Pushing through the storm of criticism, Skins also continues to push the envelope with a second episode as unyielding as the premiere. Focusing on the American incarnation’s most interesting character Tea, the show’s lesbian lead, we witness the life of a young girl who wants nothing more than to understand her place in the world.
Tea represents a type of leading character that wasn’t really seen on television until Marco Del Rossi from Degrassi: The Next Generation and, more recently, Glee’s Kurt Hummel: an openly-gay teenager. Like every other girl her age, she likes to have fun. She does her best to navigate a period of life that is wrought with confusion, hormones and pressure from multiple angles. However, she feels even more lost and alone than most straight teenagers.
Tea tries her best to fit in while remaining true to herself. She goes to clubs and meets other women like her only to find that they aren’t like her at all. After a night of passion together, her classmate Betty tells her to keep quiet about their encounter. “Scaredy cat,” Tea says in response, but despite her tough attitude, it is clear that she’s hurt.
When Betty approaches later in the episode, Tea let’s her know quite quickly that she isn’t up for playing any games.
Betty: “I was think-
Tea: (cutting Betty off ) “Betty . . . we had sex. But I’m not really looking for anything else.
Betty: “Why not?”
Tea: “Someone mention a boyfriend? What’s that for? Show?”
Betty: “I have to have a boyfriend.”
Tea: “Sounds like pretending to me, and that’s bad stuff we have to avoid. And I don’t want a relationship.”
Betty: “Why not?”
Tea: “Because nobody matches up with me.”
When Betty walks away pissed, the expression on Tea’s face tells us that she wants to feel something with somebody, but she doesn’t know how. Instead of letting herself get hurt in the process, she retreats back inside herself, never letting anyone get close enough to cause her any harm. Unfortunately, it keeps her from feeling very happy as well. “Something’s wrong with me, Nana,” she confides to her grandmother. “I want the sex, but the girls I sleep with bore me. They’re caddy, clingy—I don’t know. It never feels enough. Is is to much to ask for someone to be interesting. I just wanna feel equal. Is it too much?”
Tony later gives a perfect description of Tea when he tells her, “You hold back. Nobody gets in. It’s mysterious.”
In one of the episode’s last scenes, we’re presented with a beautiful moment after Tea climbs into bed with her Alzheimer-inflicted grandmother (a reversal of an earlier scene). Tea’s Nana unexpectedly confesses to her granddaughter that she had a lesbian lover during World War II. Despite the fact that Tea’s grandmother has no idea who she is talking to or that she is confessing such a deep secret, Tea is obviously comforted by the fact that she is not alone no matter how lonely she may feel.
The second episode of Skins succeeds where the first failed: It brings something new to the table that’s fresh and interesting. Relying more on telling a good story and less on the shocking elements the show has become known for, we glimpse the possibilities Skins has at its disposal.