The top 30 moments in Skins
Now we've seen the final full series of E4's often-divisive Skins, Caroline salutes its thirty best moments...
Even the most dedicated fans can see how much of a target Skins has been over the years. Appearing like a dream come true for advertisers wanting to appeal to a rebellious teen audience, at the same time horrifying their parents, it was pitched as a tawdry sex and drugs fest simply after titillation and ill-advised wish-fulfilment for its impressionable young audience.
But for those that gave it a chance, wondrous moments of entertainment lay in wait. The sex, drugs and wish-fulfilment were all there, but simply provided a backdrop for a ground-breaking and unique exploration of youth and growing up as a teenager in the UK. Like its characters, Skins was raw and uneven, but it was also sincere and endearing.
Though I doubt its many detractors will ever be converted, these moments are the ones that made me, and so many others, fiercely love the show for its huge heart and bold storytelling. Bear in mind, however, if you haven't seen until the end of series six, many spoilers lie ahead...
30. “Welcome to our world” (5x01 Franky)
After series four’s dark cloud of despair had dissipated along with its cast, the third generation looked a helluva lot brighter. This was Mean Girls set in Bristol, and this low-key moment in the first episode clarified their new mission statement. Everything had a slightly Americanised feel, but never in an obnoxious way, and, in Mini, a new high school It-girl had been created for a British audience not used to this sort of glossy drama found so often on US screens. Androgynous Franky got a glimpse of that world, but we knew the optimistic happiness could never last.
29. Sophia falls (4x01 Thomas)
What better way to make a statement about your new series than to kill someone in the first five minutes? After a year away, left on an uncertain note no less, Skins series four came back with a literal bang, as we see new girl Sophia walking through a club before launching herself from the top floor. Her death colours the rest of the fourth generation’s episodes, directly or indirectly, and provided a suitable opening to what was the show’s grimmest run of stories to date.
28. “Eat” (1x02 Cassie)
Not many shows had used the character-per-episode format before Skins came along, and suddenly it seemed like the perfect way to really delve into the psyches of British teens. All young people on TV are fairly complicated and issue-ridden, but generation one’s Cassie had more problems than most. The first (apart from Tony in the ensemble-led premiere) to get the treatment, she was the perfect person to really showcase the potential of such a series. This moment, when she finally realises that the messages telling her to “EAT” were simply in her imagination, is the satisfying climax to 45-minutes inside her life and mind.
27. “I haven’t told myself” (6x05 Mini)
Mini has a habit of dolling herself up just before a big, painful, reality check, and the end of her second episode left her in just as big a pickle as her first. Pregnant and alone, she does what any self-respecting spoilt brat would do - rely on daddy to take care of it. When he doesn't come through, she turns to former rival Franky, the sole bearer of her news, and a great shoulder on which to cry. When she tearfully whispers "I haven't even told myself" when asked who knows about her pregnancy, it's a rare moment of vulnerability that reminds us why we love her.
26. The morning after (3x07 JJ)
This one was for the mothers in the audience, as the end of series three's JJ-centric episode gave us a rare look into the parents' view on things. Heard about only as an important figure in autistic JJ's life, her whole world is seen to revolve around her son's wellbeing. When, at the end of his adventures, she sees him sitting with new friend Emily, laughing and joking over breakfast like any normal teenager, the look on her face is one of awe and relief, and is set against the same Claude Debussy music that floods the entire episode.
25. Trampoline (1x01 Tony)
For countless fans, this moment shared between Sid and Cassie in the first episode was the moment they first fell in love with Skins. We were always supposed to relate to sidekick Sid over the manipulative Tony and aspirational girlfriend Michelle, but there was something about his unwitting love for Hannah Murray’s ditzy anorexic that gave us a glimpse at the real show through the sex and drugs so over-exposed in the ads, posters, and reviews. The couple we learnt to root for in the first generation, this is where Sid and Cassie first struck up a connection.
