Indeed, my fears have come to pass. Skins has sucked me– uh sucked me in. Within a week, I have gone through 8 of the 9 episodes of the first season.
WARNING— for the uninitiated Norte Americanos or wherever in the the world you may be, some spoilers this way come, and in the case of a show like Skins– I should say this way…. nah, I won’t say it. Why won’t I say it? Let’s just say that saying such would be neither laudable nor magnanimous, but, I digress, horribly. Spare the Latin today, eh?
Get control of yourself boy! I can hear me mum screaming.
I’ll just ignore her and hope she goes away, as she so often does these days being that she really, at my age, is, or at least her words are, just an abrasive residue of a childhood gone horribly wrong. But, I must say, I am but a cherub raised by angels vis a vis our dear Bristol kids in 6th form, basically the English equivalent of the later years of American High School, except seemingly more challenging, if only slightly so. These nice public school kids are tragically middle class and take gubshite from both sides of the socio-econonomic spectrum as they are rubbed, teased, beaten and tossed about by posh and chav alike, not to mention each other. It only makes me gasp. England’s middle class has had a good twenty, maybe thirty, years jump on us yanks in terms of shrinkage. This sort of putrid abuse and wild living among a “no future” youth may be what the American bourgeoisie have to look forward to in the coming decades of decadence. Yes, we have no shortage of tragic youth now, but they are but a fly in the ointment compared to the volcanic mass of our young cousins across the pond, or so Skins would lead one to think. But, I must admit, it’s quite a spectacular cultural decline in the mother country. Unlike the working classes all over the world, in true Neil Young form, the Bristol bourgie kids are truly burning out rather than rusting. It’s a train wreck, a beautiful train wreck that would certainly have the Iron Lady – and she deserves no small credit for this less than stellar present – spinning in her still somewhat fresh allotment, God rest her “I bat for Britain” soul, since she really batted Britain into 3rd world submission by gutting labor union power and privatizing every national institution in sight. She and Herr Ronnie were such the couple. Stop spinning Maggie and take a look at what you’ve done. It’s more hideous than a Blair Family Christmas – Holiday? – card. Yet I digress.
So what do you get in 8 episodes? Let’s start a Skins laundry list of venerable characters, characters so stalwart that each gets an episode of one’s own:
1. Tony – An unapologetic power junkie narcissist who looks like the strained love-child of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tony Blair. If his Dangerous Liaisons meets Macbeth shenanigans don’t get him killed by the time he’s 20, thanks to his insane charm, good looks, and willingness to do whatever is necessary to propel and perpetuate his little schemes and games, he just may have a fine career in the British leadership class ahead of him. Cheers to you lad. Careful with the posh bird over there. She’s from an old money family to whom games and manipulations are nothing new.
2. Cassie- played by the wonderful Hannah Murray [our manic pixie nightmare, if you’ve been following previous posts herein, who may not just have murdered the manic pixie dream girl, but possibly cannibalized her, too ] to whom I was introduced in God Help the Girl in which she played a bubbly young school girl named, uh, Cassie. Hmmm. Our dear and far more ingratiating and likely much more talented Brit version of Taylor Swift takes Cassie pretty much hazy days off the charts as she battles anorexia, extremely low self-esteem, and an severe crush on the – not just emotionally unavailable- but the emotionally lost – Sid – more on him in a wee bit, as she gleefully exclaims “Oh wow! Lovely!” at every turn while downing another handful of pills and a bottle of vodka. I don’t know if this is some sort of Kuleshov phenomenon, but Murray/Cassie’s face at finding a stray pill in her coinpurse the morning after a party is off the charts BAFTA-worthy if they ever gave an award for best expression of gratitude to the Gods of good fortune, not that Cassie needs more pills. There is a very dark turn for Cassie in a future episode,as the arc of the season comes to its penultimate plot-points, but somehow, darkness and despair have never seemed so bright and hopeful in her hands. Cassie is a triumph of excellent writing and great acting.
Note- I hope to learn more about the writers and creators of the series as I delve further into it. Interestingly, one of them is named Adam Smith. I wonder if there is some sort of invisible hand at play here.
3. Jal – Now the shit hits the fans, it gets real, and just when you thought things couldn’t get any wilder, Skins goes into hyperdrive with, oddly, the most level-headed character of the series who happens to be an amazing clarinetist and the daughter of well-respected musician and producer, living in posh environs which belie her – stiff upper lip, don’t give me any shit – demeanor. Oh yeah. She just happens to be black, too, which means she is patronized by the white teachers and administrators at the college despite coming from a family with a net worth greater than that of all Bristol’s teachers and supply teachers combined.
4. Chris – And yes, just when you think it can’t get any darker, Chris, your garden variety happy go lucky white rasta stoner boy happens to have a back story that will kick your ass and take your name. This has been my fave, next to Cassie, so far.
