Pity poor old JJ. While there’s been a whirlwind of relationship drama happening around him, he’s not even had a chance to play around with so much as a card trick. Despite being on the autistic scale, JJ’s always been perhaps the most level headed of the gang. Even when he suddenly fell for Effy, he managed to stop himself from getting into too much of a tizzy.
Nowadays, JJ is a kid in a sweetshop. Working in a giant confectionary warehouse that looks like Wonka’s factory redesigned by an accountant. Happily flirting with old ladies at the tills, he has his own piece of eye candy in the form of Lara Lloyd. But owing to his not inconsiderable social disability, he just can’t bring himself to ask her out.
Days go by where he sings filthy songs with his mother (Sarah Jane Adventures and Pulling’s Juliet Cowan) in the car ride home. Reciting physics trivia and recording his own Captain’s Log, (just in case you were unsure of his socially awkward nerd status). Gazing up at his ceiling plucking his ukulele, the instrument of choice for quirky people. And ‘plucking his ukulele wink wink nudge nudge’ to the steamy sounds of George Formby. Thankfully, no one was cleaning his windows at the time.
But no actual progress occurs until Thomas (who seems to have suddenly lost his accent) steps in and JJ is forced to finally ask her out over the tannoy, which is surely forbidden in the company handbook. Broadcasting his intent to everyone in the warehouse, so y’know, no pressure or anything. The entire warehouse breathes a massive sigh of relief when she agrees and JJ is lit up like a thousand firework displays! But, now JJ also has the added problem of fugitive Cook dumped on him by Freddy like a malicious Father Christmas.
JJ’s not about to let this get him down, though, and heads off to Lara’s two hours early dressed as a prototype 11th Doctor. There’s another surprise, though, when it turns out there’s another man in Lara’s life, her baby son Albert. And if this wasn’t enough, her slightly possessive ex Liam is still around too. It all seemed so easy at first.
Things go from bad to worse on the date proper. though. Awkward silences in a Bristol pub do not a lovely atmosphere make. More awkwardness happens when Emily, the girl who took JJ’s virginity out of pity, bumps into the pair with her new ‘friend’ Mandy. But the final straw comes when JJ takes an unexpected gulpful of booze and spits it back into his would-be lady’sface. Oh dear.
Our awkward hero takes it like a man and decides to leg it out of the toilet window. If only he was in the gents! However, Lara comes in to tell him the date’s off and JJ is left walking down Friendship Road, both literally and metaphorically. But another chance meeting has Lara giving it another go by giving JJ one. Over two whole days!
JJ and Lara are on love’s first wave and he’s keen to introduce her to his friends and family. Which would be nice except Naomi and Emily are still sniping at each other. Emily treis to convince JJ that Lara is just out to use him, that’s Emily the girl living with her girlfriend and cheating on her at every chance. Glass houses, anyone? And JJ’s mum Celia isn’t happy that her son’s girlfriend has an extra attachment.
Love for JJ seems a dim prospect. In fact, the very concept of relationships itself seems like a hopeless dream. His friends are all in various states of misery and his parents struggle to even share small talk. There’s only one thing to do for JJ, serenade the love his life with Spandau Ballet’s True backed up by a ukulele orchestra!
Instead of making Lara wish she was deaf, it wins her over and the young couple are all to eager to explore the final frontier.
This is the closest the current generation has come to recapturing the vitality of the first series. And the only episode this series not to end on a downer (so far). It’s an unashamedly heart warming tale of JJ overcoming his unspecified condition as well as prejudice from both his parents and friends. Oliver Barbieri’s stilted performance fits JJ like a glove and Georgia Henshawe’s Lara is pitched as a laconic wit. Perhaps a small tribute to another teen mother, Juno.
Despite feeling very much like an inner city Napoleon Dynamite at times, this episode rises above the usual stream of teen angst that has dominated this series. As a stand alone episode, it shows that Skins can be more than just a mix of sex, drugs and tears. And for once the lighter moments work well, rather than distract.
However, Naomi and Emily’s luvvy duvvy bubble seems to have been replaced by a giant ball of hate. Someone needs to shake them both down and scream at them, “This is not healthy behaviour!”, or just knock their heads together.
With only two episodes to go, can the rest of the gang shake themselves out of this funk? Or will they all be sat at home listening to My Chemical Romance?
Check out our review of episode 5 here.