24.Mini gives in (5x03 Mini)
It had been hard to find any innocent and virginal teens in Skins world, and even when characters like Pandora turned up, their inexperience was played for laughs. Not so with Mini, though, as the loss of her virginity to expectant boyfriend Nick was granted an entire episode. It wasn’t covered in rainbows or wish-fulfilment either. Mini fought her fears and anxiety all the way, only to be pressured into acting just like her promiscuous friends in the end. Dolled up in fake tan, blonde hair extensions and an elaborate evening gown, her Queen Bee mask only faltered once alone; broken and lonely as ever.
23. Chris abandoned (1x04 Chris)
In series one of Skins, Chris was the comic relief, the druggie sidekick who was having an affair with his psychology teacher. When his turn in the spotlight came around, then, it was a challenge to make us care about him as much as we did his closest friends. No one expected what we were actually given, which was the most charming, heartbreaking and hilarious instalment so far. The moment when Chris cowers inside his mum’s empty wardrobe displays all of these things perfectly. Desperately sad as well as a little ridiculous, the star of generation one was exposed.
22. “I’m Cook” (4x08 Everyone)
Probably the most divisive moment on the list, this series ender was the most 'un-final' scene of the show's history. By the time series four rolled around, no one was in much doubt about who the star of the show as, and Jack O'Connell's Cook was placed centre stage for the generation's moments of farewell. Uncovering the truth about best friend Freddie's death the week before, he goes to investigate, finding Effy's dastardly therapist armed with a baseball bat. Yes, it's ridiculous, but redeemed in this scene, when the frustrations of the young and ignored are channelled through Cook's violent outburst.
21. Good parenting prevails (6x04 Franky)
Good parents are the exception, rather than the rule, on Skins, and Franky might have had the only full set of model guardians of the six year run. Though they started off as a statement, being the first set of same-sex parents on the notoriously taboo-breaking show, this moment in the darkest Franky-centric episode proved once and for all what a team the three Fitzgerald's could be. Threatened by a violent ex-boyfriend, her father doesn't lash out in any spectacular way, but just holds his daughter's hand and walks away. It's a quiet moment, but beautiful in its simplicity.
20. Enter Effy (3x01 Everyone)
When people heard that Skins was making the brave decision to ditch its entire cast after leaving college, only to replace them with a whole host of new students, some were less than pleased. To bridge the gap and soften the blow, old supporting character Effy Stonem was upgraded to star player for the next two series. This moment’s genius is that it actually follows the introduction of new trio Freddie, Cook and JJ, before old faces Kaya Scodelario and Harry Enfield quite literally crash onto the scene, reminding us of why we came in the first place.
19. “It’s gotta get bad before it gets good” (2x01 Tony & Maxxie)
Things got more than a little dark in series two of the show, and nothing sums up that dimming of the lights better than the first episode’s musical montage to Day One’s Bad Before Good. In it, we see Maxxie, one half of the episode’s focus, showcasing his dancing talents on a picturesque rooftop, Sid questioning his relationship with Cassie, Michelle going off the rails and, most powerfully of all, a newly brain-damaged Tony failing to write his name. Due to great performances from Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario and Harry Enfield, this sequence proved that Skins was more than just a one series wonder.
18. Visiting Grace (6x07 Liv)
Principle Doug did a lot of things over his six year career at Roundview, but taking his students to visit Grace's grave just before leaving town was one of his finest moments. This won its place on the list because of his involvement, and acts as my little nod to the longest serving cast member of the series. It's a moment of pure joy and hope, telling Liv that he "hopes she enjoys everything" and dancing along to Grace's home video. Not only is it a fitting call-back to the moment he danced with Cassie during an exam, but it served Liv's story as well. Let's hope Doug returns when the show comes back.
17. “Now I’ve told you, ok? Now you know” (3x05 Freddie)
Generation three were all about the love triangle between Effy, Freddie and Cook, but the first 'Freffy' (or whatever the internet calls them) kiss doesn't actually happen until well into the third series. It's epic, and beautifully shot, giving the audience its first taste of how star-crossed these lovers would eventually become. It was the great love story of series three and four, ripped apart by death at the last moment (as with Chris/Jal and Rich/Grace), and, without saying a word, this is where Freddie tells her how he feels. "Now you know," he says, and we understand perfectly.
