As viewers, we can’t help but notice that a lot of the gang just haven’t spent much time with each other this year, especially Liv.
It’s at least gratifying to realise that the writing team have actually intended this and made Liv’s isolation a feature. Her crime seems to be to have befriended new boy Alex as a distraction from Grace’s death and the subsequent, miserable fracturing of the group of friends.
Excitedly latching on to a new friend and finding yourself growing distant from others is something we can relate to as an audience, as are Liv’s disastrous attempts to go back to them in her hour of need when Alex and a very-short-term partner disappear for a holiday, revealing hurt animosity from Mini and some even more heightened bitchiness from the now barely-recognisable Franky.
The episode sets out to balance life with death: Liv looks at a video of the late Gracey jumping happily on her bed at the same time as her own is rocked by enthusiastic shagging from the lads next door, Mini has a new life causing a bump in her belly just as Liv develops one that looks like it could kill her (ultimately revealed to be one of Skins’ regular incursions into an illusory world, and not a hugely successful one), and finally bumbling acting principal Doug comes good, revealing the location of Grace’s grave where, with the aid of the same bed-bouncing video, some happy jumping occurs.
The thing is – particularly coming after last week’s taboo-busting episode – that this just feels like another hour of spinning the wheels, even though it does finally bring Matty back from his still inadequately-explained foreign hell (and Alex’s interpretation of the situation upon finding Matty nude in his bed is definitely worth a giggle).
We already knew, for instance, that Liv has been left out and hadn’t, until this episode, learned that the person she thought of as her best friend was pregnant. With the recent news that Skins will wrap up next year with a short run of specials populated by returning characters, it just seems that there should be a greater sense of momentum in tying up what will be the last series of the show with a regular “generation”.
Nevertheless, as with the entire run, the whole cast really shines. Notably, despite Alex being something of an obvious, cookie-cutter depiction of a confident young gay man, Sam Jackson portrays his character with the humour and charm of a youthful Malcolm McDowell. Kudos, also, to Lola Mae Loughran as Liv’s younger sister, Maude, expanding greatly on the character’s small showing last year and revealing her to be a young tearaway in the making.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 12th March 2012 on E4.
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