Jach Discusses: Skins Fire Pt 1

Posted: July 7, 2013 by Jachelle in General Media, Jach, Recaps, Skins, Television
Tags: , , , , , , ,

For the past six years, the UK drama Skins has followed the lives of a group of teenagers as they navigate their way through Roundview College. For its seventh and final season, the series deviated from its usual format and is presenting three final episodes, with each episode being released in two separate parts. Each episode will follow the life of a major cast member from past seasons as they move on from their teenage years and begin their adult lives. Episode one, Fire, follows Effy Stonem. Episode two, Rise, will catch up with James Cook. And the final episode, Pure, will follow series 1 and 2 character, Cassie Ainsworth. The tagline for the series claims that time changes everyone. Let’s see if they’re right.

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For those of you just tuning in, here’s a quick rundown of everything you’ll need to know. Elizabeth “Effy” Stonem was the Queen Bee of Roundview College in Bristol. She was popular, mysterious, and completely in control. Or at least that’s what she wanted everyone around her to think. Truth was, most of it was just an act, and Effy was not in control of herself or the people around her. Near the end of her final year of sixth form, Effy suffered a schizophrenic breakdown and tried to commit suicide. She spent some time in a rehabilitation clinic with a counselor who did more harm than good to her psyche. Meanwhile in a side plot, Effy’s friends Naomi Campbell (yes, that is her actual name) and Emily Fitch navigated a  tumultuous relationship with one another. At the end of the series, Effy seemed to be coming to grips with her demons, while Naomily made their peace and planned to go traveling abroad with one another.

The episode picks up four years later where a now 21 year old Effy is living in London and working at a Hedge Fund. I have to say, I was a little disappointed at first that there was no new intro. In the past, I’ve always looked forward to seeing them at the start of each new season. But I quickly realized that this series is going to be much different and that the intro wouldn’t have really worked. So goodbye, my intros. You shall be missed.

The episode starts in the spring and we watch as Effy navigates her way through a dull job as an assistant. As usual, Kaya Scodelario is just unfeasibly lovely. I will forever be jealous of her eyes.

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Effy goes on about her day until suddenly, BAM. IRENE ADLER OUT OF NOWHERE. It seems the lovely Ms Lara Pulver, who played Adler in the second series of the BBC’s Sherlock, has been cast in the role of Effy’s boss, Victoria. Victoria instructs Effy to prepare the boardroom before a meeting, but when she goes to do so a short time later, she finds Victoria in a somewhat compromising position with the head of the company, Jake. Effy stutters a bit in an extremely non-Effy way but Victoria seems nonplussed as she breezes off.

Later on we see Effy recounting the incident to her fellow assistant Jane while the two are on break. They laugh together and have a bit of fun until they are approached by Dominic. The poor boy plainly has a massive crush on Effy and tries to awkwardly win her affections by buying her sandwiches. The girls clearly recognize his intentions and Jane takes the opportunity to tease him a little. He then makes the most non-subtle attempt to spend time with Effy ever, but she kindly brushes him off. And again, I’m a little shocked at the non-Effiness of her behavior. Teenage Effy would have just glared at him until he left, or would have point blank told him to fuck off. But here she is actually trying to spare his feelings. It’s nice to see. Jane is clearly less concerned about how Dominic feels and proceeds to laugh behind his back. And that’s when we see a little of Effy’s old bite as she snaps that Jane looks like a horse when she laughs down her nose like that.

Back in the office, Jake is clearly checking Effy out in the creepiest way possible, while Victoria asks her to stay late to finish a report. Effy does so and then drops the report off to Victoria at a pub where she is having drinks with some clients. She inquires if Effy wants to join them, but she says no and begins to head home. I love how big they are making the world seem. All the previous seasons have been set in the town of Bristol which seemed so tiny. The kids were all at home there, they felt confident and sure of themselves. And now Effy’s out in the world and realizing that it’s much much bigger than she could have imagined. She seems diminished because of it. I think it’s a lovely look at what it feels like to be out on your own for the first time. Because you do feel small and insignificant. Or at least I did, at any rate.

