This review contains spoilers.
Skins has always been a magnet for the controversy-driven press, be it for the abundance of sex and drugs on screen, or the glamorisation of certain lifestyle. Yet the show has remained surprisingly free from violence over its six year run.
This week’s episode, centred on Dakota Blue Richards’ Franky, has brought physical violence to the fore, and uses the opportunity to explore teenage fight clubs, dysfunctional relationships and domestic violence.
But Skins, the teenage bible that it is, rarely stoops to give a lecture on any of the troubles young people find themselves in. The beauty of a show with this much freedom is the ability to explore the dirty corners of society through young eyes, something that the glossy teen dramas of US network television often fail miserably at. In Skins, we’ve seen eating disorders, sexual abuse, terminal illness, teen runaways and parental death from a unique perspective this way.
Anyone who saw last year’s Franky would have been aware of this week’s potential. Franky is the darkest and most intriguing character of the current generation, and the fact that she is also one of the show’s finest achievements makes her all the more entertaining to watch. I’ve made it no secret that I favour the characters of series one to four, but, with Franky, I’ll make an exception.
With Richards’ performance, we can imagine the genuine pain and twisted desire behind her composed exterior, and it is with these captivating characters that Skins regularly excels. As with most episodes, the plot is farfetched and a little ludicrous, but the intention to explore the psyche of this troubled girl remains intact throughout. Grieving the loss of Grace, a death that looks set to plague the group for much of the series, Franky turns to bad-boy Luke for solace and an escape.
This escape comes in the form of regular fights in local hang-outs, and Franky’s initial fear and distaste almost instantly turns to excitement in the thrill of such mindless violence. Soon, the violence bleeds into her new relationship with Luke, and alienation from her friends and family only helps to push her closer to the destructive partnership.
The issue of domestic violence is not made particularly overt until the episode’s final scenes, and the increasingly aggressive sex scenes are bravely left ambiguous for the viewer.
Grace’s presence can be felt everywhere, however, and this leads us to realise how integral she was to the group. Franky, the eternal outcast, for the first time found genuine goodness in her friend, and the loss of that light may have pushed her back inside of herself. When Grace returns in ghostly form, it’s with a sense of detachment and slight eeriness, an approach that could possibly be used to interpret each character’s memory of her. She represented only one thing to Franky, and so her return doesn’t offer any comfort.
Franky may actually be the darkest Skins has ever dared to tread. It recalls the equally haunting Effy episode of series one, but here offers the story more depth and maturity. This has a lot to do with the acting on display, both from Richards and her protective parents, but also much to do with the writing and directing of this particular instalment. Even though I might personally have preferred the Rich episode of a couple of weeks ago, as a character study, Franky delivers for the second time.
Read our review of the last episode, here.