16. No/F*ck it (2x05 Chris)
Speaking of tragic love stories, here is the moment when Chris and Jal's relationship began. Friends for the first series, internet support for their pairing influenced the show, giving birth to a sweet and un-expectant romance. Skins didn't know how to do 'epic' yet, having not yet grown into the confident teen drama it would become over the years (sometimes to its detriment), so the episode simply fast tracks their love from budding attraction and mutual respect right the way to a committed relationship. Here, they pledge to change their bad habits, and we can see what's coming a mile off.
15. Ballet vs. Metal (5x02 Rich)
The big romance of generation three was always that between ‘metal’ Rich and ballet dancer Grace, and, like many a teen drama, their differences brought them together in the end. Rich grew more than others over his two year stint at Roundview, and the moment in which he watches Grace dance, imagining the music he can’t hear, is really the start of a beautiful friendship. Paralleled later when Grace rocks out at a rock concert, the contrast is handled beautifully, and is one of the show’s first stabs at exploring differences in culture.
14. Power play (1x06 Maxxie & Anwar)
Another controversial moment, its importance proved by the US version royal cock-up when attempting the same storyline. In the original, Tony's indiscretion with gay friend Maxxie wasn't about exploring his sexuality or being attracted to one of his closest friends, but about establishing his power in the group and relieving the boredom he feels when faced with his privileged existence. It's the turning point of the first series, leading to his final comeuppance in the finale, and a brave and important decision from the writers to create a truly despicable leading man.
13. The Three Musketeers (3x05 Freddie)
The second generation was indeed about the love between Effy and her men, but it was also about the love between friends Freddie, JJ and Cook, who, faced with the complications of adulthood, clashed in quite spectacular fashion. It all comes to a head in episode five, and the ties between the 'Musketeers' are severed almost completely. While JJ stands by, Cook's anger gets the better of him and, after kissing Freddie, tells him he loves him despite everything. As bromances go, Skins was able to concoct a truly ambiguous partnership between the boys, their love given as much attention as the heterosexual goings on within the same group.
12. “Hark! I sense merriment afoot” (5x08 Everyone)
Grace and Rich may not have gotten married at the end of series five, but that doesn't mean we didn't go out on a high. The whole episode is a hoot, with the gang getting separated on the way to the church and various groups coming together and breaking apart. The third generation cast had a shaky start, but this finale proved they had their place in the series, and it was with genuine affection that we watched them race to a nearby country festival, geared up in suits and bridesmaids dresses. It's a moment that makes us smile, with the friendships between the characters, rather than the drama around them, at the forefront for once.
11. Carnival of fools (4x05 Freddie)
Skins relied heavily on its visuals throughout its run, and often the show would have fun with some wilder ideas. Reality never had much place in some episodes, none less so than series four's Freddie-centric instalment. Watching girlfriend Effy slowly succumbing to impending psychotic depression, the couple end up at the visually overwhelming carnival, with the gang all there to help. That Katie and Cook are the ones who put things right just adds to the scene's poignancy, as it is they, dressed in angel and devil costumes respectively, who were the main obstacles to Effy and Freddie's relationship in the past.
10. Chris dies (2x09 Chris)
Come series six, we were all expecting a beloved character to be taken from us at the last minute, but back in the second series it was a genuine shock to lose Chris in episode nine. That his death was so visceral and non-signposted just added to the heartbreak, and its presence in another character's episode allowed us to see it, not through his eyes, but from the perspective of best friend Cassie. Looking back, Chris was the joyful, uninhibited symbol of the group's childhood, and therefore had to die, but it's importance doesn't make it any less distressing, even when watching it back.
9. "I'm Katie f*cking Fitch" (4x04 Katie)
For two years, Katie Fitch had been the bitch, the truth-teller and the boy-crazed floozy. But once she'd been told of her premature menopause, meaning her dreams of becoming a mother were instantly dashed, Katie Fitch grew up and, with it, became of fully-rounded character we could root for. Her series four episode is probably among the top five the show ever produced and this moment, when Katie lashes out at spoilt rich girl screaming "I'm Katie f*cking Fitch, who the f*ck are you?," shows her for the powerful woman she'd become.