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Effy arrives home to her apartment to find a party going on. She’s roommates with Naomi these days, and damn, I miss Lily Loveless’ blonde hair. Naomi is drunk and stoned and tries to get Effy to join the party and relax, but she just pours herself a drink and locks herself away in her room. Her bedroom walls are covered with pages from financial reports. And I think it’s a really interesting way to show how Effy is caught between her teenage years and her coming adulthood. As a teenager, Effy papered her walls with posters and pictures, artwork, and other various things that held her interest. Now she still has the same impulse, but her focus is elsewhere- on her job. Effy is clearly working very hard to learn as much as she can about the financial world, and I’m practically giddy about it. Previously, we never really got the chance to see Effy work at anything. Things always just happened for her. And now she’s out of her element and really having to put for the effort and it is so enjoyable to watch. I really love her so much right now. Which is saying something, because I actually disliked Effy’s character a lot in the earlier seasons. One of the main reasons being that she was always the cool, calm, in control girl. We never saw much ruffle her up until her breakdown.

But back in the present, Naomily angst rears its ugly head. Effy wakes up in the middle of the night to the sounds of Naomi and Emily fighting over Skype. Emily is clearly upset over the direction Naomi’s life has taken, and I can see why. Naomi was always the one who seemed to have her head screwed on straight. She was passionate, political, and intelligent. By all accounts, she should have been doing well, but instead she seems to be a scattered, unreliable stoner. Emily ends the call and Naomi runs off to Effy’s room to talk to her about it. She’s worried that Emily, who is currently in New York, is going to dump her. Effy assures her that it’s not the case and that Emily loves her. Naomi decides she wants to go visit Emily, but Effy reminds her she’ll need a job first.  Naomi makes an awkward crack about becoming a stand up comedian, before she rolls over and goes to sleep.

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While Naomi sleeps, Effy slips out of bed and grabs a dress from her closet. The next time we see her is in the middle of a rave, and suddenly it’s like she’s right back to the girl she used to be. Confident, in control, party-girl Effy who makes everyone come to her and always gets what she wants. With as little confidence as she seems to have in her day to day life now, I can see why she would seek this type of situation out again. She wants her power back, even if it’s just for a few hours. The shift in her expression says it all as she knows that she’s back in her element.

The following morning at work, Effy points out an error she found in the report to Victoria. It seems that some of the numbers hasn’t been updated, and she’s worried their investors will think they’re trying to hide something. Victoria brushes the information off and heads off into a meeting. But during said meeting, Victoria takes credit for Effy’s find and wins Jake’s approval. Effy is absolutely furious and storms out of the building. For the first time she’s working hard to achieve something, and someone else is taking credit for her work. Man, I am really enjoying this. Her struggle is exciting to watch. Effy, however, has had enough and decides to take things into her own hands. She finds Dominic and brings him back to her flat where she asks him to teach her everything he knows about the world of finance.

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After they finish, she thanks him and he tries to kiss her. Effy stops him, and he’s clearly confused by the situation. But before he gets the chance to try and talk to her about what any of this means, the two are interrupted by Naomi who wants to practice some of her comedy act for them. AND OH MY GOD, SHE WAS ACTUALLY SERIOUS ABOUT THAT? I AM IN SHOCK. WHAT IS HAPPENING? At any rate, she performs a bit of her routine, which Dom seems to find funny. I can’t tell if it actually is or not, because I have absolutely no idea what she’s even talking about.

As interesting as it is to see Effy outside of her comfort zone, I’m almost more intrigued by what’s happened to Naomi. Like I mentioned earlier, Naomi was always intelligent and rather eloquent. And now she’s crass and listless. And I think I’m pulled more toward it because it closer reflects what I went through after graduating. When I graduated from high school, I had very clear plans for what I wanted in life. And when they didn’t immediately work out they way I imagined they would, I began to drift. Not that I became an unemployed stoner, but I can very much relate to what Naomi seems to be dealing with. I really do hope that we’re given more backstory on how she got to this place.

