March 21st, 2011
“Is that why I’m here? To tell stories?”
In reviewing last week’s penultimate episode of MTV’s Skins, “Tara,” at The A.V. Club, I sort of offered my general take on the show thus far: while it has not lived up to the British original, it has made enough variations to define itself as largely independent from that series’ successes and failures. While it remained uneven throughout its run, things started to gel towards the end: actors improved, plots became more interesting, and the branching out into Tara’s perspective was a welcome departure from the British model.
Of course, just because the show is now being considered largely based on its own standards does not mean it won’t fail to live up to those standards in “Eura/Everyone.” In some ways, the finale is the ultimate test: as stories reach what more or less resemble conclusions, the strength of the series’ storytelling is challenged. Skins is a show that tells stories by limiting its perspective, as individual episodes are framed by one narrative while intersecting with others. As a result, an episode like “Eura/Everyone” where the frame character is notable in her absence asks the series’ collective cast to fill in the gaps, never quite allowing any one of them to fully take over (as evidenced by the “Everyone” side of the title).
Ideally, the characters will have taken on such a complexity that the ensemble feel should feel like a culmination of a season’s worth of development. More realistically, however, “Eura/Everyone” will reinforce the hierarchy between characters, their “resolutions” revealing which of them became three-dimensional teenagers and which were left to feel like characters in a story.
That hierarchy is strikingly evident in this finale, although I’d argue that “Eura/Everyone” is more successful than not when it counts the most.
Lowering Expectations for Skins Season 3
August 7th, 2009
Earlier this year, British hit Skins returned to television with a third season in a way that few shows have done before. Gone were every single original cast member save some supporting characters and young Effy, whose brother Tony was at the center of the first two seasons. This was quite controversial for those who loved the first two seasons, which at times really were extremely compelling pieces of television in terms of both writing and directing. I think those first two seasons were ultimately a tad inconsistent, but they evolved in such a way as to really endear me to those characters; even when the second season eliminated any sense of Sid’s innocence, and never quite knew how it wanted the rest of the characters to handle Tony’s newfound learning impairments, the show was so stylistically interesting and raw in its depiction of teenage lust and life that it had a fair deal of momentum heading into its third season.
The season debuted on BBC America last night, months after it was originally supposed to air, so viewers on this side of the pond have been able to see a premiere that feels like an attempt to fit these characters into the show’s previous mould: there’s debauchery, there’s sex, there’s the beginnings of a love triangle, and characters are defined based on their individual characteristics but begin to show signs of resisting those definitions. It all seems like the show is moving along the exact same track before.
And it is in this fact, I hate to tell you, that the show falls off the rails, struggling for the entire season to recapture what made the first two seasons engaging while not quite understanding that there are fundamental realities their storylines include which can’t be reconciled by sex or violence. This group of characters is not the same as the group before, containing its own intricacies and its own difficulties, but because the show around them hasn’t fundamentally change there is very little organic about the third season. More than ever, the machinations of a show designed to dull the senses to extreme teenage behaviour come into focus, and those storylines which survive due so by either isolation or in the fact that the show has never quite gone there before.
So consider the post that follows, containing a few light spoilers for Season 3 (and a whole whack of spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2), my public service for the day: I wish I could say otherwise, but if you’re expecting Skins Season 3 to live up to what the first two seasons offered, you’re going to be disappointed.