Effy. Oh young, thin and impossibly pale Effy. An enigma wrapped up in a conundrum is how they would want you to be seen. But you never really did anything of note except shag the wrong boy for a whole series, which got to be more tedious than intriguing. Not that anyone could have blamed you, of course. Freddy takes about an hour to strain a whole sentence out of his drooping jaw and constantly wears an expression of an aged bloodhound whom you’re explaining quantum physics to.
After becoming little more than background noise for over half of this current series, something drastic had to be done to put you back in the spotlight. Something like, say, a severe mental illness, perhaps. Like Cassie had in the first gen, but not played for laughs. But bi-polar disorder sounded a bit too clinical and non-sexy, so it was upgraded to the far more exciting Psychotic Depression!
Picking up where episode 5 left off, Effy has been sectioned for her own safety after a suicide attempt. Now she’s under the sinister care of John T Foster, a calm looking man with appropriately hypnotic eyes which slowly burn into your very soul. His approach to counselling is the highly scientific method of repressing bad memories.
There’s a visit from Naomi who, in a typically Naomi move, proceeds to talk all about her own problems. But she does seem to finally realise that her relationship with Emily may not be a big bed of roses. So, that’s progress, at least.
After being sent home to start a steady diet of medication, counselling and regular sleep, Effy starts withdrawing from the gang, preferring John Foster’s hypnotic charm. And it’s only by chance that Cook works out how Effy has managed to stay stable. Foster’s been slowly erasing her memory piece by piece, again something frowned upon in his line of work.
A spark ignites in Freddy and he sets off to warn Foster away from Effy, rather than recommend she’d be better off finding another counsellor. But once they’re both behind closed doors, Foster brings out a baseball bat and redecorates his landing in a grotesque shade of red. The screen goes black and the credits play out in silence. And suddenly Doctor Who fans watching are reminded of Adric.
When Skins is being a bright and breezy knockabout show about teenage life, it shines. Last week’s focus on JJ’s new love showed a joyous side to being a teen in Bristol that had been sorely lacking. For one episode only, the otherworldly dream logic of the first series had returned.
But when Skins attempts to tackle something with a bit more weight to it, it falls flat on its face. For all of the, no doubt, good intentions of exploring mental health issues through Effy’s condition, there’s an astonishing lack of research or knowledge on display here.
Skins has always had more than its fair share of big moments, but it’s also had trouble making them believable and natural. And there’s no better example of this than this episode. The final scene seems tacked on in order to provide some much needed tension for the finale, (which has already been spoiled in a big way on the official website. Well done, E4, well done).
With one episode to go, it’s nearly impossible to see any sort of satisfying conclusion to any of the various plot threads that have been left dangling. On the evidence of this episode, it’s unsure whether or not it’ll even be worth watching. This was a joyless mess from beginning to end.
Check out our review of episode 6 here.