8. Grace dies (6x02 Rich)
It was a bit of a shock when, in generation three, Grace was killed in the first episode of series six. Past years had killed a main character as part of the finale storyline, but Grace’s death had repercussions for the rest of the year, and never is that more keenly felt than here in Chris Addison’s brilliant performance. As her father, it was left to him to break the news to Rich, her boyfriend, and his tears contrast brutally with Rich’s stunned silence. This probably echoed many a viewer’s response, as we’d been led to believe over the last hour that she was, in fact, alive.
7. Sid breaks down (2x03 Sid)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s ‘The Body’ is remembered for its omission of music to echo the numb shock losing a loved one can leave directly in its wake, and this second series episode of Skins uses a similar tactic. Though around half of the episode is dedicated to Sid’s reaction to his father’s untimely death, the scene he shares with estranged friend Tony stands out as one of the series’ best. Drowned out by the crowds and music of the club, it uses an overload of sound and vision to highlight Sid’s inner anguish. It could be the show’s technical peak, and is one of the best post-death episodes I’ve seen before and since.
6. Holding hands through a cat-flap (3x06 Naomi)
The series' first lesbian relationship, and the best handling of teen homosexuality on the show, Emily and Naomi got a huge reaction from fans. Though there are many magical moments shared by the girls, this scene, in which the newly realised couple hold hands through a cat-flap, represents the not so literal barriers young lesbians can face while growing up. Still uncomfortable with her attraction to Emily, Naomi asks if they can stay like this for a while, and the moment embodies how well Skins could break down television barriers.
5. Resolution (6x10 Everyone)
As the last sequence of Skins as we know it, the finale of series six was always going to make it into the list. Everyone had their moment; Nick and Matty making peace with each other, Rich and Liv coming to terms with the loss of Grace, Franky finding her mother at last, and Mini and Alo welcoming their daughter into the world. Set to an uncharacteristically soppy and evocative soundtrack, you find yourself going along with it anyway, series' one last gasp wrapping everything up in a nice, neat bow.
4. “I've been a bit silly” (1x05 Sid)
We've already talked about the first generation love square, and seen moments where Tony's manipulative immorality had taken centre stage, but none embody those brave new ideas more than the this sequence shared by Tony, Michelle, Sid and Cassie. While Tony's evil plan is revealed to an unsuspecting and submissive Sid, his power is finally exposed for what it is, and its ill-effects are shown elsewhere as a devastated Cassie overdoses in the park. Set to the dreamy tones of Jolie Holland's 'Old Fashioned Morphine,' we see how his actions have torn apart the world he wants to control, and it's perfect execution, from the contrasting visuals to its use of music, shows Skins at its very best.
3. “I enjoyed it!” (4x03 Cook)
The second generation of Skins split audiences, but Jack O’Connell was the cast’s stand out talent, and his performance in series four’s episode really proved it. While his third series outing was one of the weakest episodes in terms of story, the character’s popularity had grown so much that, by the time his turn rolled around again, the episode was the most eagerly anticipated, and subsequently celebrated, of the two year run. The moment in which he finally snaps, admitting his feelings past self-pity and emo-posturing, is the culmination of all his frustrations, and showcases how good the actor he is.
2. “We can make our life a story” (5x07 Grace)
If you didn't cry during this scene, then I'm afraid you have no soul. With Skins so often granting their characters dark endings and tragic separations, I was as surprised as anyone when, for a moment at least, star-crossed lovers Rich and Grace were able to revel in their romance. Wooing literature-loving Grace with her very own balcony scene, Rich tells her "we can make our life a story." Building the whole episode around a college production of Romeo & Juliet gave their subsequent quotes more power, and it's as deliriously romantic as the show ever got.
1. “Because he could; because he was” (2x10 Everyone)
As much a goodbye to the show as it was to departed character Chris, no moment better embodies Skins' spirit and unwavering allegiance to the young audience who watch it. After the gang are banned from their friends' funeral by Chris' absentee father, they decide to bid farewell in their own special way. Standing atop a hill overlooking the dull funeral service down below, the group make an impression with the story of one of Chris' heroes, letting off fireworks as a final gesture to the youth, hopefulness, and anticipation that their friend stood for.