Yep, you get a twofer here, kids! I’m reviewing the second American Skins episode, “Tea”, and the first episode of the fifth series of the UK version of Skins, “Frankie”. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we’ll begin.
“Tea” – This is the first episode that’s original to the US series. This is by necessity since it focuses on Tea (pronounced Tay-ah), the lesbian character who was created for this show as a replacement for Maxxie. Tea is an uncertain, still closted girl who apparently goes from meaningless sexual encounter to meaningless sexual encounter with no emotional involvement. She also tries to come off as very arrogant and self-centered, though this seems to be something of a front.
We see her picking up a girl at a club and taking her home. There’s some hardcore scissoring, followed the next morning by her mixed Jewish and Italian family meeting the girl. Yes, Jewish and Italian. This is, I assure, a recipe for calm, quiet family gatherings on television that aren’t even remotely hyperbolic or exaggerated.
Anyhow, young Tea’s father wants her to go out on a date with a co-worker’s son. Said son turns out to be Tony. The two talk, drink, dance and generally connect. Tea feels somewhat lonely and messed-up after this so she goes back home and winds up sleeping in her grandmother’s bed. Ole granny is a few pancakes short of a stack, but she’s still able to tell a quiet, very emotional story about a woman named Marta that she was once in love with. It’s a sweet scene and really makes the episode.
There’s a lot that I liked about this story. Tea already has more character development two episodes in than Maxxie managed in two whole series on the British version of the show. I like that. I also really liked the conversation with her grandmother, and I like the fact that her father at least seems to know she’s a lesbian, even if no one else does and even if he won’t say it.
What I didn’t like? This show’s version of Madison Twatter turns up again, as he should, but a: he’s not nearly as interesting as Mad Twatter, and b: his storyline also comes to an end (apparently), with this story. That irritated me a bit. I also have to agree with a friend of mine who said that it seemed a bit early to have this much plot resolution with Tea, and that perhaps if we’d gotten to know her a bit more, this story might have been better.
Overall, it was a solid episode.
“Frankie” – Well, say hello to the new generation of UK Skins kids! We’re introduced to them through the eyes of Francesca “Frankie”, a young girl with two days (rather like Francesca on the old Tracey Ulman show, and I doubt that’s a coincidence). Continuing Skins’ exploration of the spectrum of teenage sexuality, Frankie is clearly either a female-to-male transsexual with an interest in males or a reverse drag queen. There’s nothing about her that is even remotely feminine, and every time I see her my hormones do odd things.
She arrives at Roundview College after narrowly escaping several bullies. She promptly pisses off one of the mean girls, but said mean girl then starts trying to be nice to her. That this is a setup is something that occurs to Frankie only later, and that results in one of the bully’s friends deciding she’d rather hang out with Frankie. We also have brief meet-ups with some of the other new kids, but none leaves a lasting impression (yet).
This is a far stronger start than what we got with the second generation, which kicked-off the Freddy/Effy thing that would come to dominate two entire series and bore me to tears. Frankie is an interesting and three-dimensional character and I really look forward to seeing what becomes of her. I also liked the fact that it’s clear that at least part of her nemesis’ problems with her seem to stem from some level of attraction.
Beyond that I can’t get much of a read on the other characters. This will change in time and next week’s episode looks like it should be pretty interesting. It’s a very solid start, though.
So there you go! Two new episodes, both of which were pretty darn good! Here’s to hoping this can continue.