The revelation that Cook is a killer at the end of the previous episode, and Part 2’s opening monologue on death, explains the dead look behind his eyes. However, Jack O’Connell’s passionate and masterful performance in this second half sees him transform magnificently, albeit hesitantly, back into his former, off-the-wall self.
Cook has become more of an alpha male now than he ever was in the series. Strong and silent, Part 2 begins with Cook protecting the two women he cares about rather than chasing a hedonistic lifestyle.
However, Cook’s insistence on protecting the narcissistic and dangerously manipulative Charlotte plays on an old weakness he had for another dangerous girl, Effy. And when a Bonnie & Clyde & Another-Bonnie situation begins to surface, Cook is backed up against the wall between the two girls, and signs of the old Cook begin to resurface. He uses sex to get his own way, and starts a fight in a pub when provoked. Gradually, layers of the new controlled Cook are being peeled away, and you can see him aware and afraid of this.
Liam Boyle’s Louie returns more passive aggressive than ever and thus even more terrifying. A scene where he politely turns up at Emma’s country house unannounced and politely charms her parents is chilling. Twist follows twist and the episode gradually begins to resemble The Blair Witch Project as the protagonists get stuck in the wild running from Louie.
Esther Smith gives a particularly heart-breaking and vulnerable performance as Emma in this episode, and Cook manages to show just how much he’s matured. He begins to treat Emma more like a little sister than a girlfriend, being comforting and affectionate at the height of danger.
Cook makes a glorious return to character in the shocking final scenes. Calmly confronting an armed and aggressive Louie whilst unarmed himself, we’re suddenly more afraid for Louie than we are for Cook. As with the final scenes of Series 4, we are reminded that when Cook has nothing left to lose, he doesn’t fear death, and in fact is happy to taunt it.
Death is a prominant theme that runs throughout the entirely Rise, and every big decision Cook makes seems to refer back to the fact he once killed another person. Part 2 opens and closes with a voiceover monologue from Cook, and he says at the beginning and end, “You don’t know death until you’ve seen it”. It doesn’t seem like Cook is afraid of death, merely haunted by his now eternal relationship with it. Cook’s neutral expression once confronted by his girlfriend’s murder, and the possibility of his own death, is haunting.
But the most powerful moment of all is when Cook opts to spare Louis, instead firing one shot in the air. The very final words of the episode relate not to death, but to life, and his new found appreciation for it: “you can stand on the edge of things and watch (life) go by, but you’re not living it”. And that in a sense is the essence of what Cook always used to be about: living life, taking risks and having fun at any cost, never a bystander, or a “tourist” as he puts it.
In Rise you can see how death began to rule Cook’s life, rather than life itself. But once he confronts his fears of dying once more, he throws two fingers up to death and begins to see his life again. It’s unclear whether the character of Cook can ever return to his old self, but you can see him recognize the fundamental part of his personality that will never change, no matter how he tries to deny it.
It’s what Series 7 of Skins has been all about. Characters phased by the real world, losing themselves in the process, but reaching the realization that they’ll never lose who they fundamentally are. The tagline for this series has been “time changes everyone”, but this is definitely a red herring. The real discovery is that at the very heart of these characters, time has changed nothing. As Cook says, a gun pointed to his blood-drenched face in the last five minutes of Rise: “I’m fucking Cook, mate”.
As the sun rises over the credits, it’s easy to feel sad that we’ll never meet these characters again. But the sunrise is certainly a metaphor. For Effy, Cassie and Cook, this is not an ending, this is a new beginning – one that finally sees them each settle into adulthood. The series has come under fire for barely referencing the series, but why would they dwell on the past? These guys have got their whole lives ahead of them.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 5 August on E4.
Series 7 is released on DVD on Monday 12 August 2013 by 4DVD.
Watch the Series 7 trailer…
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