In the build-up to its airing, everyone seems very quick to try and stick a label on Glue, E4’s new countryside-homicide youth drama.
Chances are that when you first heard about the show it was in the vicinity of the sentence ‘it’s the new Skins‘. Jordan Stephens of Rizzle Kicks, who plays high-seeking Rob, called it Midsomer Murders without the old people. Series creator Jack Thorne (writer of The Fades and, yes, Skins) rightly seems reluctant to brand it as any one thing before slapping it on the haunches and letting it run out onto the common.
So what is Glue? For the first 15 minutes you could be forgiven for thinking this was indeed Skins, just with mud caked to its trainers, straw in the pocket where it keeps its condoms, and the tang of slurry wafting up the nostrils and mingling with the freshly snorted coke. Aggravatingly cool teens do little else but take drugs, shag, jump naked into big silos of grain, and generally have a YOLO of a time. John Craven would be furious.
Real teens will know that growing up in the green bits between the concrete and tarmac isn’t as sexy as it is here. Mine wasn’t. Rural youth in the countryside is just acclimatising to the mooing and smells, and not people like Rob (a surprisingly innate Jordan Stephens) and girlfriend Tina (Line of Duty‘s Charlotte Spence) submerged in a bath, getting high on an industro-agricultural compound. That’s an unnecessary indulgence of a scene, one that works against the show by only making the teens seem unreal.
But then one of them is murdered (I won’t spoil who, though you might guess), and the show becomes engaging for everyone over the ripe old age of 24. These figures of frivolity and fucking suddenly seem a good deal more real in their response to death.
In contrast to their introduction, they react as real people. A young and talented cast give entirely natural performances, and even though you may not be sympathetic with them, their struggle to cope with the death of a friend is painfully human.
Barbour-jacketed farmboy James (Billy Howle), is particularly affecting when he tells of how he found the body. Likewise Submarine‘s Yasmin Paige leaves an impression as policewoman Ruth Rosen, who fights to bring justice for her late friend, only to have to watch them being pulled apart in autopsy.
But the barn-based Bacchanalia doesn’t look like it’ll be drawing to an end. These are largely immature people failing to deal with an adult situation.
At its first episode Glue feels like a revolt against coming of age; about change intruding on the routine, and the selfish and childish reaction to that. But with blackmail, car burning, tensions with Travellers, and cow murder amid the bucolic landscape, by the series end it could be something entirely different. That uncertainty is what will keep some watching.
So, if you’re looking for a label to apply to Glue, you can just say it’s fields and teens and murder. It’s too early to categorise and compare it. We’ll just have to decide on the rest as the series continues.
But yeah, okay, it is a bit like Skins.
Glue begins at 10pm on Monday 15 September on E4.
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