughout the episode, and figure out how amazing the other person is for trying.
Jal promises to be daring, and Chris promises to try (he goes to Josie’s career office and goes on a series of misadventures when he tries to get a job). Jal takes a dare, does shotguns at a concert, gets the singers head, makes out with the singer, and at some point while she gets carried out by the bouncer, Chris realizes that he is falling in love with her.

Interlude: The original rectangle of doom

Cassie’s re-appearance in Bristol once again makes her look like a ghost: a white figure in a crowd, already on her way to becoming the terrifying Cassandra that can predict the future because she understands how human beings work.
Sid: „Hi“
Cassie: „Hi.“
Michelle: “Hi”
Sid: “Hi.“
Anwar: “Hi.”
Cassie: “It was just life. I want to hear your gossip. When did you two get together? By his hospital bed?”
Maxxie: “Huh.”
Cassie: “Don’t you know? Lovely Sid and lovely Michelle are fucking.”
Sid: “No we’re not. Not in the way you’re thinking anyway.”
Cassie: “Don’t lie Sid. I know your dad is dead but you can’t just go around doing whatever you want.”
That last sentence gets me every time. She acknowledges his pain, but she reminds him that he is still responsible for his own actions. I think Sid has a point when he blames her for not being around when he needed her later, but on the other hand, Cassie has been struggling with her issues for years, and she is trying so hard to function, and for Cassie, it’s about self-preservation. A kiss and a slap. Afterwards, Tony knows the truth, Jal blames Michelle for not confiding in her (“If you can’t talk to your best mate about it then maybe it’s not awkward, but complete fucking shit.”) and Sid and Michelle don’t seem too happy together anyways.

“Play the game, Chris. I am.”

After the party, Jal accuses Chris of being a cheat for selling drugs instead of getting a proper job: “That’s cheating. I hate cheats, Chris, my dad’s a cheat.” Then Chris kisses her, and Jal kisses back because they’ve entered a pact and she can’t say no, and because this is just another promise to her, he goes off and applies for a job as a trainee position at a real estate firm (Josie interprets his “Do you remember them colouring-in books when you were little, Josie? I hated them. If I’m gonna do a picture of a house, I don’t want anyone to tell me what it should look like, do you know what I mean?” as the perfect qualification for the position). He doesn’t do so well on his first days (although, once again, Joe Dempsie’s brilliance for situational comedy shows when he tries to sell a ridiculously small apartment using the exact same lines his boss used on a villa). But when Chris tries, he does in fact, in his strange way, succeed – Jal remarks . “So, you’ve got a job and a flat in just one day.”, and seeing Chris try makes her fall in love (although I think that her feelings are more complicated than Chris’, and she does deny ever having been in love shortly afterwards when she is talking to Cassie).
What I like most about Chris is the way in which the audience is told about his motivations. He starts out as a character that could be described with two, maybe three words, and then the writers added more and more layers to him. He has this beautiful need to express and explain himself in this episode, and he does that by painting pictures (with words and literal ones) – when he tells Jal about how he pretended to be in a cocoon after his brother died, whenever he got inside his duvet, and hoped so desperately that the world outside would change, that maybe his parents would be able to provide him with what he needed again. “I just wanted what was outside to be different”. And then, listening to Chris explain this to her, Jal realizes that this is exactly the quality that will make him a good real estate agent, because he can paint a picture with words (which he then does, beautifully, when he sells the house – “Money, it’s just bits of paper, numbers on a screen. These walls, they exist. If you can imagine memories happening in them, then that’s real, isn’t it?” Houses play such an important part in Chris’ life story, so of course he understands the appeal of something permanent.

“Oh wow”.

