WARNING: This review will contain spoilers
Christ, I know all good things must end but I didn’t think it would be that quick. Sadly, Skins: Pure peaked last week and Part 2 has joined the ranks of other episodes of Skins that fall somewhere between below average and terrible thanks to it being a fundamentally flawed piece of television with more negatives than positives. The episode has one crippling flaw but since any compliments about the episode’s good points would seem hollow after analysing that flaw in detail, I’ll discuss the good stuff now.
Technically, this episode is definitely on the same level as last week. The Welsh beach seen at the beginning of the episode is a location that is used incredibly well and is a very strong contrast to the dreary urban settings that are literally all we’ve seen in the rest of Series 7. Plus, Paul Gay is really on form in this episode with a some brilliant camera direction and a lot of experimental shots. The score also plays a huge part in this episode and makes up a large portion of the soundtrack to great effect in the more arty shots and as a substitute for the diagetic sound in other scenes such as the start of a scene where Cassie attends a rave. A scene which has also has some excellent use of lighting.
Away from the technical side of things, the episode has some excellent dialogue with some amusing banter between Cassie and Jakob at the start of the episode and some good jokes in the scene where they have breakfast with Cassie’s father Marcus and brother Reuben that feels a lot like the programme’s earlier episodes. The more serious dialogue also comes off very well with some great two-hander scenes that touch on subjects like responsibility, and sitting around waiting for life to improve.
We also get a few more nods to the past with Cassie’s relationship with Marcus sometimes feeling like it’s directly picking up after her Series 1 episode, a direct reference to her anorexia, and a callback to the scene in that episode where Marcus paints a portrait of Cassie’s mother. But sadly, there’s more bad than good in this episode and the time has come to talk about the bad.
I know I throw the term “scattershot” around a fair bit with these reviews but it would be impossible to discuss this episode without using either it or a synonym. Because it is scattershot. Very scattershot. In fact, it couldn’t be more scattershot if it was a drive-by shooting done with a blunderbuss from the back of a spitfire.
Cassie’s family problems are the focus of the episode’s first quarter, get a brief look in at about halfway through and are then completely left to the side until the last few minutes where there’s a rush to tie the story up in a neat little bow without any proper development of the storyline. There’s no solid beginning, middle, and end to it. There’s a beginning that’s quite well done, a token phone call from Reuben later on to remind us that he and Marcus are still characters in the episode, and then the two of them turn up at the end of the episode in a very rushed ending where Marcus’s alcoholism (which is set up near the beginning) is revealed to have been magically resolved offscreen (not literally though that wouldn’t have surprised me too much) before he reappears at the end.
Elsewhere in the episode, Cassie suddenly becomes a model in a plot point that lasts all of five minutes before being largely forgotten and is only there to trigger a bizarre character shift from Jakob, turning him into a jealous and aggressive character, and to create some form of conflict and fart some drama into the episode. Which isn’t needed since we had enough angsty relationship stories in the first six series and because Pure was supposed to be a more low key story about a friendship between Cassie and Jakob based on mutual loneliness.
Also, that character shift is real bone of contention since we’ve never seen Jakob act that way before and there’s no real explanation for it. We see him go off on a rant where he accuses Cassie of sleeping with a photographer (which, I’m sorry to say, is abysmally performed by Olly Alexander) despite the fact that the two of them have never been in a relationship and that he’s never really been shown to have romantic feelings for her that would cause jealousy like that. It’s another case of Jakob being an underdeveloped character, as is the revelation that his parents (who are only mentioned in this one scene) have thrown him out, causing him to sleep rough in the office building that he takes photos of Cassie from. Which is another plot point that gets almost no screentime before being left to the side.
But a really big issue is that in the scene after Yaniv beats up Jakob for taking a photo of him kissing Cassie and texting it to her, they and Cassie’s housemate Maddy are revealed to have all left the area with none of their departures being shown onscreen, and no mention of why they leave and where they’re going. I don’t expect everything to be handed to me on a place but throw us a bone here. You’re writing out three important characters.
Also, because of how directionless the whole thing is, it never feels like it’s building to anything. The only thing we get that remotely resembles a climax is Yaniv beating up Jakob. Which is largely pointless since they leave the episode offscreen immediately after it happens and the fallout from it is never properly explored.
Thankfully we’re still far from the bad old days of Series 4 and 6 but we’re back to Skins: Fire quality here. As far as the technical aspects go, it’s still roughly on par with last week but the story’s just a mess. It’s meandering, never builds up to anything, and the rushed ending ultimately leaves us feeling cold because the story hasn’t developed enough before its all too rapid conclusion.
But the really disappointing isn’t that Pure Part 2 was bad. It’s that it could have been good. There were a lot of plot points with a lot of potential that could have been built up more, particularly Cassie’s relationship with Marcus which felt seriously undeveloped. Or how about her actually pursuing her a career as model only to get sucked into that world too much and ultimately suffer a relapse of her anorexia. This was a missed opportunity and an anti-climatic end to Cassie’s story.
We are currently seeking TV contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a TV contributor, click here.