TV Review: Skins USA: Season 1, Episode 4 – ‘Cadie’



(This recap/review contains spoilers)

It’s fitting that the episode of Skins that focuses on the show’s most medicated character should feel so…sedated. ‘Cadie’ isn’t an entirely terrible episode – shocking, considering that the character has so far been the most disappointing, inconsistently written one amongst the bunch – even though it’s bereft with awful moments and characters. Even so, between the monotone drone of James Newman’s appearance as Tony, the drowsy, dreary delivery of Britne Oldford’s Cadie and the lack of emotion or energy to be found anywhere, it’s an episode that seems intent on lulling you to sleep.

After branching off with new character Tea to great effect, before slipping into shot-for-shot remake mode again last week for ‘Chris’, the show deviates again from its Brit inspiration to drastically rework lovably loopy anorexic Cassie into melancholy pill-popper Cadie. Ditching the gracefully-handled eating disorder storyline, US Skins opts instead to bestow her with an inherently American malaise; Cadie is in therapy, meeting with all manner of shrinks and being prescribed every form of medication under the sun for apparent “depression, low self worth, anxiety” along with an innate phobia of pigeons (used throughout the episode as a wonky metaphor for her social awkwardness and fear of people).
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Though it’s a nice attempt to refit the show to suit US culture and sensibilities, the American medical institution’s over-reliance on medicating teens with every variation of anti-anxiety pills is a narrative well that’s been all but tapped dry at this point, and the show doesn’t find anything new or interesting to do with it other than to point out the obviously familiar conclusions: Pills are more likely the cause of the myriad of the kid’s issues than the solution to them, and it’d help if her parents would actually pay attention to her rather than pawn her off onto doctors and throw more meds at the problem.

We get our first substantial look at more of the gang’s parental units, with Cadie’s folks and Michelle’s family both putting in an appearance. In fact, the episode’s absolute highlight was when we meet Cadie’s dad and the moment of instant recognition came: It’s Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam) from The Wire! If only MTV had reworked the original’s trend of casting well-known Brit comics as parents into Wire alums playing everyone’s mothers and fathers, US Skins would be infinitely more watchable (and not just because I’d like to see Domenick “Herc” Lombardozzi punch the fringe out of Stanley’s face).
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Sadly, Gilliam is given almost nothing to do and the episode largely results in a disappointing continuation of the remake’s baked-in problems. Actors are either terrible or significantly miscast (17-year-old Cadie’s mother, an aging former pageant queen, doesn’t look a minute out of her twenties) and characters are almost exclusively paper-thin or awkwardly-written. Cadie’s dad is a creepy taxidermist/hunter whose entire character amounts to always precariously waving knives/dead animals around for forced comedic effect and her mother is the standard self-absorbed country club cliché.

After being sent home from yet another therapy session, Cadie gets a call from Stanley inviting her to a hot tub party at Michelle’s house, instructing her to bring lots of pills with her. She’s clearly elated that the mop-haired goon seems to be showing an interest, not detecting that he’s clearly more interested in her drugs than her company, but he agrees that this’ll be a date, leading her to announce to her therapists that she now has a boyfriend. Whether she’s wavering on bunny-boiling delusion, operating on genuine mixed signals or just claims he’s her boyfriend as an effort to feel and seem “normal” isn’t clear. At the party, we’re introduced to another set of parents as Michelle’s mother is partying like an attention-craving teenager, getting drunk and making a general slutty mess of herself, much to her daughter’s horror.
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After Chris’ mother’s selfish vanishing act put a crippling dent in his life, leaving him alone, homeless and broke, to see the parents who’re still around equally fucking up their children’s lives should be more effective than it is, but seeing the atom-thin caricature that is Cadie’s conceited mother parade around dumping body issues onto her daughter feels like an especially bland episode of Gossip Girl. There’s also more than a little laziness in the fact that – rather than bother to delineate and differentiate them too much – both of the two mothers in today’s episode are dismissive and ignorant of their children’s problems and more concerned with recapturing the heyday of their youthful prime.

The Stanley/Cadie romance continues to be a focal point, despite being dead in the water, largely since Stan is such a colossally uninteresting and pretty douchey character, while the endearing, magnetic whimsy of Hannah Murray’s perfect portrayal of Cassie is lost in Britne Oldford’s drowsy performance. It’s tough to see why Cadie would be fixated on Stanley, who has evolved from oblivious dork to creepy douchebag (like when masturbating onto Michelle’s stuffed animals or leading Cadie on to get her pills), and when Stan finally claims to care about Cadie, it rings completely false. It’s tough to tell, though, how much of that murky character is intentional, how much is inept writing and awkward reworking of the Brit series’ storylines and how much is simply down to the cast’s lack of charisma and acting ability.
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The group party scenes only further showcase how dull and terribly-acted half of the teen cast are and further reinforce my belief that the writers should make Tea the focal point of the series as soon as possible. The Tony/Tea storyline crops up again (unfortunately, since it’s as riveting as listening to an emotionless Kristen Stewart read the phone book aloud for several hours), proving that James Newman is actively becoming a worse actor with time – he’s like an animatronic robot whose batteries are slowly draining away with each episode.

On the flipside, it also shows that Sofia Black-D’Elia and her character Tea are far and away the best things about the show. After a truly cringeworthy confrontation wherein Tony tries to get openly gay Tea to admit her feelings for him (with Newman displaying the emotional dexterity of a coat rack), she scuttles off and bumps into Cadie. Tea deciding to tell her that Stanley is just using her, apologising for letting it happen and not being a better person, prompting Cadie to almost sleep with Michelle’s mother’s creepy sexual predator boyfriend in an effort to get back at Stan. Largely thanks to Black-D’Elia being the most talented member of the cast, Tea continues to come across as the most immediately likeable character on the show, and the sooner she gets much more screentime the better.
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While this episode certainly makes Cadie a more sympathetic character than the loony cartoon she’s been in past episodes, thanks to the fact that she’s an unbalanced girl being taken advantage of by her supposed friends, it’s unfortunate that the plot largely boils down to a collection of sub-Degrassi storylines, one-dimensional stereotypes and bland, amateurish acting. The glimpses into Cadie’s life would do infinitely more to flesh out and humanise her if they weren’t predicated on such trite, familiar ideas. Hopefully at some point soon, the writers will start playing to their strengths, drop the inherited romances and stories which are ill-suited to the new actors and start lending the bulk of the screentime to the couple of strong performers in the mix. Until then, MTV’s Skins is still little more than another US teen soap rehash.


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Skins airs on MTV in the US on Mondays at 10/9c.

  • stefanyhatesyou

    thank you for your scarcasm. i cant find a review anywhere that doesnt rant on about how much better the brittish version is. way to go.