However, after last week’s shocking revelation that Naomi has cancer, this episode is just as much Naomi’s as it is Effy’s. Whilst we go from rooting for Effy to waiting for her downfall, we find ourselves rooting for Naomi instead. This is particularly due to the return of a bubbly Emily as Naomi’s girlfriend. Naomi and Emily as a couple are even more believable now than they ever were in the series, and there is a genuine warmth that lights up in Naomi in the few scenes that they both feature in together.
The relationship between the two girls is the only one of any kind in the episode that it pure and real. In Effy’s side of the story, there is a vicious circle of one-sided relationships that eventually collapses in on itself. Craig Roberts’ adorable Dominic begins to recognise Effy’s manipulation of him, but finds it impossible to say no to her, and it’s lucky that Kaya’s Effy is believably beautiful and seductive that this problem is feasible. However, Effy also finds herself unwittingly manipulated by Jake, unwisely revealing her human and vulnerable side to him.
From this point on, everything Effy has control over starts to come crashing down around her. Her ex-colleague and rival Victoria (in an excellent twist) exposes Effy’s insider trading, boss and boyfriend Jake relieves himself of both duties to save his own back, and around the time Naomi discovers the worst possible news about her cancer. At this point you figure out you have the rest of the story sussed.
This episode highlights, that for all Effy’s social perceptiveness and intelligence, her lack of social warmth and her discomfort at dealing with emotions is her Achilles heel. An emotional and poignant rooftop scene with a defeated Naomi shows the fear in Effy’s eyes at losing control of her life, when the sharp, calculating side of her finally cannot solve her problems, and certainly nothing she can do can prevent her from losing her friend. When put under this kind of pressure in Series 4, teenage Effy had a full on mental breakdown.
At her lowest point, when she fears losing her one ally Dominic altogether, she uses the one thing she feels she has to her advantage at all times – sex. Yet, it’s clear that young adult Effy has one thing that teenage Effy never had – a conscience. When she pulls herself together and takes responsibility for seducing Dom, apologizing nonetheless, it’s a sign that she herself realises she’s changed too.
Because Skins 7 is set in the real world, the world of consequences and rent and bills. Therefore, the two things Effy has never made a priority to be, are the two things she needs to be in order to put everything right: selfless and honest. A later scene where Effy comforts a distraught Emily is brief but poignant and immensely emotional, and the most selfless act of kindness the character has ever performed. Effy’s tears afterwards are a sign that the character has finally broken free of everything that held her back, and it’s tears we share as an audience.
Yet a final scene in a taxi sees, for just a moment, the “fire” return to Effy’s eyes, which, in true Skins style, leaves us on a cliffhanger wondering whether this “fire” is one that represents a new start and a new Effy, or whether she’s just had her next great idea. We’ll never know, but what we do know is that Fire has allowed the character of Effy to burn out brightly rather than to just fade away. Let’s hope Cassie and Cook get stories as rewarding, well written and true to their character as this has been.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 8 July on E4.
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