In the next instalment of the ‘Late to the Show’ series, Luke Addison looks at the second generation of Skins….
This is the second of my three part Late to the Show series on Skins, if you missed my first part, read it here.
As like the first two seasons, the third and fourth seasons of Skins follows a new group of teenagers on their journey through college and the events that occur. Where the first generation set the bar for parties, drama and silly situations, the second raises it on all accounts. Where the first generation had Tony, Sid and Michelle, the second has Cook, Freddie and Effy (Tony’s sister).
Gone are the subtle storylines to be replaced by tongue in cheek gangsters, brothels, granny racing and riots, none of which are particularly believable, although hilarious in their own right. Mentioned in the first article was the general belief that Skins isn’t a realistic portrayal of teenage life, and it’s the second generation that certainly gives this argument weight.
In the space of nineteen episodes, there’s a riot that takes over a college – all involved seem to go without punishment -, an assault on Katie by Effy that leads them to ‘go on the run’ and their eventual return having no consequence, a psychopathic counsellor that kills one of the gang for reasons out of the blue, a gangster who solves his disputes with chilli eating contests… in fact, there’s so many stupid occurrences throughout the two seasons that my mind is having issues remembering them all.
Gone is the semi-realistic portrayal of teenage life, and it’s replaced by parties, drugs and a heap of ridiculous drama that the average teenage would have trouble finding even if they went looking for it.
With that said, the third and fourth seasons do manage to do a few things right. Firstly, Cook is by far the best character on the show. Too most he’s nothing more than a try-hard chav that has to be seen and heard, the sort of person that ‘throws punches now and asks questions later’, but by the end of the fourth season it’s clear that unlike he says, he does in fact care about a few things; namely his friends. Clearly on a self-destructive path from the start, he doesn’t really get a grip on things throughout the two seasons, regardless he still manages to make an impact on his friend’s lives, for better and worse, and his fierce loyalty to them shines through as time goes on. That’s not to say he’s not a dick, because he is, but in the same way as Tony was, Cook balances it with some sort of normality.
Another point that the show got right was the romance between Naomi and Emily. The first time I watched the show I remember thinking to myself that this was the first time I’d seen a lesbian relationship portrayed as a normal one; in that they had problems, weren’t all about the sex and ultimately their love for one another was no different to that of a straight couple. In the time since then, I’ve only seen one same-sex relationship in television close to that, and that’s of Agron and Nasir in Spartacus, a very different show to this.
Whilst the rest of the cast aren’t particularly boring, they’re not that entertaining either, Thomas seems shoehorned in as a love-interest for Pandora, who is supposed to be comic relief, but in my eyes her naivety and Rowntree’s Random type of vocabulary is more irritating than anything else. JJ suffers from all sorts of mental disorders including Asperger’s, and having a friend whom suffers from it, I can say the actor did a fine job of portraying such a condition, although his stories were a little forced at times. Katie – Emily’s twin – is the generic bitch template that turns nice, usually seen in chick flicks from Hollywood, and as such doesn’t really offer a lot to the whole thing. Effy is a far cry away from the mute, smouldering girl she was in the first generation, throwing caution to the wind and taking every opportunity to ensure she has fun, regardless of the consequences; and Freddie seems to be the one to pick up the pieces for everyone, whether it’s Effy, Cook or his sister, even though he seems tired of it all.
That’s not to say that the show isn’t entertaining, because it is, it just doesn’t feel like Skins. It’s almost a parody of the previous two seasons, with the subtlety all but lost, the drama between friends amped up to the point of the ridiculous. You’ll very often find yourself wondering exactly what the characters are thinking from episode to episode. Another noticeable change in the direction of the show is the lack of college scenes, for the most part. The first two seasons would often feature the corridors and classes of the show, more so in the first season than the second. Apart from a few scenes in the first episode and the aforementioned riots episode, it’s as if the college isn’t even there and they’re just a bunch of random teenagers dossing about and causing trouble, which to be fair, isn’t far off the mark.
Favourite moment of the second generation: It’s going to be one of Cook’s moments, for sure. Whether it’s his self-pantsing at the induction ceremony after the principal demanded “everyone see his tattoo”, or his infectious laugh, Cook definitely takes the biscuit.
Something they made me laugh that certainly shouldn’t have was JJ’s observation that Naomi backwards was ‘Imoan’, which is certainly up there too.
Least favourite moment of the second generation: This is difficult, because there’s so many. Whether it’s the questionable actions of the characters on a regular basis, or the stupid situations they find themselves in, there’s too many choices to pick just one. Perhaps the most glaring moment would be the sharp decline into insanity that Effy suffers, going from ecstatic now she’s with Freddy to suicidal and unable to cope with seemingly no reason, certainly not one mentioned, anyway.
Most depressing moment of the second generation: I think it may be the closet romantic in me, but it’s the speech Naomi makes to Emily in the last episode, winning her back and cementing their relationship, making it stronger than ever.
The show misses a lot of markers with scenes that should have been sad or depressing that just wasn’t, for example, the death at the end of the fourth season. By that point I was just glad to hear the moaning over with, although the retribution at Cook’s hands was satisfying.
So there you have it, the second generation is nowhere near as strong as the first, although it did give birth to my favourite character in Cook, and the best relationship of the whole lot in Naomi and Emily. Keep your eyes peeled for my final Late to the Show article on the third generation and feel free to express your opinions below.
Luke Addison is an aspiring film journalist with a passion for all things television and film. Follow him on Twitter @Novo_Slev.