Neil Morrissey reprises his role as Cassie’s father, and in the wake of the death of Cassie’s mother the character has become scattered and lethargic. In the context it’s bittersweet to watch Cassie treat her Dad with such distain, but it’s satisfying to see her calling him on his poor parenting, past and present, and for finally realizing the effect her unattentive and absent parents have had on her.
The relationship between Murrary and Morrissey lacks the emotional punch to carry the first half of the episode, particularly since we can only have limited sympathy for the mourning Morrissey (over a dead mother that Cassie doesn’t seem to miss much), so it’s a relief that the episode returns to London swiftly, despite a precocious yet cute turn from Cassie’s little brother Reuben.
The real interest of the episode lies in the curiously platonic friendship that forms between Cassie and her stalker-turned-personal-photographer Jacob. After the inability for most Skins alumni to keep their hands off at least two members of the opposite sex in their group of friends (or the same, Tony and Maxxie!), it’s touching yet virgin territory to see a male-female friendship form this way on Skins. Even the exchanged “I love you”s between Cassie and Jacob are seemingly without sexual attachment.
Jacob’s fascination with Cassie and her world is intriguing and almost unbelievable, but brilliantly subtle flecks of desperation in actor Olly Alexander’s performance tell the real story. And sure enough, after Cassie chooses another photographer, and the two fallout, the reality that nothing is as simple as “I love you”. At the peak of their fallout, the neurotic and overly protective character of Jacob becomes a hell of a lot more believable, and arguably slightly more likable and sympathetic, than the cold Cassie 2.0 herself.
Cassie’s “discovery” and subsequent introduction to the fashion industry seems plausible given Murray’s own distinctive look and impossibly slim figure. Yet Skins‘ portrayal of the new world-wise Cassie shows that the hedonistic lifestyle she is offered is not one she plans to delve back into, which is a refreshing perspective.
In fact at not one point does Cassie make a bad decision or one that jeopardises her livelihood. Even as she parties with the other models, she drinks water from a tap, leaves the party early to take a call from her little brother instead of taking up an offer to do cocaine. We don’t once scream at the TV: “Don’t do it!” She simply behaves responsibly most of the time.
It seems that if Cassie had a full blown meltdown that led to her personality change, viewers have missed out – we’ll never know quite what happened. Over the course of both episodes, Sid gets about 5 seconds reference time, not even by name. And nope, there’s not a “wow” in sight. Pure will have been unsatisfying to a number of fans expecting a homage to the Cassie of the series, but there’s a melancholic sense of the everyday to the two episodes that comes off as believable and on occasion tragically realistic.
Despite not having the drama and powerful storytelling of Effy’s Fire, Pure is still beautiful on the whole thanks to the performances of Murray and Alexander and the calm yet gritty portrayal of the city’s suburbs. It’s not the most eventful and riveting two hours in Skins history, but let’s face it – when compared to our confusing and experimental teenage years, real life is rarely eventful nor riveting.
If Fire showed us the bright lights of a high-powered city career, Pure carries a modest torch for a more banal existence in a big city. The experiences you share with the people you meet every day, and the stories they have to tell. It’s not just about Cassie, it’s about her failing actor housemate, one of her colleagues who fought abroad, and another who has a secret passion for photography… and her. So in that aspect it’s probably the most relevant and realistic two episodes in Skins history.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 22 July on E4.
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