At any rate, Effy is back at the office once again, and it seems like Jane has royally screwed up. She forgot to cancel one of Victoria’s meetings and the client is sitting in the waiting room. Effy tells her that she’ll handle it, and slyly takes over the meeting. She offers to take the client out to lunch, and proceeds to knock it out of the park. The client, Max Stibbard, is impressed with Effy’s knowledge and direct approach and the meeting ends on a high note. But for as well as she did, Effy finds herself in an angry meeting with Victoria and Jake where she loses her job. She seems to have regained a bit of her old confidence, though. She knows she can be great at this job. Spotting the same thing, Jake offers her the chance to be a trader for Stibbard on a trial basis, just to see how she handles things. Pleased, Effy accepts.

We flashforward to the Summer, and Effy is now a trader. But she’s back to being unsure of herself, and I don’t blame her. Oh my god, how does anyone do that job? I would literally have a nervous breakdown if I had to deal with even a percent of that kind of pressure. Effy is cracking, so she ducks outside to talk with Dom and laments that she’s fucking everything up. She admits that she doesn’t want to make a move to sell her falling stock because of a gut instinct. Dom knows something and hints at it, but can’t tell her any more. When he refuses to give up the info, Effy tries to storm off, but he stops her. He allows her to overhear a conversation he has regarding the falling stock and a takeover. It’s all jibberish to me, but Effy is clearly thrilled and kisses Dominic on the cheek before she skips off. Back inside the trading room, she buys up three thousand shares of the falling stock, much to her fellow traders shock and amusement. Shortly afterward, the takeover is announced and the stock skyrockets. Effy then smugly begins selling off her shares and makes her company 1.2 million. Damn.

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Later on that evening, Effy and Jake appear to be the only ones left in the building and sneak off to smoke and talk. Jake is still creepy and ask/tells Effy to take Stibbard out and show him the company’s “fun” side. Even though he’s asking her, it’s clearly an order, and Effy agrees to do it. As she’s leaving, she runs into Victoria, who compliments her on her successful day. Victoria has decided to leave the company and wishes Effy luck, despite clearly not liking her very much. As she gets ready to leave, she spots Jake coming out of the same room Effy came from and calls him out for being a sleazeball before she leaves.

At their apartment, Effy asks for Naomi’s help picking a dress for her evening with Stibbard, but Naomi is clearly pissed. It seems that Effy bailed on going to a doctor’s appointment with her, and now she’s going to miss Naomi’s first gig at a comedy club too. Later on we watch as Naomi sits nervously at the hospital by herself, inter-cut with Effy looking FUCKING FIERCE in the most amazing dress I have ever seen.

I can see the appeal of this world for Effy. So much of it seems to be based on confidence and manipulation and putting up facades. It’s everything that she used to be so skilled at, just on a much bigger level. Now she’s not playing with teenage boys hearts, she’s playing with millions of dollars. There would definitely be an appeal for her. So Effy meets up with Jake who continues to be the most inappropriate boss ever and kisses her, then the two go off to meet Stibbard and his associate, Freddie. REALLY, GUYS? DID YOU HAVE TO NAME HIM FREDDIE? Sigh. Anyway, Jake excuses himself and leaves Stibbard and Freddie to Effy. She in turn brings them to the comedy club where Naomi is performing that night.  And then everything goes horribly. Naomi gets up on stage and bombs so hard, that I actually have to turn my head away from the screen because I can’t handle watching that much humiliation.

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She gets booed off stage after her very first joke, and bolts outside where Effy tries to console her. In the end, Stibbard invites Naomi along with them for the rest of the night, and the group heads off to a casino night. Naomi is clearly unimpressed with the world of finance, and makes no secret of hiding it from Stibbard or Freddie. She also gets upset when she sees Stibbard putting his hands all over Effy and pulls her friend to the side to remind her how fucked up it is. She and Effy get into a short fight that ends with Effy ordering Naomi to go home. Effy’s upset with Naomi, but I’m finally connecting with her again. It’s the first time in the entire episode that we really see some of the spark that used to make her character so memorable. Naomi was always a passionate character, and that finally starts to come out again. While Naomi storms off, Effy returns to her clients with a smile.

