S1E2: The second installment of the U.S. version of Skins was last night, and I'm impressed. As I stated last week, I haven't seen the British version, so I'm watching this with a clean slate. And although there are still a few problems with the ensemble, last night's "Tea" showed that Skins has at least one cast member who can act: Sofia Black D'Elia. Because the entire episode focused on her it was pretty good. (Also, as our resident lover of the original Skins, Sam Morgan, has got a few thoughts as well. See them at the bottom of the page.)
"So are you up for breakfast, or did you eat enough last night?"
We opened with Tea who passes a note to a girl in one of her classes. It reads, "Northern Soul." Turns out, that's a gay bar and they meet each other there later that night. They end up going home together and in the morning, Tea brushes the incident off to her parents, telling them that she was "helping her with an assignment" and Betty stayed the night because she likes to "chew things over." Her parents, completely oblivious to her sexual orientation, don't think twice about the situation, and Betty joins for breakfast. After they leave for school, we learn that Betty is still closeted and obviously uneasy about the whole situation. She has a boyfriend.
I must note this, Betty wasn't played by a very good actress (and my Googling skills can't seem to turn up a name, so any help would be appreciated). She was flat, forcing lines, and frankly, just not believable at all. Fortunately for Betty though, Tea carried this episode. The situation that the writers put them in was so compelling that even with a poor performance from Betty, it kept my interest.
So let's pause and talk about this for a second. This situation is interesting, right? Girl sees another girl she likes, asks her out, they go out, end up sleeping together, finally waking up together in a household that is completely oblivious to their true relationship. It's that last part that grabs me. While at school and in the world, Tea is confident, smart, and sexy. I mean, really, everyone wants her -- from both sexes. This is illustrated by Tony convincing Cadie to pretend to have slept with Stanley, just so Tea has to show the world her boobs. So it's no surprise that Betty wants to go out with her, despite having a boyfriend and not being out of the closet. She feels comfort from Tea. She feels that it's okay to be herself. But, then we get the kicker. Tea isn't really out of the closet, at least not to her family. So is she really as confident as she seems? Or is it all just a front for her insecurities? Well...kind of.
"Is it too much to ask for someone to be interesting?"
Through her conversation with Nana -- who accidentally slips into Tea's room for bed rather than her own -- we learn that Tea is actually pretty comfortable with herself. It's not an issue of confidence or even insecurity. She just wants, like we all do, to find someone else in the world who interests her. "There's something wrong with me," she says. "I want the sex, but the girls I sleep with bore me." Pretty mature words for a girl in high school. That brings us to the next part of the episode: her date with Tony.
"You think you got it all don't you? But I can match you. You met your match."
Through her father's job, Tea is set up on a blind date with his boss' son. That son? Tony. So, they laugh about it and go enjoy the cash that their fathers gave them, getting drunk on some vodka in the park. Like all drunk conversations go, they talk about their relationships and sex, until Tony gets real with Tea, saying what we've been thinking. "You're mysterious," he says. "You hold back. Nobody gets in." Tony understands this because he's the same way. The two of them have a connection. It's obvious how similar they are, both liking to be the center of attention while still holding on to that "mysterious" card. It's no wonder that as they move to the dance club and start dancing together, they start to make out, which eventually leads to some type of attempt at sex.
I like how the show is dealing with this situation. Rather than focus so heavily on the fact that Tea is a lesbian and Tony is straight, the show completely removed gender from their connection. Earlier in the episode, Tea complained that she wanted to find someone interesting. Tony is interesting. They have a connection. Sure, later on they're both confused by the connection, but in that moment nothing else -- their friends' judgments, their family's judgments -- mattered.
"I love you, Nana."
Following her romp with Tony, Tea's frustrated. But thankfully, she's not alone in her family and has someone to talk to. As they lay in bed together, Nana reveals that long ago, she had a lesbian lover during the Holocaust, and she still remembers the time they spent together. By far, this was the best scene in the episode.
"I matched you. I matched you good."
So, we have Tony and Tea. They're a match; and as I stated earlier, I like that the show is dealing with their relationship outside of the boundaries of gender. It doesn't matter what they label themselves, instead they just feel a connection. So why not pursue that connection?
Again, there are problems with this show. Outside of the Tea storyline, the rest of the episode really felt unbearable. At times, it was painfully obvious that this is the first time these actors have acted (Stanley's freak-out in the bathroom about the drug dealer comes to mind). But, even though the show is sometimes filled with cliche dialogue and overbearing music that makes you feel like you're watching an American Apparel advertisement and not a TV show, the performance from Sofia Black D'Elia combined with the writers handling a brave, compelling take on straight-gay relationships gives me hope that Skins will find itself.
Sam's Expert Panel of One:
Well, it was bound to happen. U.S. Skins goes off the map from the British Skins. First they change Maxxie to a girl, and then they give her her own story in the second episode. This episode proves that this version of Skins still has the balls of the original (even if its advertisers don’t). This depiction of teenage homosexuality was frank, honest, raw, and original - exactly like the original. Once you get past the superficial changes, the show is still the same and if they can break out with an episode like this, this early? We’re in for a ride. The next few episodes go back to repeating the British versions, but they’ve set up some serious differences with this episode. Once they’ve produced it and aired it, it’s canon so they can’t ignore this. Shall it be awesome? Yes it shall.