US “Skins” recap (1.02): Leave The Gun, Take the Cannoli


When it happens, this is how it happens: A girl is looking at you. She’s not gawking. But her eyes aren’t moving past you, either, attempting to gauge the sunshine out the window behind you. It’s a moment. No, not even a moment. It’s the space between seconds, the time it takes for a mouse to inhale.

You have some options. You can convince yourself you imagined it; it wouldn’t take much. You can go home and replay it, record it in your journal and conjure up a thousand what ifs. You can flex your eyebrow, write your intention on a piece of paper and slide it across her desk like a dare.

Northern Soul.

If you’re unacquainted with the way Skins music adds another narrative layer to an already textured story, you picked a fine time to start paying attention. This episode is bookended by Northern Soul — Tony Clarke‘s “Landslide” opens it; Marlena Shaw‘s “Let’s Wade in the Water” props it up and closes it out — and Tea is rocking some retro pins that make me want to kiss the Skins costume design people on the mouth. There’s the classic “Keep the Faith” badge, and that Wigan Casino all-nighter night owl where the whole shebang got started.

You could call Northern Soul a genre, I suppose. But it’s more than that. It’s the representation of something wild and free, something soulful and emotional; it’s living life forward and discovering life backward. (Have you met my friend Tea?)

As far as opening montages go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Teenagers doing school things: tests, No. 2 pencils, eyes on your own paper — except Tea and Betty, who are engaged in some borderline nonverbal foreplay. Tea doing home things: ignoring her mom, pounding on the bathroom door, dropping E, e.e. cummings tattoo, shimmying into those striped cotton knickers Skins lesbians love so much. Northern Soul (retro fad dyke bar) things: fake ID, parting crowd, Betty and Tea circling and circling each other, measuring the distance between play and pounce. Tony Clarke over here just crooning away about crushing misery. And Tea and Betty stumbling home, licking and laughing and legitimately f–king the night into oblivion.

(You know why old rich white dudes and evangelical Christians think Skins is the most dangerous thing on TV? ‘Cause if word ever gets out that women can be proud to have awesome, casual, transformative sex — with other women, even! — there’s going to be a revolution the likes of which lingering Puritanism has never seen, and the Parents Television Council and supporting Baptist cohorts will not survive it. It’s not about morality; it’s about power. Take a good look at the history of the church and come back and tell me I’m wrong.)

Tea wakes up tangled up in Betty.

In my experience, the worst part of an all-night teenage shagathon is when you have to go to trigonometry without your homework the next day. Ha ha ha! I was so clueless about my own sexuality in high school, the only thing I ever worried about in trigonometry was passing notes to my BFF asking if she’d done blow jobs with her boyfriend the night before, and never pausing to wonder why it made me nauseous when the answer was yes. Maybe if I’d had Skins instead of 7th Heaven, eh?

Betty isn’t overly concerned with cotangent functions, though; the math she’s most worried about is how many people live in Tea’s house. Not in a “where do you people sleep?” kind of way, but in a “what kind of landmine situation are we talking about here, in terms of escape?” kind of way. Tea says it’s just her folks, offers them up in the way of salutation, and smirks a practiced smirk when Betty starts to panic. (Polka-dot dresses always take me to a Minnie Mouse place. Is that weird?)

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