So. Farewell Then.Skins v2.0. We never really saw eye to eye but you provided the occasional smile. I fear, though, that you were never sure of where you were. Or that you ever knew where you were going.
The final episode of the current lineup spends more time than is necessary wondering where Fred’s got to – not realising that the official website proudly declared Fred wormfood the previous week. Of course, Freddy boy is so dense, it probably took him a week to realise the curve of his skull was pointing inwards.
Effy is still in hospital and there’s a moment of “LOLCRAZYPEOPLE” that will have your jaw hanging in disbelief. I’d like to know if Jamie Brittain and Bryan Elsley (co-creators and writers of Skins) actually ever did any research at all into the kind of low level security mental health ward Effy has been kept in, whether or not they’ve ever seen someone curled up on the floor, howling in anguish, constantly wrestling with the demons taunting them in their mind. Maybe if they had, they’d be less inclined to have a group of mental health patients bouncing around on space-hoppers. LOLCRAZYPEOPLE!
As for the rest of the gang, Thomas has somehow become a major athlete despite never training before. Cook is still hung up on Effy. Pandora has somehow become fluent in French. Katie finds out she fancies Thomas but does nothing about it. JJ is in the background somewhere holding a baby. And Naomi and Emily are still tearing strips out of each other, until Naomi makes a tearful confession of love. And everything’s ok again!
Now, if all of that sounds rushed, that’s because it is. Skins series 4 comes to a full stop rather than a satisfying ending. Not even Russell T Davies would ever dare pull the rabbits-out-of-a-hat plot developments that this episode does.
The final scene with Cook facing Freddy’s killer and Effy’s would-be suitor, Foster, fails to provide not just closure but any dramatic tension at all. Then, before you know it, the credits come up and you’re left wondering if you ever cared how everyone moved on anyway.
All in all, this current generation failed not only to improve upon the flaws of the first two series, but to even live up those standards. Skins wants to have its cake and eat it. There’s always been an uneasy mix of comedy and drama, never being able to settle on one post.
What is needed is an experienced head writer to force the writing team to stick to one direction. There were more ideas being thrown around than they could handle and at times it felt like an overexcited kid telling you a story of what they got up to last week, not being able to finish sentences and tripping over words in their rush to tell you the amazing thing they did.
Effy was clearly meant to be the centre of this generation but never did anything to warrant her status. While her brother Tony was a manipulative self serving bastard, Effy never carved out a personality of her own beyond staring into the middle distance. She cracked someone’s head in then went on a downward spiral, but all of this was too little too late.
The stand-out star of the show was clearly Jack O’Connell’s excellent Cook, providing nearly all of the highlights single-handedly, closely followed by Oliver Barbieri’s cheerily monotone JJ and Merveille Lukeba, sorely underused as Thomas. Also underused were the Fitch twins AKA Kathryn and Megan Prescott, whose all too brief moments showed some promise. Providing some much needed light relief was Lisa Backwell’s charmingly naïve Pandora.
The award for most self-absorbed goes Naomi. I get the idea she was meant to be tough and independent instead of thoughtless and selfish. Biggest loser of all was Freddy, who just looked confused all the time and chased after the equally dull Effy.
Skins‘ future, for the meantime, is assured at least one more generation and a possible feature film spin-off. But its position as the rebel child of TV is in doubt. Rather than the hedonistic excess of the original series, there was just angst. Angst over lost loves, angst over present loves and angst over possible loves.
There were also moments so divorced from reality, the entire line-up may as well have been played by costumed superheroes. Ironically, the far superior Misfits managed to not only have a sympathetic and distinct line-up of dysfunctional teenagers, but also outdo Skins on the sex and drugs and, more importantly, have some actual drama! If a series about super-powered teenagers is more believable than a group of teens in Bristol, then something has gone wrong.
If the original generation were that guy you know through friends who’s always on the hunt for tunes and pills, then this lot are the emo kid who’s just been dumped for being depressing. With a new line-up due next year, they could do well to rediscover their party spirit and leave their emotional baggage at the door.
Ultimately, Skins won’t have won over any new fans with this generation. In fact, there’s a fair chance it’s lost a few along the way. The writing team need to learn how to start treating their audience as grownups or else they may find themselves being outgrown.
Check out our review of episode 7 here.