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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Skins: Fire - The Influential Teen Drama comes of age in a well-acted and visually-striking episode



There's no denying that E4's Skins was an incredibly influential programme and helped launch a new generation of youth-orientated programmes. The show was a breath of fresh air when it first debuted back in 2007 and was arguably E4's first homegrown hit. It also opened the door for other popular youth-orientated shows such as The Inbetweeners and Misifts. However, the last two series of the show didn't exactly set the world on fire and this year Skins will finally come to an end. The last series of Skins will catch up with three of the show's most popular characters and find out where they are now.

This reunion series starts with a two-part story surrounding Skins' longest-serving character Effy (Kaya Scodelario). Once the programme's hedonisitic party girl, Effy is now working in a rather mundane job as an assistant in a London hedge-fund firm. Her days consist of making coffee for the bitchy Victoria (Lara Pulver) and gossiping with fellow assistant Jane (Amy Wren). However, Effy's mind is still working in overdrive and she uses her skills to spot a problem in the firm's monthly reports. After trying to do things the right way, Effy learns that she'll only be able to get the top if she manipulates her way there. So, posing as an accounts executive, Effy meets with a client and secures his business for the firm. Effy's actions impress her boss Jake (Kayan Novak) so he offers her a job as a trader in her own right. Effy then tricks loveable nerd Dominic (Criag Roberts) in order to give her insider information on a corporate takeover which in turn earns the company over a million pounds. As Effy's professional life goes from strength to strength, it seems that it comes at a cost as she fails to see that her friend is suffering.



That friend in question is Naomi (Lily Loveless), who has made the trip down to London with her former college friend. While Effy is seemingly settled, the once level-headed Naomi has struggled to find her place in the city. She worries that her relationship with Emily, who is currently living in New York, is on the rocks and spends her days getting stoned with a bunch of creative types. As the episode roles on, Naomi tries to make it as a stand-up comedian but gets booed off the stage during her first gig. Naomi also takes several trips to the doctors and her final diagnosis isn't great. In one of the episode's final scenes she reveals to a devastated Effy that she has cancer, news that makes Effy go out straight away and sleep with Jake.

I feel that the majority of Skins' earlier episodes were full off sex, profanity and drug taking, and while most are on display here they're not the driving force of the story. Instead Jess Brittain's script is more character-led and focuses on the story of two young small-town girls trying to make their way in the big city. Though the majority of the scenes set in the financial world are fairly clichéd, I still found Effy's story believable. I felt that the character had grown up enough to be a responsible adult but at the same time her manipulative qualities and brilliant mind were used to great effect. Effy's story is brilliantly counteracted by that of Naomi who hasn't fully embraced adult life and appears not to be paying her half of the rent. Naomi represents where Effy comes from and the clash between her and two of Effy's clients was one of the episode's most effective scenes. However, I'm not too crazy about Naomi's cancer storyline as it almost seems to have been tacked on to the episode as a way of sending Effy into a downward spiral. But at least it means that Naomi will have more to do in the second episode, especially seeing as Emily will be returning.



Skins was always a series that excelled visually and this episode was no different. The cinematography perfectly reflected the themes of Effy being overwhelmed by her new city life. Whether it be panoramic shots of the city centre or simply following Effy's journey on the tube home, the episode captured the grand scale of London life. There were also echoes to the past, as I found the scenes of Effy at various nightclubs could've easily have been lifted from the show's earlier series. Skins has also been a programme that has music to great effect and that is a continuing theme with Ellie Goulding producing a new track purely for this episode.

Another reason this episode worked so well was due to Kaya Scodelario who has grown up as Effy, first playing the part when she was only fourteen.  Scodelario, who was on screen throughout the episode, always portrayed Effy as someone who let her actions do the talking. And indeed that continued to be the case here as a lot of the other characters talked a lot more than her. Scodelario showed us that Effy was still great at charming men whether it be the nervous Dom or the cocky Jake, Effy isn't afraid to use her sexuality to get what she wants. At the same time, Scodelario portrayed a more vulnerable side to Effy as she seemed out of her depth during her first days as a trader. Lily Loveless was equally at ease slipping back into her old character and I definitely found her performance as Naomi to be the more interesting of the two. Loveless has always made Naomi a fully-rounded character and she perfectly portrays Naomi's difficulties at adjusting to big city life. Of the supporting cast, it was great to see Facejacker's Kayan Novak playing against type as the slippery Jake while Craig Roberts was adorable as the lovelorn Dominic.



Overall, Skins: Fire showed that the raucous teenage show has come of age. No longer just a constant stream of parties, this episode of Skins saw the characters attempts at growing up. The episode's visual style and performances were its biggest strengths while it feels like the show has evolved into something more grown-up. Though the episode wasn't perfect, especially in the more clichéd city scenes, I ultimately found the return of Skins to be a pleasant surprise and it was good to see that, to an extent, the programme has finally grown-up.

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