Monday 17 January 2011

Skins - I know somewhere we can go.

Skins: 2x10 Everyone.

The overarching feeling in this episode is that of missing people lingering over those that were left behind, even though this is less explicit than in the fourth season finale, when several of the characters felt the presence of Freddie leading them towards an unbearable truth. There isn’t just one person missing – actually, it is both Chris’ and Cassie’s absence that is are felt throughout the episode.

Sid and Tony

“I always loved you the best, Sid.”
One of the things that I love so much about this episode that all the characters end up together again. Despite all the wounds and the devastation, they find each other. Sid ends up in Tony’s bed after locking himself out, and Tony tells him to forget about Cassie, but he knows, because he knows his best friend, that Sid isn’t going to forget Cassie and that the one thing Sid needs to do is go and find her, even though he wouldn’t ever take the initiative if he was entirely on his own. This is how they both grow as people. Tony tries to figure out how to help Sid be a better person after realizing that Sid helps him be a better person. Tony does this the first time when Sid talks to him about his frustration at Chris’ dad, and his frustration with himself, for remaining passive in the face of this incredible insult. It’s an incredibly ridiculous decision to steal Chris’ coffin, but it fits. It’s probably what Chris would have done, and even though the girls call them out on it in the end and make them return the coffin (“What the fuck have you done? Give it back.”), it’s a meaningful gesture from a character that has so far based his entire existence on always remaining cool and unfazed.
“She’s thin, she's blonde, she says WOW.”
The second time around, he proves that he actually does understand Sid. He understands that Sid needs Cassie (and Cassie, meanwhile, is playing with Jal’s lucky coin in a New York café, secretly waiting too for things to fall into place). When Tony gives Sid the tickets he says, “You’ll find her. You just will” – what an incredible sentence from a character that used to be so cynical.  

Anwar and Sketch / Maxxie

Anwar finds out that his grades are bad and he has to figure out what he will be doing with his life while his friends seem to have it all figured out. He is the guy without a plan, who can’t place himself in a future, especially not in one that deviates significantly from the life he is leading now. The choice between Sketch and Maxxie is a choice between two radically differing lives: one is giving up, in a way, staying, leading a boring and predictable life which is okay, as Sketch points out, but not at all what Anwar wants to do, despite his ability to come up with a better plan.
Sketch: “And you? Where do you see yourself in five years? Haven’t thought about, it have you.”
Anwar: “No. I’ll be with my friends, having a laugh. Somewhere.”
Sketch: “But don’t you get it? They’ve got their plans, their futures, and you’re not in them.”
Anwar: “And you’re so much better are you. You’ve made any plans, have you?”
Sketch: “I’m gonna stay here. And there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ll smile every time you call them. They’ll just take longer to return your calls. Being left behind, that’s not such a great problem. You’ll just have new friends. New friends like me.”
Skins doesn’t tell Sketch’s story. I still emphasize with her for being the one staying in Bristol, taking care of her mum, while everybody else will potentially go on to do a million different things, but on the other hand, Anwar’s main character trait was the fact that he is friends with Maxxie, and going to London with him (and Maxxie’s boyfriend James) makes so much sense.
Maxxie: “Fuck the future dude. Come to London, have a laugh.”
Jal and Michelle

This scene! It’s a call-back to the scene in which Chris explained himself to Jal, which was probably the moment she fell in love with him. It’s a reminder of the fact that these two are best friends, even though Michelle’s relationship to Tony had a way of getting between them in the course of the two seasons.
Jal: “Have you ever climbed inside a duvet cover?”
Michelle: “Yeah.”
Jal: “Will you?”
Michelle: “Yeah. This is nice. It’s like we’re at a sleepover.”
Jal: “I had the abortion.”
Michelle: “Ok. I would have come with you.”
Jal: “No. I needed to do it alone.”
Michelle: “Ok. I think we should get out of here.”
Jal: “But I want to stay.”
Michelle: “I know somewhere we can go.”
This is an essential scene for Jal, but more than that, it is the one scene that finally made me love Michelle. It is so easy to discard her as a shallow character, but deep down, she watches the people that surround her and she has an understanding of what is important to them, of what they need to hear to be okay. She takes Jal to the zoo; not because of the cute animals (Jal hates animals), not as some silly, infantile gesture that makes it possible for Jal to feel like a little girl again that hasn’t gone through the worst year of her life yet (“I’m not ten”), she does it as a tribute to Chris, the boy she met here years ago, the boy who loved fish and didn’t care what anybody else thought.
Michelle: “No. we’re not here to take your mind off it. This is where I first met Chris.”
Jal: “Yeah?”
Michelle: “Yeah. I was seven, his mum got talking to mine, and he was this funny little kid with his hands down his pants doing impressions at the fish. I don’t know if he thought he could talk to them or… I’m not saying you should forget about him, because you can’t and you shouldn’t, because he was special, but I think…fuck it.”
Jal: “What?”
Michelle: “Like Chris. He said Fuck it. I’ll do it my way. And the people that love me will understand why I’m doing it because they love me. Fuck it. Come on. You don’t think he’d say exactly that if he was standing here.”
Jal: “Probably would be too busy talking bollocks about the fish.”
Michelle: “Fuck it for Chris?”
Jal: “Ok. Fuck it for Chris.”
Michelle: “Say it like you mean it.”
Jal: “Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it.”
The funeral

