In a foreboding opening voiceover delivered by Cook himself, he monotonously intones “I did something once, my ghost won’t let me forget it.”
It’s an easy assumption to make that this refers to Cook’s Series 4 cliffhanger with the psychopathic Dr Foster. Yet throughout the episode, a subdued Cook refuses to reveal anything about his last three years to the characters around him, or even to us as viewers. Nevertheless, it still has the clearest link to the past out of all three Series 7 stories, which will please old school fans.
In fact, this first part of Rise feels much more like classic Skins than either Fire or Pure, purely because it feels detached from reality. Whilst Cassie and Effy found themselves living fairly standard young adult lives, Cook finds himself as something of a fugitive, living in his car, still surrounded by the drugs, sex and raving of his youth. There’s more sex and violence in this one episode than in the whole of Fire and Pure combined, and possibly some of the most violent and explicit scenes ever seen in Skins.
An underlying sense of threat is established due to a masterful turn by Liam Boyle as Cook’s calm yet intimidating drug dealer boss, Louie. Despite his neutral expression and calm demeanour, Boyle’s Louie is terrifying on occasion. It’s a strange thing witnessing the mighty Cook at the beck and call of another male character, and we feel the same unease as Cook in every tense interaction he has with his passive aggressive boss.
Cook 2.0, much like Effy 2.0, is no longer the Alpha character of his teenage self, unable to handle any confrontation or risk. He rebuffs the advances of his boss’s girlfriend, vomits after taking drugs, allows himself to be beaten up… even his sex scenes seem vulnerable.
Jack O’ Connell’s performance, however, unlike Hannah Murray’s tragically cynical turn on the previously glowing Cassie, is still recognizably old-Cook at heart. He still has a twinkle in his eye, and cheeky grin, and is still effortlessly charming, and you see the occasional flinch when he avoids an opportunity the old Cook would’ve taken.
But Cook 2.0 is vulnerable because he’s scared, and by the end of the episode, we see that Cook has replaced the confrontation in his life with running away. And when Cook runs away, you know it means there’s something very dark going on.
Part 2 promises to be an explosive, dark climax, not only to Cook’s story, but to the Skins saga.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 29 July on E4.
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