Skins UK 5.01 “Franky” Review

Even though MTV has brought Skins to our shores in its own form (which I actually like), there is nothing like the real thing, baby.

Thursday night was the premiere of the new series of Skins in the UK, which featured the introduction of the Third Generation cast, which features some of the most interesting characters ever created in the world of Skins. The most intriguing person out of the new set of wild Bristol teens, Franky Fitzgerald (Dakota Blue Richards), was the focus point of the premiere, making the episode one of the best hours Skins has ever produced.

Franky (short for Francesca) is new in town and easily stands out with her choice of clothing, making her androgynous in appearance and being labeled a lesbian by peers. She also carries around a wooden manikin that seems to have some symbolic nature to it other than modeling for her short films. Franky also has two dads, who seem highly overprotective of her.

After Franky makes a memorable appearance at Roundview College, she is further humiliated after becoming the focal point forembarassment by Mini McGuiness (Freya Mavor), the new Queen of Roundview. Mini’s friends, Grace Violet (Jessica Sula) and Liv Malone (Layla Lewis), take a liking to Franky, as do outsiders Rich Hardbeck (Alexander Arnold) and Alo Creevey (Will Merrick), which rubs Mini the wrong way. The episode sees Franky find new friends, lose same new friends, and gain new friends by the end of the episode. In the midst of all that drama is the overall concept of choice and identity, and the writers couldn’t have picked two better cahracters (Franky and Mini) to play these themes off of.

Before I get into the jist of the episode, I have to talk about the fashion/theme going on in this episode. I’m no fashion freak or expert, but you can’t ignore the 80s vibe with this current Skins generation. You could so easily mistake this season to be set in the decade of decadence if cellphones and other current technology weren’t in the picture. From Franky’s Elvis Costello get up to Grace’s Dynasty inspired jumpsuit at the end of the episode, these kids made the 80s look fashionable right again, which is something I don’t think any American drama could pull off. The soundtrack even had several hits from the 80s in it, which makes me wonder if the 80s motif is something from the writers or just accidental at best? Either way, it works for this series so far and I just had to say something about it.

Back to the depth at hand. Choice and identity, or rather choosing one’s identity, was the theme of the hour with Franky and Mini serving as the models for such an experiment. While it seemed as if Frankie was the poster child of an insecure identity, it was in fact Mini’s insecurity that provided most of the drama throughout the episode. Franky’s contention on her identity was always there, it just needed a base to grow and remain firm. That base came in the form of Alo, Rich, and later Grace. You could also say Matty (Sebastian de Souza) helped form the foundation for Franky’s path to make a stand, but he didn’t stay around to celebrate the outcome. (More on him later.)

Mini, on the other hand, slowly saw her world become rocked with Franky’s inclusion and wanted to nip it in the bud quickly. She clearly hated being upstaged, but there was something more there than meets the eye. Mini’s insecurity is hidden behind her popular exterior, which she will do anything to maintain to keep up the facade of a peachy keen world, but we all know that popular kids are usually the ones with the most baggage and to hide that truth they attack others to make up for those flaws. It’s not necessarily always the case, but in Mini’s story that’s the most plausible answer.

Two other intriguing figures in the episode were Matty and Franky’s manikin, both had small roles, but they were pretty significant. As I already stated, Matty helped Franky solidify her stance against the “norm” and came across as if he would be an ally of sorts in this effort, but he was never seen again in the episode, which escalated his impromptu appearance into bona fide mysterious levels, making me want to know more about this guy and what his purpose will be in consecutive episodes.

The same can be said about Franky’s manikin, which also made an appearance in the trailer for this series, which depicted the main characters falling in an abyss. Franky grabs the manikin as she’s falling then the audience later sees it shattering on the ground in place of the kids. Could the manikin represent each of the kids and is just a base for them to place their identities on? Or is it just a form of something that just exists? Maybe I’m looking hard into the figure, but it has made enough appearances to make be considered the ninth castmember in my eyes.

Other things of note:

– Franky’s transformation reminded me of a mix of Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles” and Ally Sheedy’s transformation in “The Breakfast Club.” It was a shame that she didn’t keep it, because it would’ve went with her androgynous look a little bet. Then again, it would’ve defeated the purpose of her character.

– Grace’s voice and personality just warms my heart. I couldn’t help but smile every time she spoke. I’m glad that despite her shy, soft demeanor, Grace has her own voice and was not afraid to leave Mini fuming by joining Franky’s ranks. Another character I can’t wait to see more of.

– Didn’t Liv look as if she could be a rock hard version of Jal? It wouldn’t surprise me if she is Jal’s little sister or cousin, but I hope that’s not the case. This cast has no ties to the first two casts so far and I think that’s helping them out at the moment.

– Mini’s boyfriend Nick Levan (Sean Teale) didn’t have much to do tonight except be a meathead, but something tells me that there’s more under that muscle than just plain ‘dumbness’.

So what did you guys think of this new series/cast of Skins?

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