The conflict between Chris’ dad and the group of friends fits one of the many themes of Skins perfectly. Family isn’t the people you happen to be related to, it’s the people who stick with you, who know you, who love you despite of your flaws and without creating an idealized fake version of yourself in their heads (“See, the thing is, I’ve got a lot of relatives coming to the funeral, and they remember Chris as a gentle, fun-loving boy, and I’d like to maintain that image, and I think the best way to maintain that image is you not coming.”).  Graham Miles comes around in the end, realizing that the people he banned from the funeral knew his son better than he ever did, and that Chris must have been a good and lovely person for having friends that care so much about him.
“I've been thinking about what Chris would have wanted me to say today. The advice he'd give me, which'd be something like, 'Know what, babe? Fuck it. These guys know all about me. Tell them about someone different.' So I thought I'd tell you about a hero of Chris's: a man called Captain Joe Kittinger. In 1960, climbing into a foil balloon, Captain Joe ascended 32 kilometres into the stratosphere. And then, armed only with a parachute, he jumped out. He fell for four minutes and thirty-six seconds, reaching seven hundred and forty miles per hour before opening his parachute five kilometres above the Earth. It had never been done before, and it's never been done since. He did it just because he could. And that's why Chris loved him - because the thing about Chris was, he said yes. He said yes to everything. He loved everyone. And he was the bravest boy - man - I knew. And that was - he flung himself out of a foil balloon every day. Because he could. Because he was. And that's why - and that's why we, we loved him.”
One of the many things that I will hold against the fourth season of Skins is how carelessly it discarded a character – this beautiful, beautiful speech is a send-off to a character that was loved, that had so many layers, and it is closure, in a way, to the sad story of a boy who will never get to grow up.


Altogether, the motion of the first generation is circular. Tony and Sid go from being friends to being enemies to being friends – but better friends, with an understanding of how important they are to each other, rather than Tony feeling superior over an ever-adoring, devoted Sid. Tony and Michelle go from being a couple to being split-up to being a couple that is very conscious of the limitations of their relationship, but also of its high points (“We were good, weren’t we?” / “We were better than that”). Maxxie and Anwar discover that their friendship is stronger than any conventional ideas about what people are supposed to do after school is over. Michelle finally becomes the strong and selfless friend Jal has always needed. It’s one of these miraculous things Skins achieves: that all these developments feel earned, and not completely out of the blue. These characters have grown incredibly over the past episodes, yet they still mean so much to each other.

And then, finally, Effy is lying under Tony’s duvet and smiles directly into the camera, and will be taken apart completely in the following two years.

Random notes:

Sid: “Are you naked too?”
Tony: “No, again, that’s just you.”
Sid: “Right, well, err, I know it’s your bedroom but would you mind getting out of bed first?”
Tony: “Okay Sid.”

It still amazes me to no end that this episode is so upbeat during the first half due to the ridiculous stealing of the coffin scene. I have no idea how they achieved this without disrespecting the characters, but THEY DID.

Anwar’s mum is rather lovely. She tells her son that it is going to be okay either way, and that he is “very handsome”. It’s such a small scene, but it slightly redeems the complete lack of meaningful scenes Anwar got this season.

Also, I completely forgot the fact that using wacky music in season finales is somewhat a tradition in Skins. In this episode alone: Heart of Glass, Britney Spears, The Sugababes. On the other hand, it also has Elliott Smith (“the potential you’ll be / that you’ll never see”). Plus the scene when Tony and Sid steal (and return) the casket is a classic Skins joke: the boring, conventional conversation in the foreground, the action happening in the background.

“It’s nice though, isn’t it. A father burying his son. It’s not nice. It’s a nice novelty for me though. Very powerful bond, fathers and sons. It’s like mothers and daughters but different, less oestrogen.”

“I know somewhere we can go.” Sounds like the missing side of the conversation between Emily and Naomi in Naomi. THESE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE GENERATIONS. So beautiful.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Josie is at Chris’ funeral. Not so sure about all the other random people, because it is always such a weird moment when a show suddenly reveals that a character has this whole other circle of friends we just never got to see. Also, all the colours in the background. And the fireworks. And Seven Nations fucking Army.

Ugh, when Graham Miles tells Jal that “some people aren’t built for parenthood”.

Jal: “Fuck it. Your cared enough to ban us all. He would have liked that. You fought. For all the wrong reasons, but you fought. In some ways, today couldn’t have gone better.”

I felt that Anwar was terribly underused this season, but it is still quite amazing how well his story was wrapped up, and without a “he’s actually an academic genius and was accepted to an American university” cop-out.

Sid, Michelle and Tony in the car on the way to the airport:

Sid: “So, the there of us, in the car. Together again.”
Tony: “Yeah.”
Sid: “And we’ve all seen each other naked, which is nice.”

I wouldn’t much care for MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” if it wasn’t for that final scene of this episode – but the lyrics celebrate this idea of moving away from a specific feeling and from the comfort of home, into a world of seemingly endless possibilities, only to probably end up in some kind of unavoidable routine. “Skins” has the luxury of leaving its characters behind before that routine settles in, even if it’s hard to let them go.

I couldn’t come up with a proper way to send off the first gen, like a favourite scenes bit or something along those lines, but maybe I’ll just save this for later so I don’t actually have to part with these lovely people just yet. (I'd love to answer questions on any of these things though!)

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