This review contains spoilers.
We’ve reached the end, Skins fans, and it’s a safe bet that we won’t be returning following this brave and unflinching final episode. Whether it satisfies or appals will probably have something to do with your enjoyment of this seventh series in general, as this is very much an ending to Cook’s story, and not to the series as a whole. If we want cosy resolution then we need to go back to the series two, four and six finales, as adulthood has no room for such things. Skins Rise seems almost defiant in the ways it leaves us hanging, and a part of me wonders whether this story out of the three was the best to finish with.
But, then again, I would be saying the same thing had we finished with Fire and Pure, and maybe some of us missed the point of this farewell series entirely. It wasn’t to say goodbye, but to create something new out of an old, worn-out concept. These three characters were chosen because of how well-loved and brilliantly crafted they are, and we’ve now gotten to see them as adults. Did we need to? No. Is it a bummer that there was so much tragedy in their lives post-Roundview College? Yes, but at least their comebacks haven’t been timid or forgettable. They’ve gotten a reaction.
But on to the episode itself – it was extremely grim, wasn’t it? The first half of the story introduced us to Cook’s new world – a crime drama ending with a bit of drama and violence – but then the fallout gave us a genuinely unsettling thriller as Cook, Charlie and Emma went on the run. They’ve ended up at Emma’s family’s country house where her parents are also staying and, after twenty minutes of near-levity in which we glimpse some of the old Skins balance of drama and comedy, it’s back on the road and straight into the action.
Predictably, it doesn’t take long for Louis to catch up with them, and they don’t get very far before all hell breaks loose. There was more bloodshed in this episode than I could have imagined, and most of it was very effective. A couple of readers commented that Skins’ gangster characters are universally unthreatening but, as an exercise in pushing Cook to his limit, Louis served his purpose. If I’m honest, where the episode lost me a little was in the middle, when the suspense was supposed to be building. It felt as if the focus was on characters we’d only just met, with Cook simply the stable voice of experience holding them together.
But then the final ten minutes happened, and I changed my mind. By recreating the situation the character found himself in at the end of series four (quite a task given that he was on the run and his best friend had just been murdered), we got to see the change he’s been through in the three years since. He chose to react differently, and reclaimed his identity by doing it. No matter how much of a success the series or the episode has been, I think that’s as tidy a conclusion to the character as we were ever going to get. Let’s be honest, the fact that he escaped with his life is a surprise in itself.
Over the past six weeks watching Skins Fire, Pure and Rise has been a pretty testing time for old fans of the show. Favourite characters have been killed off, the desired references to past events and relationships have been missing and only one of the three returning protagonists has had an ending that can be described as happy. There are those who refuse to acknowledge that this seventh run of episodes even exists, and others who have enjoyed the more grown-up tone to the previously uneven teenage stories, but I guess most people fall somewhere in the middle of these two perspectives.
Time changes everyone, and well done to Skins, the show that defied convention by featuring three casts of unknowns (many of whom have gone on to big things), for taking this final step away from the expected. Teen dramas don’t pick up with their characters half a decade later before leaving them again forever, but it’s a move that seemed totally sensible when it came to E4’s celebrated and maligned gem. Having grown up with the show I, for one, will miss it dearly, but am content that, rather than go out with the lacklustre third generation last year, we got to visit Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley’s world one last time.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Skins Rise part 1, here.
Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.