As we reach the midpoint of the seventh and final series of E4‘s Skins, it’s time for Effy to put down the burning reigns and place them into Cassie’s (Hannah Murray) hands as we enter the first part of Skins Pure. Cassie – who was amongst the standout characters from the show’s ‘first generation’ cast – is known for her kooky, airy-fairy type personality who exclaims “oh wow” to almost every incoming line of dialogue, but as mentioned previous, these episodes have significantly grown up, and the Cassie we used to know is merely smoke dancing in the wind.
Much like Miss Stonem’s saga, we begin here with Cassie going about her daily business – something much emptier and unfulfilled than Effy’s routine – she lives in a noisy, dirty house occupied by a band of antisocial strangers and works as a waitress in a dingy London cafe to make ends meet. It seems as though every single shred of joy and wonder from her youth has been tarnished; consumed and rejected by the cold realities of adulthood and responsibility. Because of this, Cassie has become a stronger person; no more is she the awkward, free-spirited girl who would happily drag on a joint and dance the night away with Sid and Chris, she’s developed into a more bitter being – one who responds with “no” more than anything else.
Those who populate her life in Pure are all victims of Cassie’s “no”; whether this be her weed-smoking flatmates, having a drink with the desirable lad from work or indeed the peculiar presence of Jakob (Olly Alexander) who happens to be particularly obsessed with photographing her at every – and nearly always inappropriate – opportunity.
Keeping in style and tone means this third episode showcases beautiful filmmaking; each shot is meticulously framed and palleted with empty, earthy colours. London is captured ever darker than before – a city with potential, but without hope, security and love. Its a place that can make, but far easier break a person and dash their hopes and dreams with one stroke of the reality brush. Clearly the crews behind these episodes are desperate to craft a crushingly realistic portrait to their audience as well as comment on today’s economic climate and sociological issues.
If audiences were expecting a slight lift up from the bruisingly brilliant nature of Effy’s final, think again. In many ways, Pure is an even darker tale; it never offers a glimmer of hope, nor excitement or joy, and whilst the web of confusion and fear that tangles Cassie isn’t as complex as Effy’s, the episode’s moral basis is fundamentally founded upon disappointment. Nothing awaits you outside that door to your life except for trials, tribulations and sadness; pretty damn bleak huh?
The biggest problem with Cassie’s first entry is that its narrative is often dubious – we are expected to accept Jakob’s snap-happy behaviour as acceptable and desirable; as if he is making Cassie feel like a woman, but actually its perverse and intrusive. Plus the absence of say any other previous characters means the entire weight rests upon her tiny, anorexic shoulders. There is no doubt that Murray is fantastic here; her moves into cinema and most recently Game of Thrones has enabled her range to dramatically extended and better, but there just isn’t enough support from those around here, or indeed the world she resides in to bring it up to the same level as Fire.
This new Cassie is a cynic; a colder, more chiselled young woman, but unlike Effy, it’s hard to see what lies underneath those layers. This first episode of Skins Pure wasn’t bad by any means, but one can’t help but wish Cassie had kept just an inch of her previous characteristics. She was a darn sight more fun five years ago…
Skins Pure is now available on 4oD. Cassie’s story continues on Monday at 10pm on E4.