Over the past few episodes, we’ve gotten to know the gang. But there’s been one character in particular that’s been kept a mystery.
Liv, last seen pulling up her knickers with Nick, was once the only one who would stand by Mini’s side when she was still a megabitch. But all of that’s in the past. Mini’s now eager to make up with everyone and be like totally amazing mates, yeah? Except now, Liv isn’t as eager to stand by her.
In the opening minute, we see Liv getting it on with Nick in Alo’s van and being less than satisfied. Then we have a glimpse into her life with a domineering new age mother, who takes more interest in healing crystals than her own children, and a younger sci-fi-obsessed sister.
When the gang come round to make use of Liv’s empty house, she has to get out, to run away from her own guilt at seeing Mini. After dumping her younger sibling at an all night sci-fi film fest, she goes to see older sister, Bella, who’s doing time, possibly for assaulting their mother, and not for being a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist in a crappy vampire romance novel.
So, in the first 10 minutes, we know that Liv is deeply unsatisfied and is looking to fill the void. When she meets mystery man, Matty, at the coach station, they both see themselves in each other. The majority of the episode becomes a great two-hander with our free spirits as they embark on one last hedonistic rush through Bristol before leaving it for good. But Liv can’t just run away from her problems.
From knowing absolutely nothing about Liv, we learn pretty much everything about her this episode. She’s someone who’s desperate to be cared for, which leads her into the bedroom more than she’d like to admit. Frustrated with her home life, she wants to run away somewhere, anywhere. So, when she meets a kindred spirit in the enigmatic Matty, she’s prepared to follow him to the ends of the Earth, until it comes out that he’s Nick’s brother. Oops.
From hardly appearing in the first few episodes, Laya Lewis’ performance goes through all the ranges brilliantly. Liv’s frustration, hedonistic joy and deep regret are convincing and moving in their own way. The exploration of Liv’s and Mini’s broken friendship is as powerful as Skins gets, depicting the speed in which everything can change as a teenager.
In the past, Skins would drop plot developments suddenly and without warning. Remember Thomas becoming an Olympic level athlete in the previous finale? Or how about Effy’s descent into mental illness? So far this series, each development has been like a natural flow.
Matty is a character with potential, unlike Effy, who was sold to the audience as a genius. The same Effy who played off three friends in a race to get into her knickers. This time around, there’s some obvious conflict with Matty and his family, which sets up some exploration of that for a future episode.
There are also hints of a love triangle with Matty, Franky and Liv. Which, while not original ground, is again a natural direction for this series to take. An element which is so far lacking in the third generation of Skins, is the one of surprise.
There’s a danger that this could all turn into Hollyoaks, with naked bums, drugs and proper swearing. But for an entry level drama aimed at teens, Skins has come a long way from the last two series. It has something to say and it’s saying it well.
Read our review of episode 3 here.
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