“You think you know death, but you don’t. Not until you’ve seen it, ’til you’ve really seen it. It gets under your skin and lives inside you. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing.”
Last week, viewers found Cook (Jack O’Connell), skirting the edges of rock bottom, pushing drugs and mixing with a dark crowd who threatened to completely pull him under. An eleventh hour murder committed by his superior Louie (Liam Boyle), and a twisted love-triangle lead to Cook hitting the road under the cover of darkness, with dual love interests Emma (Esther Smith) and Charlie (Hannah Britland). That’s about all that needs to be known, plot-wise, going into this, the final ever Skins episode.
Both the production team and the cast do an excellent job at building suspense. From Cook’s opening narration, a sense of dread begins to fill the story, and it doesn’t let up until the end-credits roll. Early scenes place the group in an almost suburban setting, and just as it threatens to slip in the banality, the episode picks up its pace for a conclusion set against a snowy backdrop as the trio attempt to disappear into the woods, with Louie on their tail, and Emma’s parents kidnapped.
This final hour is Skins at its finest. It’s a heart-racing examination of the human condition, as we see a man pushed to the limits of his very existence. As the hour sprints towards its finish, we find Cook in a very similar situation to the one that we originally left him in, at the conclusion of series four. This is where the extent of his growth finally emerges. This is where series tagline “Time Changes Everyone” really makes himself known.
There’s a physical confrontation which is genuinely difficult to watch, red blood a stark contrast to the white snow as two men essentially embark on a fight to death. As Cook emerges victorious, he has someones life in the palm of his hands.
He walks away, a lonely figure silhouetted against a wintery sunrise. On the run and doomed to repeat the harrowing cycle that life has repeated him with. It’s a very grim note to leave him on, but like others before, it make sense, in the gritty, visceral way that Skins so often thrives in.
So this is how Skins ends. Not with a bang, but with a tightly plotted, well-acted and stunningly brutal hour of television, that throws Cook against the elements in a battle for his life. His final monologue not only serves as an ending to his story, but also to the myriad of stories we’ve been presented with throughout the programs 7 year run.
“You think you know death, but you don’t. Not until you’ve see it. Really seen it. And it gets under your skin and lives inside you. You also think you know life. You stand on the edge and you watch it go by, but you’re not living it, not really. Just a tourist, a ghost. And then you see it. Really see it. And it gets under your skin and lives inside you. There’s no escape. There’s nothing to be done. And you know what? It’s good. It’s a good thing. And that’s all I’ve got to say about it.”
It wasn’t until viewing this episode that I really came to appreciate what this 7th series represented. It was never meant to be a goodbye, and that was what seemed to be so difficult for everyone to grasp. It was never an epilogue. It was simply another chapter.
This was a chance to check back in with teenagers as adults. It was a reminder that life will always be difficult; there will always be insurmountable odds to overcome. Some endings were tragic (Naomi and Emily), some were happy (Cassie), and some, in their own twisted way, made a lot of sense (Effy).
This road is a journey, and there are many stops along the way. There’ll be laughter, tears, birth, death; rebirth. If there’s one thing that Skins set out to prove from the very beginning, it’s that life is something that is uncontrollable, but it is something that happens to everyone.
At its best, Skins was an honest and brave portrayal of growing up in this rapidly changing world. It shaped a new generation as much as that generation shaped it.
So thank you, Skins. Thank you for not being afraid.