5. Sid – Well. Sid’s a good kid, a really sweet “go along, get along guy”, even though he’s a bit of a fuckup who buys ₤300 worth of spliff on the tick [on credit– the terms being repayment of principal in 48 hours. Security: Sid’s testicles.] from a sinister hipster named Madison “Mad” Twatter, a real gem of a peripheral character who may have absorbed too much mercury through the years [you’ll never believe where the eppy 1 pimp/drug-dealer lands in this eppy ; it makes one wonder if Sid has fallen down the rabbit hole. Hell, with this lot, he’s not alone.] then manages to lose it in the harbor – I won’t tell you how, exactly, we’ll just say Risky Business and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off get a nod – not to mention forgetting to even start his Lech Walesa project at school, and, worst of all, forgetting a date with Cassie which leads to harsh times for Britain’s most ingratiating anorexic pill popper, but such joyful harsh times.
6. Maxxie and Anwar – well, wouldn’t you know it, even on one of telly’s “groundbreakers” as they say, the gay and Muslim kids get short shrift and have to share an episode, and boy, it is a bad episode – the Double Meat Palace of Season uno. Okay, so Anwar is becoming more devout in his faith, and, naturally, further apart from his old friend Maxxie whose sexual orientation is considered an abomination in said faith. But the show never gets down to the – uh hmm – meat of the matter, and just skids along the surface as the kids fly to Russia on a school trip, Sid puts drugs up his bum, and hilarity ensues. Yawn. Wake me for eppie 7, please.
7. Michelle – ah.. It’s worth awaking for this one. The beautiful and powerful Michelle has a falling out with boyfriend Tony – who wouldn’t with such a narci? oh.. and did I mention a little Tony/Maxxie action in the previous ep?? Well..- and runs to Sid then posh boy Josh [who just happens to be the brother of Tony’s new posh girl– nah, that won’t end up badly] for comfort, and then shit takes a really sharp corner that leads us right into the heart of darkness…
8. Effy – Tony’s slightly younger and laconic sister – she says maybe 6 words the whole ep– and man it’s in a weird context when she does utter her Alice in Wonderland audition. Though other observers of this series have called Cassie the Ophelia sensibility here, one could argue that the mantle belongs to Effy, though she may be too worldly for such. She looks like a serious student on the outside, but at night, turns into party monster girl, silently stalking the world through goth mascara’d eyes with her friend Julie who is, to complement Effy, loquacious, to put it mildly. While in party girl mode Effy winds up in the grinding gears of her brother’s machinations, and boy, this is where Dangerous Liaisons rides the Shakepeare gravy train right into viewer’s jugular. I won’t go into the details of how we get there, but let’s just say Tony gets his middle class ass slapped into reality by some posh boys, and man, oh man. From what he did in 7, you should be glad that.. Oh. I won’t say it.
So now I go off to Eppy 9 – the finale of Season 1 called “Everyone”. If it tops eppy 8, I may not be able to function next week.
Postscript thoughts on the first 8:
The overtures between Chris and his psychology teacher go full concerto in in Eppy 6, but the “what happen in Russia stays in Russia” attitude of the teacher does not go over with Chris and, well, things get a bit complicated.
Maxxie and Tony – the interlude was witnessed by a supposedly passed-out Michelle. Dirty cheeky monkey.
Cassie’s parents are freaks. Dad is a painter and mom is his model, running about the house nude a big chunk of the time. Is this perhaps the source of Cassie’s body shame? Is she overcompensating for her parent’s absence of modesty?
The director and editor of the series make some terribly cliché visual punnery work somehow. It’s genius. The old “their having sex” audio gotcha with “oh, their only jumping on a trampoline” – really, it floored me as did Cassie’s “do you wanna stroke my pussy?” to Sid followed by, voila, lift the blanket, there’s a kitten underneath. Maybe it’s the brazen daring-do that makes it work. I dunno.
Abigail, Tony’s posh girl squeeze, is cringe-worthy, exclaiming “Super!” at every moment, and that’s what makes the character so fun to despise somewhat, but not too much. She’s still 3d.
Josh, Abigail’s brother, is a medicated sweetie, but boy, the shadow is dark with him. He’s a walking Jungian field day.
Dr. Stock – Cassie’s shrink who is OCD and God knows what else and the mother of Abigail and Josh. Oh what a tangled web.
The Magazine Seller – The working class lad, brogue and all, is Tony’s Greek chorus and part-time foil, a gem with battered teeth and seaworthy facial hair who can’t wait to get home to a cup of cocoa and the warm missus.
Madison Twatter – he says he’s a PHD – pretty huge dick – knows he’s psycho and doesn’t want to be and that’s why he’s in the same therapy group as Cassie. Tangled web. It’s gets even more tangled as things progress. Oh my.
Wish me luck. Cheers.