As I said last week, there always seems to be something on fire in Glue. A car, a caravan, a pile of wood in a copse… the countryside is indeed a highly flammable place. It’s why you never see cows smoking. Or sheep having ‘baa’-rbeques. Ha. Ha. Ha.
But all those flames do more than just lend a cheery atmosphere to the bleak ‘Constable by way of Banksy’ landscape. There is something deeply symbolic about fire in Glue, although I’m not quite sure what it is yet. Maybe it’s more than one thing. In three episodes it’s been used to celebrate, to commiserate and to cover up evidence. Oddly enough no one’s needed one to keep warm yet.
To the Roma community fire is practically ceremonial, as we’re told of the old tradition of piling a dead relative’s belongings in their mobile-home and turning the whole thing into the kind of caravan bonfire that Jeremy Clarkson silently dreams about while viciously revving behind a retired couple’s Coachman Mirage 350/2 on the M4.
It’s a tradition meant to stop the dead coming back to haunt the living, but Eli (an engagingly feral Callum Turner) can’t stop seeing his dead brother Cal as he discovers his little brother’s life was filled with dark secrets. The kind of ones that leave your number scrawled on the toilet door of a dive snooker hall.
But as fire can destroy some secrets so it can illuminate others, and as the hunt for Cal’s killer becomes more heated, light is shed on an entire bonfire’s worth of secrets and mysteries.
Everyone’s hiding a future plot point from someone else. Eating disorders, sexual indiscretions, private lives, hidden traumas. You know it’s only a matter of time until it spills out. The only thing teenagers do better than hide damage is bear it for all to see.
Glue also starts to colour in some of the background detail and answer the question of why you barely see anyone’s parents. If they’re not up to their elbows in farm work they’re either in prison, abusive, or drunk. As it was in Skins, the grown-ups are just as defective as the nearly-grown-ups. Perhaps more so.
That’s really the only time you can compare Glue to Skins. It has quickly, sharply, cut itself from any of the flippancy and provocative trendiness of other teen dramas by taking a conventional murder mystery as its structure and stretching the ungovernable skin of youth across it. You’d think the audience would be inured to every shade of murder mystery by now, but by showing death through the cracked prism of teen dysfunction Glue proves us wrong.
We’re only at Episode 3, so the novelty of mystery still prevails.
Who is so expertly blackmailing Rob, and why? Did someone attack ‘Janine’, or did she try to take her own life? And – the one I’m most interested in – what were the batteries in Annie’s doorbell repurposed for? Murder? Probably just the TV remote right? Carrying the fire theme right to the end, these are the ‘burning’ questions.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 29 September 2014 on E4.
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