This Skam review contains spoilers.
Skam Season 4, Episode 4
This week’s episode of Skam was the best yet, giving us plenty of Noora/Sana friend time, as well as Sana and Yousef the space to talk about their respective beliefs. Skam is one of the only shows in the American cultural sphere right now that has a Muslim protagonist at its center. Sana and Yousef’s discussion of their religious perspectives wasn’t just a sweet example of their burgeoning romance (though, it was that), but the kind of necessary discussion our popular culture needs to be having right now. But, before we get to that, let’s talk Noora.
The truth about William.
This week’s episode gave us some lovely Sana/Noora hang out time in which Noora confided to Sana exactly what happened that led to her and William breaking up. (And continuing the general trend of Noora confiding in Sana — we saw it also in Season 2 when Noora told Sana she was in love with William, but didn’t know what to do.)
It’s easy to forget sometimes just how young Noora is. She’s so self-assured and impeccably dressed. But, like the other characters, she is just a kid who understandably gets overwhelmed by life sometimes. (Note: this happens to adults, too.) Noora tells Sana that things went south with William after Noora was unable to testify against Nico. She came to Oslo, but couldn’t bring herself to do it for whatever reason.
Upon her return to London, she didn’t tell William what happened. He only found out the truth when he received a notice of Nico’s dismissal in the mail. Though he said he understood, Noora said he began to work all of the time and they stopped talking. One day while he was at work, Noora packed her things and came back to Oslo without so much as a note.
Sana is surprised by Noora’s actions, but also supportive. (As this friend group tends to be.) Personally, I’m glad William wasn’t a total asshole here. Though it sounds like he went stoic and wouldn’t talk to Noora about his feelings, it also sounds like Noora may have been projecting some of her own guilt about not testifying against Nico onto William. These two don’t have the best history of talking things out and it usually isn’t just one party’s fault. Hopefully, they will get some sort of closure before the end of this season and show. Noora is not over William at all, telling Sana that she doesn’t want to imagine William with anyone else.
I’m not so sure William is with anyone else. Eva heard the rumor through Penetrator Chris, but it sounds like exactly the kind of juvenile trick that a desperate, lovelorn William would pull to see if it will force Noora to reach out to him.
In the second scene we see Noora and Sana together in, Noora gives Sana her email information to get Sara’s email address. This has got to come up at a later date, right? Either Sana accidentally sees something she should not or she sends one of those email drafts Noora mentioned she keeps writing, but not sending to William. The promo for this season implied that Sana was possibly going to meddle in her friend’s business. Will Noora be the first?
Though Noora is able to confide in Sana in this episode, Sana doesn’t take the opportunity to do the same with Noora. (To be fair, she is on the cusp of reaching out to her friend before Noora continues her story. Furthermore, Noora simplifies Sana’s internal life by telling her that she envies how much easier romance is for her in her Muslim culture.)
Still, Sana could have opened up to Noora about her conflicted feelings about Yousef. (Was anyone else yelling at the screen when she decided to de-friend him?) Ultimately, these two have one of the best dynamics of the season. In an attempt to both cheer Noora up and cheer herself up, Sana plans a friend-date for the two at a cafe where they can scope out Muslim (and other multicultural) men.
The two seem to be having fun, and be given a nice reminder that there are other fish in the sea (or whatever) and that there is, in fact, life after high school, but are interrupted by Elias’ drunken escapades…
Sana and Yousef talk religion.
Elias unwittingly brings Sana and Yousef back together when he gets pass-out drunk on vodka (presumably the vodka the Pepsi-Max girls left at Sana’s house?). Yousef calls Sana to help him out with Elias and the two bring Elias to sleep it off at Noora’s apartment. Apparently, Noora is just going to call or text when Elias wakes up?
Yousef uses the situation as an excuse to spend more time with Sana, insisting on walking her home. Other than in the Facebook sphere, this is the first time Sana and Yousef have really had a chance to be alone, outside of the contexts their families and/or social groups impose on them. It shows how much the two really genuinely like each other and get along. They tease, play basketball together, and discuss religion. Sana is able to be herself with Yousef, which is perhaps the most important thing of all.
But let’s get back to that religious discussion because it is so devoid of the accusations and defensiveness that can often come with these kinds of discussions in real life. Sana and Yousef are driven by their non-judgmental curiosity about the others’ perspectives and it is a beautiful thing. They listen and question and articulate. In the end, they don’t change each other’s minds. That’s not the point. But they do understand one another more than they did at the beginning of the conversation.
Does this change how Sana feels about potentially pursuing a relationship with Yousef? Judging by the way Sana gazes into his eyes when they make it to her doorstep, it looks like it. If not for Sana’s mother interrupting their heart-eyes session, then these two might have kissed. Will Sana feel differently once the spell has broken? Is there hope for Sana and Yousef? If there is any light in this world (which Skam proves there is), then these two fictional crazy kids will work it out.
Even & the Balloon Squad.
During their conversation, Sana and Yousef spill some light on Even’s history with the Balloon Squad, which was one of the major events that altered Yousef’s opinion on organized religion. As much of the interwebz suspected, Even was interested in Mikael. Yousef tells us that, when he tried to kiss him, Mikael freaked out, a reaction somewhat informed by his religious beliefs.
This is why Even became obsessed with learning the Quran. He was trying to “cure” himself of queer-ness. Eventually, it led to a suicide attempt, which really shook Yousef. It’s a sad story, though one that has a happy ending for Even. Though he will have to deal with his mental illness for the rest of his life, he has seemingly accepted his sexuality as a healthy party of himself, and found Isak along the way. It would be nice to see some Even/Balloon Squad resolution at some point this season.
Sana’s takeaway from the Even situation is different from Yousef’s, showing that there are many ways to view one event. For Yousef, Even’s suicide attempt made him reconsider religion as a force for good in the world. For Sana, Even’s suicide attempt was a result of his mental illness, not Islam. In a particularly beautiful moment, Sana explains to Yousef why she loves her faith. For her, it is a way to focus in this chaotic, sometimes overwhelming world.
In contemporary times, religion is often treated as an outdated institution and belief system by the younger generation — especially in the western world. But Sana makes an argument for why it is more relevant and necessary than ever. You don’t have to agree with her. You don’t have to agree with Yousef. But, wherever you fall on the subject of religion, listening and trying to understand all perspectives is vital.
As this Noora storyline progresses, I keep wondering what the Noora/William stuff would have looked like if the actor who plays William had decided to stick around. Was this always Julie Andem’s plan to have Noora and William continue to struggle past Season 2 or is it all a product of the real-world circumstances that forced some kind of estrangement?
Will Sara steal Noora’s social media info? Will Sana see something she doesn’t mean to? I am very nervous about Noora so freely giving out her email information. That being said, it continues to give me infinite amounts of joy that all of Noora’s social media accounts are log lady-related.
It was so nice to see Noora/Isak’s apartment. Complete with bonus Linn! Sadly, there was no Eskilde to be found.
It might be interesting to get some Elias/Noora interaction. Is this where this storyline is headed?
I love that Sana’s mother is the most developed adult we’ve had on this show. Though we got to know Eva’s mother a bit in Season 1, Sana’s mom is playing a much more prominent role in the main storyline. This seems like a conscious decision on the show’s part to subvert some mainstream ideas about what Muslim parents look like. Sana’s mom is one of the most supportive and engaged parents/adults on this show.