'Skins' Season 1, Episode 2 Recap
by Sandie Angulo Chen, posted Jan 25th 2011 11:00AM
So, here we are again for another episode of 'Skins,' which has turned out to be the most controversial show of the year. My husband bet me I wouldn't have a gig next week if sponsors continue to drop off, but if this series follows the pattern of the British original, it's likely that even some critics will find the vulnerability that lies beneath the "teens behaving badly" series compelling. What makes the U.K. version so great isn't the partying, the sex, or the drugs; it's the conversations, the angst, the deeper questions that get posed and often go unanswered, much like they do in actual adolescence.
But getting back to this second episode, it showed much more depth than the first, largely by focusing on the intriguing Tea and her struggle to reconcile being a young, beautiful, semi-out lesbian and a responsible, pretending-to-be-straight daughter to a mobbed-up Italian father and a doting Jewish mother.
Tea's character here strays the furthest from the original, which featured Maxxie, a beautiful, sensitive gay boy instead. By changing the character to a "hot girl," the creators added an even greater sense of titillation to the clique of friends. There was a certain poignancy to the Muslim boy being best friends with the closest gay boy in the first seasons of the British show. But replace the guy with a lesbian, and all of a sudden all the boys in the crew are a little too interested in her, her sex life, her body. So, it was not with an open mind that I watched Tea fill the shoes of arguably the sweetest character of the U.K. original.
But Sophia Black D'Elia is a charming young actress. She has these expressive doe eyes that shine with delight one moment (like when she smiles at the lesbian club's bouncer), and burn with confusion and sadness in others (like when she talks to her Nana). Yes, the scene with Betty, her fellow closeted girlcrush, was uncomfortably explicit (and also mind boggling -- do teens usually bring home one-night-stand partners with their extended families in the house -- on weeknights, no less?), but it was also fairly brief.
It was a relief to meet Tea's family, bubbling with the kind of loud-mouthed, big-family irritation and affection that is quite functional when compared to the other glimpses of family life on the show. As it turns out, her father is, while not a "made guy," a peripheral part of a Family with a capital F. Baltimore does, in fact, have a known Little Italy with mafia connections, but since the series is utterly devoid of any sense of place in Baltimore (or anywhere, really), the mob stuff felt off without understanding the context of the mafia's place in the city.
And since we're discussing Tea's family, let's just get it over with and discuss what could be construed as either incredibly touching or incredibly ridiculous -- her secretly gay grandmother who was persecuted in Nazi Germany for being a lesbian. Are we supposed to think Nana knows Tea's a lesbian and wanted to share her deep dark secret, or was it simply the ramblings of a confused Bubbe who wanted to vent? Either way, the scene was well-acted, and it certainly made that final image of the lavender click, but it also felt slightly manipulative.
The entire Tony-Tea blind date proved even more confusing. Clearly it wouldn't take much for Tony to desire Tea (or any girl, if he could get away with it and still keep Michelle as his girlfriend), but why would Tea, who's so comfortable with her sexuality that she goes to lesbian clubs and seduces girls in her own bedroom, get it on with a guy who's dating a friend of hers? And what exactly does "I matched you, I matched you good" even mean, really? At least Tea realized it was terrible and that it would never work.
Tony and Tea's hookup was a fantastic contrast to Cadie, who, knowing Stan has a thing for Michelle, refuses to sleep with him. Despite her loony behavior, and his abysmal self-esteem over being a virgin, the two of them could be the "heart" of the ensemble.
What do you think of the MTV show so far? Are you sticking around, or are you sticking with the U.K. series?
• "Oh my God. Tea's going on a cosa nostra blind date." -- Abbud to Tea
• "He could look happier now that we're banging each other." -- Cadie to Tony
• "After the second quarter, I think you're going to have to make like Janet Jackson." -- Tony to Tea
• "Italians. All they want to do is get laid. They'll never leave you alone." -- Tea's Nana
• "Still, it's nice to be jumped like that sometimes ... Gotta work at it." -- Michelle
'Skins' airs Mondays at 10PM ET on MTV.