This week’s episode of Skins was easily a step up from last week’s “”Cadie, the worst episode thus far. With “Stanley,” the premiere season has reached its midway point, but the show is still on shaky ground.
In the U.K. version of the show, Stan’s parallel Sid is one of the most easily lovable characters in the show. He is a sloppy mess, but he doesn’t ever try to be anything other than himself, a noble effort for a teenager. Stanley is virtually the same character, aside from Daniel Flaherty’s sub-par acting. His dopey demeanor is charming, but it just isn’t quite enough to keep us interested for too long. This is a major problem with the show. It’s not that the characters aren’t believable or interesting. The success of the original series proves that, but the American actors fail to make us see it. The stories have to potential to be captivating, but unfortunately they just come across as boring, weighing the show down tremendously.
However, “Stanley” managed to provide an element that has been desperately lacking from the show so far—an American sensibility. Skins originated in the U.K., and although the idea behind the series operates on fairly universal themes (love, death, mental illness, angst) the perspective of the show is from a British mindset. So far, the U.S. incarnation has basically just made an exact duplicate of the original rather than translating the idea to an American point of view. Of course, the show looks American on the surface (despite being filmed in Canada). We have American actors, an American setting, American characters doing American things and speaking in American slang (despite the use of the word “skins” which is British slang for rolling papers), but that’s about as deep as it goes. In “Stanley,” we finally get a taste of the idea of the show presented through an American lens, albeit a small taste. A lot of the action in this episode revolves around Stanley stealing his father’s car. Driving a car is the American Dream for teenagers. It represents freedom, power and a sense of self-reliance. Anyone who was ever a teenager growing up in America remembers the longing felt for the age of 16, the golden age that brought with it a driver’s license and, usually, trouble.
Stanley definitely runs into plenty of trouble during his automobile experience. By the end of his run, he ends up pulling the rearview mirror off, scraping both sides of the car on a security gate, speeding through an air force base and getting pulled over by military police only for his father’s car to erupt into flames shortly after.
Stan’s story provided the show with a fair bit of comedy that was actually pretty entertaining, but the show still needs a lot of work. “Stanley” definitely wasn’t the best episode so far (that would be “”Tea), but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. However, with only five more episodes left in the season, Skins is going to need to really prove itself soon if it wants to keep its American audience.
• The recurring theme of a lack of strong parental figures is featured once again in “Stanley.” However, Stan’s parents try harder to be involved in their son’s life than most of the parents on the show, but they go about it the wrong way. Stan’s dad simply punishes him for his mistakes without actually trying to help him get through life or understand what he’s going through. The judge at Stan’s court hearing realizes this almost immediately. “What does every bastard who has ever lived have in common?” the judge asks Stanley. “His father was a bastard, and he never broke the cycle. Break the cycle, Stanley.”
• We begin to see how manipulative Tony is in this episode. He invites Michelle and Stan to the choir concert just so he can kiss Tabitha in front of them. “What the fuck are you doing?” Stan asks after Tony tells him to take Michelle home. “I’m giving you a gift,” he replies, fully aware that Stan is in love with Michelle.
• When Tea refuses Tony’s advances at the party, he steps in on Michelle and Stan’s embrace, asserting his control over both of them.
• The scene between Stanley and Cadie’s mom was a nice touch. It shows how similar the teenagers’ lives are despite how alone they may feel at times.
• When Stan finally cleans his disgusting messy room near the end of the episode, it seems to suggest that he has become a new man and that he is finally taking control of his own life. All through the episode and in the episodes before, Sid is constantly being shit on by life. At the end of the episode, sitting in the burnt up car with his father, he says, “It’s [the car] not a piece of shit, Dad. It is now, but it wasn’t. I just drove it wrong.” By the same token, Stan’s life wasn’t a piece of shit before. He was just letting other people control it—and they were doing it wrong.