You Gotta Have Faith?: Skam Season 4, Episode 4

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Season 4, Episode 4

May 5, 2017

When you binge through Skam, you don’t always realize how the week’s clips have been divided: even if you’re aware of the real time conceit, you aren’t always thinking about the balance between the different days, although I imagine that many episodes ended on significant Friday episodes based on the weekly “climax” created by the linear airings.

This week, though, marks the first time in the fourth season where the Friday episode represented over half of the week’s episode, as a foreshadowed café visit for Sana and Noora turns into an unexpected chance for Sana and Yousef to talk through what they’ve been going through as of late. In addition to reaffirming their status as the season’s OTP, the episode also commits to a very different type of “courtship,” especially when compared to the comparable episode last season.

That episode, you might remember, was Even and Isak’s Romeo + Juliet moment in the swimming pool, a strikingly romantic scene that serves as a crucial turning point in their relationship. And so I can’t say I’m surprised that some people have noted that season four seems “slow,” as the easiest point of comparison between the two seasons—the relationships—are moving at such different speeds. It’s a return to the second season, really, as Noora and William’s first significant time together—when she gets stranded at his party and serenades him with “More Than Words”—took place in week three, but their kiss wasn’t until two episodes later. And although that is faster on paper than the relationship here, it’s notable that the foundation for William and Noora was built the previous season, a foundation that didn’t exist for either Isak and Even or Sana and Yousef.

I’ve said before there’s a risk that this won’t feel like Sana’s season if the show leans too heavily into telling stories about past POV characters, and that remains true. However, the pacing of the central relationship is distinctly Sana: of course she would move slower than her friends, given her religious beliefs and her steadfast commitment to controlling her own fate. Moreover, the show is also doing a better job of developing this element of Sana’s character in her interactions with her friends: this week’s storyline with Noora is indeed primarily serving to provide exposition about what happened with William (more on that in a bit), but Sana is also hiding her own heartbreak over Yousef in her attempts to help Noora get over hers. It’s not subtle to us as the audience, but it would probably be invisible to Noora, as none of the squad see Sana in this light, which is proving a useful fact in creating a stronger sense of us being rooted in a perspective of Sana that her friends can’t access (even if the contrast isn’t as striking as it was with the past POV characters).

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Similarly, the way Yousef and Sana’s walk home from dropping a wasted Elias off at Noora’s apartment—anddd I just realized that Elias is at Noora’s apartment right after Sana told her she should date Muslim guys—plays out offers a philosophically complex take on the show’s meet cute structure. While Noora and Isak bonded with their respective partners over music and food/drink, Sana takes a different path: the initial awkwardness is punctured by some basketball and trash talk, sure, but when they eventually start talking it’s about their respective faiths. We might be missing parts of their conversation, but we don’t see Yousef confronting her about unfriending him, and we don’t see much in the way of small talk. We see someone who cares deeply about her faith trying to understand someone else’s, and working through the logic by which they each relate to Islam.

The resulting conversation doesn’t “resolve” their differences, but it’s actually a much more intimate conversation than anything we saw at a similar stage from the other couples. Although we could look at Yousef’s answer as a convenient way of getting the exposition about Even and Mikael out in the open, it’s also an effective way of shading his character’s disconnect with Islam, and moving beyond “Oh, it’s okay, I’m not Muslim” toward a more complicated character motivation. Sana, meanwhile, realizes that in many ways they feel very similarly about the value of Islam: they just have different ways of “taking the good,” with Yousef choosing to do so outside of the religion and Sana choosing to do so from within. Sana, like Yousef, gives little weight to the Quran’s statements on homosexuality, but they just have different ways of reconciling that with their faith, which is maybe not as much of a dealbreaker as she imagined, but still requires some inherent negotiation.

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It’s a strikingly adult conversation all around, really. I love the bookending of the conversation with two lengthy shots of the two of them walking along. The first is long and awkward, as neither entirely knows what to say before Yousef starts dribbling the ball, but the second has Yousef asking the question he hadn’t wanted to ask earlier, calling the very value of religion into question based on the way it divides people. Sana doesn’t answer that question, but it’s one she’s likely asked and answered herself based on the way she’s offered sound philosophical guidance to Noora and Isak in the past two seasons. Their bonding here is not about one or the other trying to convince the other to feel a particular way: they’re each asking and answering questions, opening up on a subject that they—or at least Sana—rarely get to talk about despite being such a huge part of their identity. It’s in that way the opposite of Isak’s sexuality: while that was something he actively repressed and thus struggled to talk to others about, Sana is very open about her religion, but that in some ways makes it harder to talk about the nuances of it among predominantly Norwegian friends.

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Because of the depth of their conversation, anchored by some strong performances and great golden hour cinematography, this feels like the most significant episode of the season thus far, as well as the most anchored in Sana’s perspective. This is impressive when you consider how much exposition we got on the William and Even fronts, as Noora and Isak’s stories are cleaned up. In the case of William, the reveal that Noora failed to testify against his brother struck me as a bit random, but leaves the door open for reconciliation (given the “breakup” is really just a failure of communication), which seems like a plausible bit of fan service. But in the case of Even, if Yousef’s perspective is to be trusted, the truth about Even and Mikael is a different type of tragedy, and one that actually shook Yousef’s faith. As much as the truth is worse than some of the speculated alternatives, I appreciate that the “secret” as it were isn’t something salacious, but rather rooted in sexuality (Even’s), faith (Mikael’s), and disease (Even’s bipolar disorder), and the way people’s misunderstanding of all can lead to something like a suicide attempt, especially among teenagers.

