Since January 2007, Skins has been a consistent (in the yearly schedule, if not in quality) mainstay of teen drama. Although it arguably never matched the success of the first generation, as seen in series one and two, it always retained the raw quality that made it so relevant to young people in the first place; even those of us who weren’t wild at all could happily live vicariously through the characters without having to do anything questionable ourselves. On Monday night Skins finished forever (or so we’ve been told) in what was essentially a six episode appendix. But how successful was it?
Considering each of the three generations making up the previous six series had been filled with a wealth of colourful and contrasting characters, series seven feels very strange in the way it focuses on just three of the show’s memorable main characters, and only one at a time. Skins was always one for long, brooding shots, usually set either in loud nightclubs/parties or silent fields/rooms, but now that there are less characters who need screen time (and much less plot…) this escalates dangerously in a sickening manner. That may sound dramatic, but it certainly gets dull and therefore sickeningly annoying to watch.
The first two episodes (Skins Fire) are based around Effy, the character who bridged the gap between generations one and two. She single-handedly provided a lot of drama back then, with mental illness, drug abuse and a deadly love triangle, but now she works at a hedge fund which is pretty boring TV. Seriously, she makes tea and then she learns more about the business, then gets insider advice from someone who has a crush on her, then gets a promotion, then gets together with the boss? It’s not even as exciting as it might sound.
The only good thing about Skins Fire was Naomi and Emily’s long distance relationship in the midst of Naomi’s cancer. That was touching, dramatic and interesting; all the things you expect Skins should be. Naomi’s distress at hurting her love by being terminally ill, and Emily’s anger that Effy didn’t tell her to travel back from New York earlier, is heartbreaking.
On to Cassie’s double bill: Skins Pure. (Side note- what relevance do these subtitles even have?!) I have already seen some feminist observations of these two episodes pointing out the fact that Cassie spends most of the episodes being focused on for her looks before having to take up a maternal role towards her young brother as her dad is incapable of looking after him. Think of this what you will; it is a valid point, but I still think the biggest problem with Skins Pure is that it is just boring.
Cassie spends a lot of time gazing into the distance. She often refuses to engage properly in a conversation. A lot of the plot revolves around taking pictures so the camera often acts as if it is in slower time too, but that trick gets old when you use it constantly. The second episode picked up as emotions rose when Cassie and Jakob visit her dad in the middle of nowhere and also when Jakob and Yaniv literally fought over her, but otherwise it was a non-event for generation one’s most eccentric character.
Skins Rise is based around generation two’s Cook as a drug dealer in Manchester- here’s the gritty stuff we remember Skins for! Of course, it’s the way the characters deal with these issues that always made the series interesting, and although Skins Rise has some pacing and characterisation issues (of Emma, mostly) it is still by far the most successful part of the series.
The first episode is a look at the Manchester drug and party scene, and how dangerous it can actually be to get mixed up with the wrong people; Cook finally figures this out at the end. The second is more of a low budget thriller, as the characters first hide out in a country house and then run around in the woods as gunshots go off. It was surprisingly tense, whilst simultaneously rounding Cook’s character off nicely (well, they had to get one of them right!) as the climax mirrors that of series four.
Skins was never the best TV show in the world, but it provided teenagers with a glimpse into the darker world that they should probably stay away from, all channelled through compelling and relatable characters. Although the first two thirds of series seven were more miss than hit (and even generation three was often slated), it feels appropriate that the whole thing finished with Cook renouncing his young, reckless self by making a mature, selfless decision in a critical moment. Despite Skins’ insistence on killing characters off meaning that Naomi never had the chance to learn from the past as the others did, this finale shows how anyone can grow up and become a better person, which is surely what such an addendum should do.