BY HARRISON CARTWRIGHT
Last week, we checked back in with Cassie (Hannah Murray) after a half-decade absence to find her drifting aimlessly through life, lacking a purpose or direction. It wasn’t the strongest episode, however some 11th hour developments set the story on course for a stronger backend. Thankfully, the second part of ‘Pure’ seems to make a lot more sense. In a broader context, the story that writer Bryan Elsley is trying to tell suddenly falls to focus. This is Cassie growing up.
In terms of plot, where last week saw Cassie being stalked by rookie photographer and co-worker Jakob (Ollie Alexander), and eventually bonding with him, this week sees her both attempting to piece together her broken family and…somehow embarking on a career as a runway model. It’s a plot development which lasts all of five minutes. The former storyline is where the episode really shines. The latter is where it falls to pieces, making for a disjointed 45-minutes that is genuinely hard to critique. When they get it right, it’s fantastic. And when they don’t, it’s horrible. This has been the case with Skins since its inception, and unfortunately, the production crew still aren’t able to overcome said flaw.
I’ve mentioned it every week thus far, but it needs to be said again: the production values here are stunning. The opening scenes, which find her on a beach in Wales, reconnecting with her father, Marcus (returning cast member Neil Morrissey), are some of the most phenomenal scenery I’ve seen in Skins 7 year history. In fact, the entire first half of the episode is extremely well-done, with Murray knocking it out of the park, as director Paul Gay takes us from scene to scene in a poignant, understated and effective manner.
Unfortunately, and as I mentioned above, it’s upon her return to London, and her subsequent stumbling upon a career in the modelling industry, that things start to fall apart. The plot, while signposted effectively along the way, just doesn’t seem to fire. And from there, as tensions between her and Jakob, as well as new fling Yaniv (Daniel Ben Zenou), a love triangle emerges, someone gets the crap beaten out of them and it fails to work at all.
While ‘Fire’ was about friends becoming family in an adult world, ‘Pure’ speaks to the definition of family itself, and how it changes and evolves as we transition away from adolescence. There’s another lovely scene later on where Cassie’s little brother recites a book he’s having to read at school. It takes place through a phone call, with Cassie seeking refuge from a runway after-party on the balcony. This is where the theme of both parts of the episode begins to become resoundingly clear.
Later in the episode, as Cassie lies in bed with Yaniv, I couldn’t help but recall that scene in Skins’ very first episode, on the trampoline with Sid. It was a subtle callback, but one which went a long way towards reminding us of who Cassie was and how far she has come.
If this review seems too ramble a little too much, it’s because ‘Pure’ does that as well. It’s nowhere near as high-stakes as ‘Fire’ was – and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, a combination of not enough action, and a sparsely populated world really let the character of Cassie down. I said it last week, but I really felt once more that ‘Pure’ would have really benefited from a couple of familiar recurring characters, rather than a supporting cast of strangers that filled both episodes. However, the girl in questions has always been a lone soul and I can see what the Skins team were trying to establish here.
And so it’s curtains for Cassie, returning to her dead-end job and taking charge of little brother Reuben as her father sets off on a trip to find himself following a descent into alcoholism, in the wake of his wife’s death. Not exactly thrilling, but it’s honest glimpse of how family life changes as we grow up.
Next week? Cook’s back.
Check out the other Skins reviews here:
Review by Harrison Cartwright, who can’t believe we didn’t get to hear Cassie say ‘Wow’ once in either episode. Follow him on Twitter.