In the early hours of the morning, Effy wakes up from a dead sleep, still in her party clothes, to the sounds of blasting techno music. She furiously heads for the roof, yelling at Naomi the entire way. When she reaches the rooftop, she angrily confronts Naomi and tells her she’s sick of dealing with her erratic behavior. She demands to know what’s going on, and Naomi screams that she has cancer before she breaks down.

The episode ends later on that morning when an introspective looking Effy rides the elevator up to see Jake where the two begin to hook up.

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Opinion of the Episode: I’ve been a fan of Skins since my roommate introduced me to it way back in it’s first season. It can be melodramatic and completely ridiculous at times, but in the midst of everything, I always thought it had some really amazing characters. I loved that each episode was devoted to a single character and whatever personal struggle they were dealing with at the time. I have literally spent hours upon hours deconstructing the characters and their relationships. I honestly believe that there is so much more to this show than your average teen soap. Okay, yes, there was that time that Sid had to flee from an insane drug dealer named Mad Twatter, and there was the time that they were deported from Russia. And the time that Thomas got into a hot pepper eating contest with a mobster, and an entire slew of utter nonsense. But at the same time they’ve dealt with dysfunctional families, mental disorders, friendships, love, and even death. And I’ve always thought it was handled with a great deal of care. With very few exceptions, I always felt like there was a point to it all. Oftentimes with television, I feel like things are done strictly for the sake of drama. But with Skins, I always felt like there was a story and development to be had from everything that happened.

This episode was no exception to any of that. I read a few complaints from fans online that it was predictable, but I didn’t get that impression at all. Yes, Effy did fall into some of her predictable patterns by the end of the episode, but you have to look at the story behind it. There are reasons that Effy is acting the way she is. This is a story about growing up and struggling to balance who you were with the person that you’re becoming. Both Effy and Naomi are at a loss and are doing everything they can just to find solid ground again. Neither of them have a support system from their families, so they have to learn to rely on themselves in the big bad world, and it’s fucking scary. It’s bills, and crappy bosses, and not having anyone to hold your hand when you’re scared. They have to get knocked around and pick themselves back up before they can find the strength they need to really be adults. I mentioned in my recap above that I really enjoyed watching the struggles of both girls and seeing how four years has shifted them from the characters that I used to know. I think both of their reactions, (Naomi’s out of control spiraling and Effy’s lapsing into bad behavior) are completely legitimate reactions to their uncertainties. And maybe a lot of those complexities might not translate to younger fans who haven’t experienced anything like that for themselves, but to me personally, it meant a lot. I’ve felt the same things these girls are dealing with, and I can connect with them. I’m very much invested in the story and the theme of the series in general. It seems fitting that a series that has centered around the struggles of a group of teenagers should end with stories of them growing up.

The second half of Effy’s story will be airing in the UK on Monday, July 8th on E4, and will be available on iTunes shortly afterward for those of us in the States.

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Comments
  1. Ree :) says:

    “She wants her power back, even if it’s just for a few hours.”

    That’s funny. I do agree that I was like, “Ahh, there’s Effy!” when she snuck out to the rave. Just like in Series 1 when Tony caught her coming home from being out all night. Because lets face it, the whole episode up until this point Effy was almost a completely different person, although not necessarily a bad thing. I liked seeing her work at something and passionately at that. But I didn’t think the rave was her way of seeking her power back. If you actually look at it again, she kinda ignores anyone around her at the rave. She’s completely lost in the music and in herself as she dances around happily. She looks free. I think it’s more of Effy finding an escape from what has now become her reality, a 9-5 and a roommate who seemingly hasn’t grown up as much as Effy has. I liked that she had that “Effy smile” on her face, the same one she had in previous series, full of confidence.

    I also caught that name, “Freddie” and I thought the same thing. Lol

    I agree that Effy is trying to come into her own and really find a balance of who she used to be and who she wants to be/or is currently. I don’t think she’s predictable because I wouldn’t never have predicted her to be working at Hedge Fund or asking Jake to teach her everything he knows and her actually trying and really getting it. I can’t wait for the second half!

    Like

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