Skins UK 5.02 “Rich” Review

In a world of noise and destruction, silence can prove to be your most viable asset.

This week’s episode of E4’s Skins focused on Rich, a rebellious metal-head who takes his metal lifestyle pretty seriously, claiming to never compromise his lifestyle for anyone. What Rich doesn’t get is that his alienated attitude doesn’t sit well with those around him, especially his best friend Alo, who blames Rich’s behavior for his lack of a sex life. After finding the perfect mate for Rich in the form of a female metal-head, who they hilariously dub “Angel of Death,” Alo, with the help of Franky, enlist Grace to help Rich learn how to talk to girls. Grace agrees to the task, but meets him in secret to avoid the wrath of Mini and Liv.

The more Grace attempts to help Rich the more he shuts her down in her endeavors, because he doesn’t think their personalities mesh all that well. Later, despite getting her feelings hurt, Grace reappears to Rich dressed in metal-head gear, which impresses Rich to an extent. Grace, in her role of Sub, shows off her knowledge in metal but drops the role when Rich criticizes Grace for letting Mini and Liv use her like a welcome mat. This forces Grace to vent about her life where no one, not even Rich, has a clear reading on her. As the episode goes on, Rich is embarrassingly turned down by Angel of Death and spurns Grace in retaliation after she invites him to her ballet recital. After a conversation with Alo about being true to himself gets ugly, Rich runs and buys an album that eventually turns him deaf. After he’s lost his hearing trying to prove is never compromising attitude when it comes to metal, Rich ends up at Grace’s ballet performance. Despite not being deaf, Rich sheds a tear at the beauty of what he sees.

After the ballet, a deaf Rich apologizes to Grace, who invites him to go to a Napalm Death concert, which Rich was planning on going to himself before he went deaf. In anger he tore up his tickets, but Grace bought her own tickets and the two have the time of their lives at the concert, despite (again) Rich being deaf.

Rich eventually gets his hearing back the next day and runs to tell Grace how he feels about her, but although Grace obviously feels the same way, she still has an image to uphold at the end of the day. She stops Rich from revealing his feelings by saying she’s glad nothing happened between them, but it’s clear that this is the start of another epic Skins relationship.

The noise versus silence motif was an excellent way to build Rich’s character into understanding that despite him being so sure of himself, he doesn’t have the slightest clue. Some people might be upset about what I’m about to say, but I don’t care. Rich reminds me of Tea from MTV’s Skins, who recently had her seemingly diligent world rocked by an unexpected outside force. Some people forget that the characters of Skins are teens, which means they are still figuring out who they are, no matter what their prospect on life entails. Rich’s stubborn ignorance, while warranted in some senses, stunted his growth in understanding things outside of the metal-head mind frame. He can have his metal all day, but you can’t really think straight with it 24/7, which Toxic Bob clearly displayed with his copy Heat magazine in the middle of a heavy metal shop.

Rich going deaf was more of a blessing than a curse. Until that point, Rich had it out for the world and its occupants as mentioned before, but all those people he pushed away were actually there for him in the end, which probably wouldn’t be the case for any average joe. The deaf period showed what the world was like without all the noise and haze of confusion, making things clear in Rich’s eyes that he had never seen before. For example, the conversation with Rich’s father would have never taken place before, which displays growth on Rich’s part. However, the silence is only a part of his decision to make compromises where they were needed.

Jessica Sula’s Grace stole the show again with her bright demeanor, which can illuminate shade of gloom on contact. The only bothersome thing was how Grace seemingly converted back to the “cool kids” after breaking rank in the last episode, because in my last review I applauded her for having a brain of her own, but now that seems to be not the case. With that said, it’s safe to say Grace is fed up with having to compromise her interests in order to satisfy Mini by her outburst in the pub with Rich. Keeping up appearances can get a bit tiring, so maybe that’s why Grace has found a connection with Rich, because he could care less what people think of him. Hopefully some of Rich’s ‘no compromise’ stance will rub off on Grace, because she seriously needs a backbone to complete her sunny exterior.

The popular vs. freak motif is an interesting path the writers are taking this year with this cast, which is a change of pace from the previous groups of teens. As you can see at the moment, there is no sense of unity among this cast with the only ties being Grace, and even Franky to an extent, at the moment, but even those connections are beginning to fray at best. Does this mean that the group won’t match up later in the series? Not at all. It will be interesting to see where each character stand at the end of the season.

One last thing of note before I close out is the absence of heavy drug use and sex in these first two episodes. Granted, there are several more episodes in the season left to party, but you can’t miss the shortage of wild antics so far. Some of the fans are crying foul for the lack of debauchery that became a staple of the show’s image, which is a shame given the flack both versions of the show have gotten recently on both sides of the pond. If the parties, sex, and drug uses were what you thought Skins was all about, then you clearly have been missing the big picture for the last four years.

In closing, while not as epic as Franky’s introductary episode, “Rich” still delivered the goods in establishing Rich and Grace’s characters and informing us that this might not be the Skins we are used to, which is a good thing. Too bad those naysayers begging for something fresh and new while screaming for a return to form would don’t see that.

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