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Sex, Drugs, and ASBOs: An Advance Review of "Skins" Season Three

Um, like, wow. I've been on pins and needles since the second season of Skins wrapped up last month here in the US.

After all, the new season of Skins would feature not only a new beginning but largely an entirely new cast, save for Kaya Scodelario's Effy Stonem and Lisa Backwell's Pandora. Would the new gang of Bristol teens grab my attention as much as Tony, Michelle, Sid, Cassie, and the others had done over the course of the first two seasons? Would it feel like an entirely different new series?

The answer to both, luckily, is an resounding yes.

Last week, I watched the superb third season premiere of Skins (which launches in the UK on January 22nd) and I'm thrilled to report that this new season is not only a great jumping on point for people who haven't been watching the last two seasons (though shame on you if you haven't caught this smart and slick series) but it also effortlessly introduces a new batch of teens who are a mix of cocky, confident, brooding, sullen, bitchy, sensitive, promiscuous, keen, lonely, dangerous, and provocative, sometimes all at the same time.

So what else can you expect to find when Skins kicks off its third season? Let's discuss.

Unlike the first season, where we saw a group of kids already tightly bound together by the bonds of friendship, Season Three begins with a mostly disparate group, some of whom already know one another, as they begin their first day at Roundview College.

And what a day it is. From the very opening scene, a gorgeous tracking shot in which soulful Freddie (Luke Pasqualino) sails down the streets of Bristol on his skateboard, narrowly evading capture by a bike cop and multiple obstacles, one can't help shake the feeling that this season of Skins hits its target precisely from the get-go. What follows is a scene that blends the series' trademark combination of pitch black drama and off-kilter humor, as Freddie meets up with his friends Cook (Jack O'Connell), a cocksure lad whose, uh, well-placed tattoo becomes the lynchpin in a painfully hilarious and raucous scene at the college, and JJ (Ollie Barberi), a socially awkward (though intellectually gifted) prankster with a penchant for slight-of-hand, for some beers and spliff before class.

This being Skins, this troika of likable lads had to be broken up sooner or later... and applying pressure (and one hell of a temptation) to the group is one Effy Stonem, who--in true Effy fashion--memorably arrives at the scene. Her introduction to the boys is bound to be the subject of much discussion, coming as it does on the heels of a car accident, as Effy slinks away in the manner of a true femme fatale.

As in previous seasons, there's a sweeping cast whom we're likely to get to know much better throughout the next batch of episodes. Unlike previous seasons of the series, the third season premiere doesn't focus on any one character in particularly but gives equal weight to all of the new characters, from the aforementioned Cook, Freddie, and JJ to the always-enigmatic Effy and clueless Pandora (who, not atypically, introduces herself as "Hi, I'm Pandora! I'm useless!").

We also meet twins Katie (Megan Prescott), a socially-motivated man-eater who has always had a boyfriend since she was seven (and is currently dating a star footballer), and Emily (Kathryn Prescott), who is the opposite of her twin sister: quiet, shy, and introspective. Like a shark to blood, Effy immediately senses the tension between the twins and its root cause; it's likely something that our Effy will seek to use to her advantage later on, especially as she and Katie will either wind up BFFs or bitter social rivals.

Meanwhile, Katie and Emily seem to be mortal enemies with the brash, outspoken Naomi Campbell (Lily Loveless). (And, yes, her name is Naomi Campbell.) While Emily and Naomi were once close, there's the little matter of a pre-Roundview College kiss between the two of them that seems to be the source of conflict between them. Katie claims that Naomi pounced on her sister while Naomi claims that Katie is spreading lies. Hmmm... Just which of them is telling the truth? And how does Emily actually feel about Naomi?

I don't want to give away too many details of this fantastic season opener, but I will say that before the hour is over, look for two characters to engage in sex on the Roundview premises following what must be the very best tour of verboten behaviors ever seen on the series.

Meanwhile, JJ tries to charm Pixie, a deaf student, with an elaborate magic trick and Cook bares the weight of her disgust, a teacher loses her mind in a series of increasingly escalating torments, Effy measures up all of the new players, and the friendship between Freddie, Cook, and JJ takes a turn for the worse.

Also keep your eyes open for a poignantly rendered shout-out to Sid. While the writers didn't need to make us nostalgic for the old cast, the brief scene at Roundview perfectly encapsulates the presence of Sid and the others while also distinctly establishing that this is a new beginning for the series.

And, let's face facts, it is a new beginning. The producers took a huge risk by jettisoning the much loved cast and bringing in a new troupe of fresh-faced teens to carry the weight of the series. Judging from the sensational first episode of Season Three, I think it's a gambit that has paid off beautifully. I'm already completely captivated by this new gang of teenage misfits and itching to find out what will happen to them next.

As this is Skins, a series as groundbreaking as it is whiplash-inducingly unpredictable, I have no worries that, like JJ, whatever the writers have up their sleeves, we won't see it coming from a mile away... and, despite the new faces in the cast, that fact definitely hasn't changed.

Season Three of Skins launches on January 22nd in the United Kingdom on E4 and this spring in the US on BBC America. Be sure to come back tomorrow for an interview with Skins co-creator/writer Jamie Brittain.


Anonymous said…
I'm thrilled to hear that you liked the new cast. I was pretty confident that the show would continue its journey of greatness but it's reassuring to hear it from someone who has seen the first ep of the new season. I can't wait!!
Anonymous said…
Very relieved to hear that you liked it. You've not steered me wrong in the past and I was worried when you said that they were getting rid of Tony and everyone. Glad to see that the writers have created some new kids for us to get invested in and I can't wait for BBCA to launch S3!
Anonymous said…
The new season lacks the sincerity and depth of the first two. Perhaps with more episodes the characters will begin to develop more dimensions but right now I am missing the old ones.
Anonymous said…
Sorry if this seems blunt, but your review couldn't be more shallow. The third season is terrible beyond belief and appears to have been written by 14 year olds, thinking that is what 17 year olds do. It lacks the depth, truth, and humanity of the first and to a certain extent, second seasons, replaced instead with fart jokes and gratuitous sex scenes that go on far too long in lieu of an actual coherent plot. Plus there is not one likeable character...
Anonymous said…
I have to agree with Tommy. Bullocks I wanted this new season to captivate me like seasons past. The first episode didn't give me the warm feelings of the old gang but hopefully the story will pick up in the following episodes but for now i'm utterly dissatisfied.
Ross said…
I completely agree with Tommy.
This season is absolutely painful to watch.
Not just because it's completely cliche and unoriginal, but because they pretty much ruined what started out as one of the best shows ever.
It's not even in the same ballpark as the first two seasons.
Very sad.
Anonymous said…
i agree with tommy sadly
this season better turn around quick,
fart jokes, common man!!!!!
fart jokes?????
what the hell that is what family guy is for,
stick to the old material i dont think any one will get sick of that,
they already recasted the whole show for pete sake,
we dont need any more stupid changes
i efing hate that stupid jj magician loser who is friends with a cool guy and a pot smoking bad boy

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