E4 know how to do energetic, youthful drama like Popeye knows how to get the most out of spinach. They know what the kids are into and, unlike other channels, they aren’t afraid to give them what they want. The open salvo of this introductory episode shows a young man, stripped to his bare skin, running through a field, past a couple having sex in a car, and jumping into a grain silo, all while off his face on god-knows-what. Not a bad looking boy either.
Skins set the template of edgy teen dramas and Glue looks set to follow in those footsteps just like Misfits, My Mad Fat Diary and PhoneShop before it. The paint may be the same, but it’s a different room each time.
In this story we find ourselves in the middle of the English countryside; farms, fields, