Skins series 5 episode 3 review

Skins is continuing to impress Jake, as it treats its audience with increasing respect...

Skins

With the first two episodes of this series, Skins has explored what it is to be an outsider as a teen. Franky, the androgynous creative, and Rich, the metalhead, both declaring their individuality and coming together as friends, are unified by their distrust of the dreaded ‘mainstream’ and their nemesis, Mini.

Mini is the girl who has it all, the looks, the star rugby player boyfriend and the popularity. But it isn’t enough to fill the void in her soul, the void that leaves her threatened by Franky turning up and being herself. After turning Franky into a mirror image of herself, Mini stuck the knife in by publicly humiliating her.

So, how could you ever humanise someone who makes it her mission to destroy anyone who differs from her? As we see in this episode, Mini’s private life isn’t the privileged luxury she’d have us think it is. Her estate surroundings are in stark contrast to Rich’s relatively comfortable suburban pad. We see the daily routine she puts herself through to keep her body trim, the carefully weighted mix of seeds and fruit she calls breakfast and early morning workouts.

Organising a charity fashion show at Roundview, Mini doesn’t miss an opportunity to get back at Grace for daring to have other friends and dumps her as designer.  But after dropping a friend, the house of cards starts to collapse all around her. Her boyfriend Nick is getting hornier by the day and Mini doesn’t know how else she can keep him. As her confidence crumbles, she lashes out at Liv, the one friend who stood by her, before realising just how much she stands to lose.

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For a series that made its name showing teens in the throes of wild hedonism, the tone of this episode is surprisingly moralistic. Mini is revealed to be a girl cracking under the weight of her own self-image.

Being pressured to lose her virginity by Nick, who has a grin on loan from Jack Nicholson’s Joker, we see her vulnerability and constant need for validation come to the fore. As she’s too insecure to reveal she’s never been with a boy before, she crams in a load of research to suddenly transform herself into a sexual goddess. After building a carefully constructed public image, the idea that her mask could slip terrifies her, and she’s prepared to keep it up at any cost.

In the first 2 generations of Skins, the depiction of teens having casual sex caused a few monocles to drop out of shocked eyes. The uproar over the MTV remake in the US likened it to child porn. So, for series 5 to show how boys can pressure girls into bed is huge change in direction.

For once, rather than giving its audience a steady diet of shagging and wanking scenes, it’s talking to them like adults. This comes across a little too heavy-handed, though, when Mini walks back to her place bumping into her single and love-hungry mother, played by original Kochanski (Red Dwarf), Clare Grogan, seeing a version of herself in the future. There’s a weird virgin/whore dichotomy going on here, especially with the character Liv, who, it seems, has problems of her own.

Freya Mavor does a great job of playing Mini up as a cartoon bitch one minute and a shaken young girl the next. There’s something of Molly Ringwald about her, which is interesting as Mini herself is reminiscent of Ringwald’s character, Claire Standish, in John Hughes’ 80s teen masterpiece, The Breakfast Club.

Far from being derivative, for once Skins seems to be representing genuine teenagers. Rather than whimsical fantasies of outsmarting low rent gangsters, we’re seeing storylines that affect teenagers of every generation. Mini’s story isn’t uncommon, and that makes her more than just another TV villain.

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Read our review of episode 2 here.

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