Coming into this week's show, it seemed inevitable that generation three were doomed for an unhappy ending. We know that Skins is meant to be a show about angst, but this lot really have been put through the ringer. They've spent practically the whole series trying to come to terms with the loss of one of their own and the previous episode - in which a heavily pregnant Mini discovered blood on her fingers - seemed to be the setup for a hellish conclusion. But this was not the case.
The main source of series six's harrowing moments has been Franky, and having her upfront and centre again for the series finale does nothing to alleviate those initial fears that all will not end well. She's at rock bottom following her freakout over Mini's baby last episode and is on a mission to learn from her own mother why she was abandoned. After a bit of blagging and breaking and entering, she finds herself face to face with her sister Cara in the old family home in Birmingham.
Cara takes Franky back to her own home and the two have a tense stand-off regarding their mother. Franky's romanticised her to the point where she believes that finding her will be the solution to every problem, but Cara's still seething over the way she was treated as a child. Finally, Cara spits out that their mother is dead and storms out, announcing that they will never be able to have a real bond.
It's a tough scene to sit through - particularly when Franky reacts to the news of her mother's passing with this curious expression that's nearer to being dazed than out-and-out devastated. She's got nothing to grieve for, really - how can she grieve for someone she's never met? - but the pain of realising she'll never know the answers to the most significant questions of her life is evident.
Unfortunately for Franky, Nick and Matty are on the hunt too, reluctantly teaming up to track her down for a resolution to their love triangle. Franky's determined to keep running away from the brothers-turned-love rivals, so much so that she jumps out of a truck she's hitching a ride on when she realises it's heading back to Bristol. It's a silly little Skins moment, but the stunt does at least serve a purpose in that it sets up a reunion with Mini in hospital.
It turns out that Mini and her baby are still okay, which makes last week's heavily loaded ending seem like a bit of a cruel trick on viewers, but at least this sudden about turn is a little happier. The scenes with her in are actually some of the most joyous ones of the episode - the way she comforts Franky and sits down with her to watch a horror movie, as well as her adorable interactions with Alo (who is absolutely beaming with joy every time he's on screen) are the first hints that this final episode may take the form of a celebration, rather than become something of a downer.
Someone else who's after a reconciliation is Liv. Much like Alex - whose only real contribution this episode is to hold the climactic party before exiting to Thailand - Liv's been knocked back in the shadows for most of the series, with even her dedicated episode centring on her being alone. She's been keeping vigil over Mini, but their relationship is still strained and she seems to blow all chances of them making up by having another (admittedly justified) pop at Franky.
But one thing we've been promised by the Skins cast over the course of the series is that all the loose ends will be tied up in the finale, and so the random straggling thread that is Liv ends up indulging in a giggle fit with Mini at Alex's party and is, appropriately, the one she's with when she goes into labour.
Even Rich gets something of a happy ending. Again, he's understandably been kept in the background as he tries to process Grace's death, but in this episode I got the sense for the first time that he has accepted her passing and is content to live on with just happy memories. Instead of mourning, he's dancing around in his underwear after winning a place at university. When Matty, who is hiding out at his house, admits fault for Grace's death, he brushes it off. And the lovers' final meeting in Alex's swimming pool - the standout scene of the episode - is a thing of beauty, not tragedy.
Elsewhere, Franky is shocked to see Nick and Matty approaching her at Alex's party (not entirely sure why, shouldn't she have known they'd be there?) and once again runs away from them. That is until she sees Grace, who instructs her to stop running away from her problems and sort herself out. Spurred on by Grace and left alone with Nick and Matty, Franky finally comes to a decision - she doesn't want either of them. She says that she could only ever be a way for them to love each other and walks away into the night.
Rather than go after her, Nick and Matty realise that they should have been working to fix their own broken relationship rather than fighting each other to start a new one with Franky. In a touching few minutes, they crack open a few beers as brothers and reiterate their love for each other. I don't know, it seems like a bit of a copout to have Franky choose neither of them after such a buildup, but admittedly it does feel right. The feud between Matty and Nick has become more reminiscent of normal brotherly squabbling through the episode, so it's satisfying to have them acknowledge their bond.
As that's going on, Franky runs into Cara again, who's had some time to think about their earlier run-in. She admits that she's been lying and whisks Franky away to some form of institute, where she finally gets to meet her mother. While Franky's belief that this reunion will solve all her issues is not exactly healthy or likely, the physical transformation it spurs is immediately noticeable. She smiles for what feels like the first time in the entire series and the scene, basked in sunlight, is similarly bright and warming.
Like I said, Franky really has been the driving force of the series and once she comes a little closer to fixing herself, suddenly that happy ending - the one that seemed so unlikely coming into the finale - seems a whole lot more viable. The conclusion of Franky's quest gives way to Alex setting off on one of his own, Liv smiling as he sends her a text goodbye - happy that she has been welcomed back by her friends - Matty embracing Nick before he does the right thing and turns himself in and Mini giving birth to her baby, accompanied by Alo and Liv in the delivery room.
Finally, Rich looks at the sky and bids us goodbye - and that's it. And do you know what, it's okay that that's it. The series has done a magnificent job of finishing everyone's stories and finishing them well. Everyone got an ending that if it wasn't happy, it was fitting. And while there's potential for most of these plotlines to continue into next year's final series - we wouldn't mind seeing how Mini and Alo get on as parents or if Franky has managed to deal with her demons - if this was the last we were to see of generation three, I personally wouldn't feel short-changed.
What's The Skinny?
- Franky's mother issues rearing up again when she talks about her social worker loving her. Sad.
- Loved the relationship between Franky and the truck driver - "Everything happens for a reason in my opinion", "Sounds like hippy bulls**t in my opinion".
- Alo referring to Mini as the "wifey". Eep! So cute!
- The suitcase bit with Liv and Alex was sweet. I still feel he was a bit wasted, though.
- "F**k off ladyboys and ping pong shows and full moon parties" - Well when you put it like that Liv, how could Alex not stay in Bristol?!
- The combo of Nick and Matty was fun. I like it when they mix the group up.
- "I need you to look after him because I f**king hate the guy" - This was the moment I knew Nick was going to forgive Matty.
- "I'm not going anywhere, I'm like s**t on your stiletto" - Classy Liv. But oddly sweet.
- Freya Mavor, who plays Mini, joked the other week about how the gang never just sit around and have fun. I think that scene with her and Franky in the hospital is the closest she's going to get.
- I've said it once, but it deserves to be said again - that swimming pool scene was wonderfully done.
- I mean the one with Rich and Grace, of course. The bit with Franky jumping into the pool was a bit over-the-top - obvious trailer and promo pic fodder.
- Mean girl McGuinness's reaction to going into labour - "Aaaah, ya b**tard" - got a little chuckle out of me.