Cassie moves in and causes literal chaos, swiping and breaking everything in the tiny apartment with her backpack, and not caring at all. There is such a stark difference between Cassie being out of control and every other character – Emily has this manic quality in the fourth season, but with Cassie, the anger replaces any kind of obvious vulnerability. Where Emily cries when she tells JJ that relationships are shit, Cassie carries a strange, mysterious kind of smile when she tells Jal what love is like:
Cassie: “Have you ever been in love?”
Jal: “I don’t think so.”
Cassie: “Do you want me to describe it to you?”
Jal: “Okay.”
Cassie: “Do you remember when you rode with me in the ambulance when I tried to kill myself? That’s what love feels like.”
Maybe Cassie’s presence is required because Jal is always so hesitant to talk about her feelings. While Cassie herself goes off the rails, “rears herself to the wind”, she also observes Jal and Chris’ relationship, and due to her ghostlike presence, she sees things that they are keeping from each other. Angie comes back and Chris admits that he is going to have a hard time staying true to Jal while she is around.
Cassie: “Oh, wow. But fuck you. Do you think I’m jealous? Jealous of you and your boyfriend and his ex who he is going to fuck because she makes his pollocks tighten.”
Jal: “What?”
Cassie: “Angie is back. He’s seen her. I’ve had my pain, Jal. Yours is in the post.”
It will always remain a mystery to me how “Skins” does that: create these characters, develop them well in such a short time, and then have them deliver such incredible moments.
Later, at the party Cassie throws, where Chris doesn’t know anybody, there is another moment like this:
Chris: “Where is Jal?”
Cassie: “She’s gone Chris?”
Chris: “Where?”
Cassie: “No. She’s gone, Chris. That’s people. We arrive, consume what we can, and then leave. Like locusts.”
This is Cassie’s perception of Sid and Michelle, but it is the exact opposite of who Chris is. He doesn’t “consume what he can”, he holds on because he is terrified of losing them – but he is also impulsive, and manipulates himself worse than anybody else. He realizes, while he is fucking Angie at the party, seeing his own face in the mirror, that he is once again losing something he needs. Jal figures it out almost immediately (and in a way, I love Chris even more because he doesn’t even try to talk his way out of it – his shirt is inside-out, and Jal sees Angie leave, so there is just no way for him to deny what happened, so he doesn’t). This is the symmetry of the episode: Chris loses everything he has in the beginning of the episode when he gets expelled, then he struggles to get it all back, and then he loses everything again – the apartment, his job, Jal, at the end of the episode.
Chris and Cassie, surrounded by all their stuff, are sitting in front of Chris’ former apartment:
Cassie: “I’m sorry I got you sacked.”
Chris: “It would have happened sooner or later.”
Cassie: “Where is Jal?”
Chris: “I don’t know Cass.”
Cassie: “That’s my fault too.”
Chris: “No it’s not, that was mine.”
Cassie: “Do you know what hurts the most about a broken heart? Not being able to remember how you felt before. Try and keep that feeling, because if it goes you’ll never get it back.”
Chris: “What happens then?”
Cassie: “Then you lay waste to the world and everything in it.”
And again, this is not the person Chris is. Both of them have lost something they loved, but they are completely different people, and the magic of “Skins” is that they are friends. Chris doesn’t lay waste to the world: he goes to pick up Tony, the other person who has lost so much this season, from his swimming lessons, and Tony tells him that there is no point in being depressed over what you lost, and that he is going to get it all back – “piece by piece”. Later he sits on a bench and sees a homeless man, murmuring “fuck it”, and he realizes that this is what he could end up as, if he doesn’t get the one thing back that made him promise not to be that person anymore. Chris picks up these pieces of information, he is drifting and collecting, and finally, he knows what to do. He draws a picture of how he lost everything, how pieces of his life were taken away from him until he was the only person left. His brother, his dad, his mum, his house.
Chris: Okay, so um, I’ve been thinking about why I always fuck everything up for myself. And, this is the best way that I can explain it. This is how it started for me. It was good. And, things started going wrong. Someone else escaped. The gravity holding us together was gone. We were floating in space.
It’s kind of easy when you’ve got nothing, because nothing can’t be taken away from you. But I don’t want nothing anymore.
Jal: “Is that it? Are you the only person in the world that’s been let then. The only one that’s been hurt, abandoned? Are you? So what gives you the right to act like you are?”
Chris: “Jal, can’t you forgive me?”
Jal. “No.”
Chris: “Jal, don’t you understand, I want to.”
Jal: “Making a fucking pact that means nothing to you? Yeah, let’s do that, let’s build something and we’ll tear it down. Fuck it, come on. Come on, say it. Fuck it, come on, say it. You're not who I thought you were. You're an empty poisonous smile"
Chris: "Jal, I don't know what I'm meant to say. Jal, look at me. I was perfectly happy killing myself, but then you asked me to try. For the first time in my life it felt like someone actually gave a shit and that person was actually worth trying for. And now I'd fucking make the world record for the biggest sandwich if you asked me to. I'd kick old grannies in the tits."
Jal: "Stop."
Chris: "I'd fucked up big time. I'm more than sorry. I love you, Jal. You're my whole world.”
They kiss. There is one more person now on the last sheet of Chris’ life, even though she is already keeping secrets from him. 

