Monday, September 01, 2008

Skins, "Chris": The naked gun

Spoilers for episode four of "Skins" coming up just as soon as I find a better place to store my Pop Tarts...

"Chris" was the first episode I watched live on BBC America instead of on a screener, and it was amusing for two reasons: 1)The title card explaining exactly why they're subtitling some of the dialogue, and 2)The previews for next week's episode, which continue to push the show as some kind of giddy sex romp, when it so clearly isn't.

Yes, Chris spends large chunks of this episode either naked or tumescent, and there's a wild party sequence, but it's a terribly sad episode. From the minute Chris wakes up to find the cash envelope from his mom, it's clear something isn't right, and as the party goes on, even Chris' friends can tell he's out of control. And the nudity, though played for laughs at first, turns into an easy symbol of how much Chris has lost. Older brother, dead. Dad, wants nothing to do with him. Mom, nuts and on walkabout. House, wrecked and taken over by a hippie squatter. Clothes, no doubt being worn by the hippie. And when he starts popping the Viagra again at the end, it's no longer a joke, but a sign that, even after all this loss, after his friends and Angie warning him that he has to change, he still can't resist popping those pills, even with no girl around to use them on.

(By the way, exactly how cheap and available is Viagra in the UK? Chris is popping them like candy, and the teacher who previously occupied that dorm room doesn't even think to take his supply with him, where I'd think any American guy who needed the stuff wouldn't dream of leaving them behind.)

We've been talking about how each episode is told (mostly; see the ongoing Tony/Michelle/Sid/Cassie comedy) from the main character's point of view, and that's why the adults are so often two-dimensional (or, in the case of Chris' biological parents, not seen at all), and I thought the sequence with Chris' stepmom really brought that home. Yes, she's British and therefore genetically required to be polite at all costs (or so pop culture has taught me), but when somebody drops your baby, I would think the maternal genetic programming would override the British stuff.

And that scene led to the episode's highlight: Chris at his brother's grave (which I didn't realize was Peter's, even as I figured Peter was dead) telling Jal about the best day of his life, which would qualify as most people's worst. But Chris so clearly loved his brother -- who, from what we can see here, was the only member of the family to give a toss about him -- that Peter's moment of kindness mattered far more to Chris than his public humiliation. Chris' life is still one of constant humiliation (and still often penis-related), and now he doesn't have his brother to bail him out. Really well-played by Joe Dempsie.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

The scene at the graveyard was a great pay off. I was very impressed by they actor.

Really looking forward to next week's Sid episode.

(By the way, watching Mad Men and Skins in the same night is a bizarre but surprisingly good combination.)

Ben said...

Viagra is prescription only in the UK - this means that you have to go to the GP get examined and convince him that you need it! It is a controlled prescription only medication - mainly because of its adverse effect on your blood pressure (lowers it). But if you know somebody who knows somebody who deals in drugs or is slightly dodgy then it would be easier to get hold of.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thanks, Ben. And that's why it seemed odd that the teacher left some behind. I understand Chris getting it (not that he needs it, but teenagers, logic, etc.), but if it's prescription only (and presumably not cheap), just seems weird that an older guy wouldn't remember to hold onto his supply.

Myles said...

I thought this episode was good, not great - the performance itself was very strong, but I felt that it felt a bit too false for them to take a character with zero backstory and in the span of a single episode turn them into a homeless, drug addicted orphan. It was compelling television, but it felt like a step backwards from the more subtle and in line with previous evidence development of Cassie, or the more subtle work with Jai. Still, as noted, the performance was strong enough to carry the day.

Shawn Anderson said...

Once again, they cut out nearly all the music. Adam Ant's "Prince Charming" remains, but the rest was replaced by knock-offs.

For instance, in the original, Chris puts on "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes to dance with Angie, which makes the scene a whole lot funnier ("on a mountain high" Cocker sings when Angie notices Chris' third leg).

Here's how the party went originally.

Anonymous said...

Here's some info about NHS prescription charges in England (in Wales, prescriptions are free, and Scotland has lower charges than England.)

"The price of a prescription in 1979 was 20p. From April 2008, the price is £7.10."

"Around 88 per cent. of prescription items dispensed in England are exempt from prescription charges."

"Prescription prepayment certificates (PPC) cost £27.85 for 3 months and £102.50 for 12 months. They offer a saving to anyone who needs more than 3 items in 3 months or more than 14 items in 12 months."

People exempt from prescription charges include young people in full-time education aged 16, 17 and 18. Also exempt are people receiving income support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.

Nicole said...

I figured that there was some sort of drug co-pay plan in the UK and that it would cost little to refill a prescription for something like Viagra. It is similar in Canada where seniors get a significant discount, and most employers have a drug plan where you only need to pay about $1.00 to obtain or refill a prescription.

Anonymous said...

Why do I not see this show in Los Angeles? Is it on BBC America?

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, just wanted to let you know I love reading your Skins reviews. I saw the first two shows on BBC America and then immediately dug up the rest of the series. There's so much more good stuff to come!

In regards to your comments about the end of the episode: "he still can't resist popping those pills, even with no girl around to use them on."

I didn't have such a bleak outlook about that situation. I think Chris has this carefree F-it attitude and found this scene to be a hopeful one. The fish, the pill, and pinning the box to the wall (like he did in his old place) was just his way of accepting and settling into his new place.

Unknown said...

I thought the teacher left cold medicine and that Chris just takes anything he comes across. Why does any 17 year old boy need to take Viagra anyway? He's just medicating himself out of thinking about anything.