Although the chances of Isak and Sana’s stories converging like this is admittedly a little contrived (I don’t know if it was planned or decided retroactively, we’ll have to see if Andem comments) the “facts” as Yousef presented them allow for the story to resonate thematically in ways similar to Sana’s, and it felt like part of her story here instead of just a leftover from last season. Whether or not this holds as the season goes on and all of the stories start to seek resolution remains to be seen, but I think this was a key week of consolidation, anchoring the story in Sana’s perspective effectively.

Cultural Observations

  • Given that the show made such a big show of Noora giving her email password to Sana in public, with Sara present, that’s got to be some type of foreshadowing. Will Sana use Noora’s email to send an email to William? Or see an email from Elias (if my realization above plays out)? Or will Sara use it to do something shady with the bus situation? Something’s gotta go down there. (Also: this is an insane thing to do and I refuse to believe anyone would actually do it. You’re on a laptop. Just turn the laptop around and let her log in!)
  • This is the second season—after Noora’s—where Vilde has been something of a ticking time bomb, but with more “story” in Noora and Isak’s narratives she’s been continuing to take a backseat. Curious to see how her frustration over losing control of the bus emerges.
  • Chris’ trip to Berlin: a convenient way to acknowledge the actress was unavailable, or just a realization they didn’t have a role for her to play in the story so the needed to explain away her absence?
  • So I read Sana’s denial that Elias drank as a blatant lie, protecting his lifestyle in the way that he helped her protect hers after the bus meeting, but I saw some talk online that suggested maybe this particular drunkenness was a new development. That doesn’t really track for me, given Sana’s reaction, but we’ll see how much more of Elias’ perspective we get in the weeks ahead.
  • Speaking of Elias: this is the first week without a Hei Briskeby video, which is perhaps logical given how much Yousef we got in the episode proper, but I sort of want to see where else they decide to take that channel and its political dimensions.
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6 Comments

Filed under Skam

6 responses to “You Gotta Have Faith?: Skam Season 4, Episode 4

  1. Terrence

    Thanks for a great review! I think Ina/Chris and Carl/Eskild were in Berlin with their Drama class in real life 🙂

  2. I expect the absence of Chris was due to actor availability. Ina Svenningdal asked to have her role reduced after she was accepted to the prestigious National Academy of Theatre, which would interfere with the filming schedule. They only accept 8 students a year, so it makes sense that she’d put that chance ahead of her role in Skam.

  3. Ruby

    I absolutely love reading your reviews – you give such great insight into the episodes. As soon as I’ve finished an episode I wait for your thoughts 🙂

    Thank you and keep it up !

    • Grallonsphere

      Perhaps it’s just me but the ‘Even reveal’ seemed out of character or even entirely contrived.

      Not once in S3, after he was introduced, were we given any hint that Even could have been struggling about his own sexuality; now we’re told he went depressive and in full homophobic rampage after being turned down by Mikail… Mere months before meeting Isak to whom he appeared like a smooth criminal, pursuing him with aplomb. This does leaves greatly me skeptical and feels more like fan-servicing – which accentuate the impression of Sana having her season hijacked by previous mains.

      Furthermore it is implied he had deeply religious phase which could not have been limited to a manic episode, even though its climax might have occurred during one such. Again there was never any inkling of this in S3 with Even casually boozing/smoking.

      Finally all this backstory happened while he was still with Sonja… who made no reference (other than Even learning the Quran) of any of this to Isak during their confrontation.

      No this feels like cramming to tie up every lose ends before the final wrap up. Other than the central (and so far narrow) Sana POV which is excellent, the rest of this season is getting increasingly irritating. Like Julie Andem is constantly trying to throw bones to the frothing Evak shippers…

      • There’s definitely some element of a retcon here, but the show is definitely relying on Even’s bipolar disorder to help explain the swings in behavior, on a general level. As for the Quran, it’s less a “religious phase” and more that during an episode he tried to specifically understand the nature of Mikael’s religion, and in that text found language that—at least according to Yousef—triggered something and led him to attempt suicide.

        I agree there’s a lot of questions about how all of this played out, but the nature of the backstory does anchor it in questions of religion, which at least hits the theme of Sana’s season, if not necessarily being tied to her directly.

        • Sylvie

          Whilst I do think that the (Evak/)Even storyline’s presence in S4 could be attributed to Andem trying to appease/please Evak fans, I actually don’t think much retconning took place. If you rewatch S3, you can catch a ton of references to the (still rather mysterious and unclear*) Bakka event! Even alludes to having suicidal ideation / thoughts multiple times, going so far as to say that someone has to die for a love story (Even/Mikael’s?) to be great; Sonja’s reaction to Isak (during Even’s episode) is more understandable if you know that something similar had happened with another guy (Mikael) before; Vilde refers to the Bakka event when she and Isak are texting at one point in S3, mentioning that Even (was famous for having, at one point,) lost it and ranting on his old school’s FB page …

          * I don’t buy Yousef’s account of the events. I think that he is either missing chunks of the story OR that this story is Yousef’s aluminium leg story.

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