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Reviewed by Will Harris
f “Skins” was an artist, then Volume Two would be considered its dark period. One wouldn’t necessarily expect a show to grow quite so melancholy in its sophomore season, but then, from the moment the series premiered, it made a point of setting itself outside the ranks of its peers, offering up arguably the most realistic look at teen life ever to appear on television. As teens will gladly tell you and over again, life isn’t wine and roses for them, so maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised at the way things have turned out for the “Skins” crew.
Also, we probably should recall that Volume One ended with one of the primary characters – Tony (Nicholas Hoult) – getting hit by a freaking bus. If you’re looking for a way to set the tone for your next set of episodes, that’ll do nicely.
Volume Two kicks off with "Tony and Maxxie,” which splits the bulk of its time between detailing Tony’s recovery from his accident and spotlighting Maxxie’s desire to take a pass on following in his father’s footsteps and instead pursue a career as a dancer. Tony’s tale is the more intriguing of the two, partially because it gives Hoult a chance to shine as an actor, but also because it provides us with an update of what’s been going on with Michelle and Sid. Still, if it wasn’t for Maxxie, we wouldn’t get the inroads into the story of Sketch (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), who turns out to be a full-fledged freak. She’s the star of the next episode, and we watch as she stalks her romantic prey throughout the episode, committing moral atrocities left and right, only to have Maxxie tell her that he’s gay. Her response? She grabs his hands, thrusts them onto her breasts, and suggests that her limited build makes her almost as good as a guy. Well, not quite, but kudos on the quick comeback nonetheless. Sketch’s story isn’t over, however. She’s a presence throughout the remainder of the season, as she makes the decision to hook up with Anwar, which proves decidedly awkward and requires a certain amount of stealth on Anwar’s part to keep the relationship from his best friend.
You think a stalker is dark? You should see the rest of the season of “Skins.” And really, that’s why it’s hard to recommend the show quite as unabashedly as we did the first time around. The drama’s there, but it’s undeniable that, for its quality, it still makes for a less enjoyable viewing experience than its predecessor. Yes, things go wrong in life, but it seems as though creator Jamie Brittain has gone out of his way to show that, sometimes, things go really, really, really wrong – particularly for poor Chris, but my God, look at Sid! He loses Cassie due to a very reasonable misunderstanding (how could he have known that those guys were gay?), finds solace in the girl of his dreams, only to have Michelle go back to Tony and watch Cassie run off to New York City – and that’s not even speaking to the fact that he walks downstairs one morning to find that his dad’s died!
When the season wraps up, one could argue that we get something approximating a happy ending for most of the (surviving) characters, but when the news came forth that Season Three would dismiss the majority of the familiar faces in favor of a new cast, it was almost a relief. The “Skins” ensemble feels so real that we couldn’t bear to see their lives start to spiral out of control again. It’d just be too painful.
Special Features: As on the previous set, we get no commentaries or behind-the-scenes featurettes, but we do get the “Skins” Christmas special, along with five other brief tales. They all have merit, but the most lighthearted of the bunch is “Anwar & Sketch,” where poor Anwar’s attempts to produce a romantic evening for his new lady friend go awry. “Cassandra” doesn’t even require knowledge of its title character’s back story to prove effective, and while the same can’t be said of “Tony’s Nightmare,” it can be said that it’s downright creepy.