This review contains spoilers.
Life sucks and then you die. That’s what the first two-part story from Skins would have you believe, at any rate, with the second part of Skins Fire starting off bleak and just getting darker and darker. Did Effy learn anything from her time in the city? Not really. Did Naomi and Emily get their happy ending? Definitely not. At least little Dom got away without some huge personal tragedy but, if we’re being totally honest, nobody cares about Dom. There were only three people viewers were concerned with here, and those three people had a very bad year indeed.
This second episode documented the lives of Effy, Naomi and Emily in autumn and winter of some unspecified year, and the icy weather matched the miserable goings on very nicely. We start off with Naomi doing quite well at another comedy night – going from big flop to sizeable hit in the intervening months – but Effy is growing tired of her continuing money issues. Can you ask a person with cancer to chip in for the rent? Probably not, but both girls are under the impression that Naomi’s cancer is just a blip in their otherwise fabulous lives.
Effy and boss Jake have developed a fully-fledged relationship since we saw Effy sex away the pain at the end of part one, and people in the office are starting to notice. Sleeping with Jake is nothing compared to the mistakes we’ve seen the girl make in the past, so it’s kind of a shame that it all had to blow up in her face. When she laments to Victoria that she believed their relationship to be real, you believe her, and the connection at least demonstrates the ways in which Effy has grown up since her days of playing with boys’ emotions.
The growth doesn’t extend to her friendship with Dom, however, with her response to his epic telling-off is simply to sleep with him. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to conflict that she obviously hasn’t grown out of, and it was refreshing, if a little disappointing, to see the old Effy emerge if only for a second. The difference is that Dom is more mature and together than seventeen-year-old Freddie or Cook were, and her feminine wiles don’t really get her anywhere this time. She eventually does the right thing by her sweet admirer and friend, and gets her comeuppance when Jake turns her over to the FSA.
More important than Effy’s work or relationship problems, however, is Naomi’s battle with cancer. The outcome was very surprising, and utterly disheartening, but watching her ordeal across the episode was even worse. Skins has never been shy about killing off beloved characters (see Chris, Freddie and Grace), but it’s always seemed to mean something before. Lost innocence for the remaining group of friends was a big theme of the original show, but what purpose does Naomi’s death serve to Skins Fire? Is it just to show Effy that life’s too short? Or that friends are more important than work?
For the audience, we learnt that no matter what you do, tragedy is going to tear through your life. Poor Emily got the bulk of it, and her anger at both Naomi and Effy for robbing her of precious time with the woman she loves was entirely justified. She was being punished for her ambition just like Effy, having spent the last year blindly pursuing a career while her girlfriend slowly died of cancer, and I failed to grasp the bigger reason for it all. Maybe I’m missing the profound message behind Skins Fire, but my initial reaction is to retreat to my fourth series DVDs for comfort.
My biggest problem with both episodes was the Naomi seemed so interchangeable – almost unrecognisable from the girl we got to know of two series. Would the effect on Effy have been any different had the second character been Pandora or Katie? The “you win again” outburst in part one would have made more sense, and we wouldn’t have had to invent a friendship between Effy and Naomi that’s obviously supposed to have developed since series four. It didn’t make the heartbreak any less shattering, however, and I guess there are a lot of ‘Naomily’ fans crying into their pillows right about now.
Skins Fire was beautiful and brave much like the series it continued, but in terms of character development and a satisfying conclusion for certain relationships, it left a lot to be desired. Tragedy can be poignant and moving, but I can’t help but feel that it wasn’t the place of Skins Fire to replace our happy endings with something this dire. Instead of partying at Freddie’s house, happy and united at last, Effy is in prison, Emily is bereft and Naomi is in the grave. Let’s hope Skins Rise and Skins Pure are a bit more uplifting.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, here.
Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.