Random notes:

And now I’ll just shut up before I write something I’ll regret later, like, “I think this relationship is better developed than my favourite relationship in the second generation”.

And all of that, in just 45 minutes.

Jal: “What do you call nacho cheese? O shit, I got that wrong. [Calling Michelle] Chelly. How does that Nacho cheese joke go? What do you call cheese that doesn’t belong to you?
Chris: “Nacho cheese?”
Jal: “Have you heard it before?”

I’ve probably mentioned this before but…Josie!! I want Josie back for the fifth season. “Be daring, try and express yourself without SWEARING”. “I think one slipped through there, Chris”. Also, she reminds me of Peggy Olson. Chris gives her a hat to protect her from all the evil kids, and Cassie tells her that she is “thinking of leaving school, growing a beard and joining a circus”.”

The conformist hipsters crack me up every time. “Everyone dresses the same plastic way. Look at this guy, he is so mainstream. Individuality is dead. Originality is a dirty word.”

I love how Anwar’s slow change into Maxxie as orchestrated by Sketch is this undercurrent that runs in the background of the episode, but on the other hand, it is frustrating to see his story always reduced to comic relief until the very last moment. Now that’s one thing that I hope the US version will improve on (since his story will have to be different anyway, considering that Maxxie is now Tea).

One of the downsides of having a huge cast is that some characters barely share a line: the relationship between Cassie and Tony is one that I would have loved to see in more detail (in the second gen, some of the lost opportunities are Pandora/JJ and Effy/Naomi, I think, although there is plenty more). AND NO I DIDN’T MEAN RELATIONSHIP THAT WAY. That’s what fanfiction is for.

“Apivorous, for example. Someone who eats bees.” (and he wears a black/yellow tie later!)

“That’s an interesting tie. Can I just…” / “Just a teeny note. That won’t work with houses, okay?”

I found it incredibly melancholic and sad to see how intense and packed this episode is, the sheer amount of things that happen, considering that Chris is running out of time.

Of course I love that Cassie, Chris and Jal end up sharing an apartment. They are my three favourite characters and I love their dynamics, especially BECAUSE they are so different.


junkster199 said...

but with naomi and effy they did share some moments, youre right that it all wasnt fully developed. But I feel like Pandora and JJ arent on that level as naomi and effy. I actually dont even remember them talking. ever.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I do feel more strongly about the lost potential of Effy/Naomi than I do about JJ/Pandora (the only interaction between them was the "Freddie and JJ try to cheer up Panda" bit in 4x03, I think?) - what I meant was that they COULD have been interesting, considering that they both have a strange perception of reality, overprotective mothers (although I did really like JJ's mum) etc. On the other hand, it's in the nature of "Skins" that the show sometimes hints at a potential relationship more than it actually develops it - so much happens off-screen.

ohwowlovely said...

Do you know what, you really hit the nail on the head with these. I'm not gonna say anymore than this, I can't add much more than you've wrote, but your descriptions/observations are making me emotional. I never even realised "the last sheet of his life..." this show, it is just too good. And you're amazing! Thank you again, I'll try not bother you too much though!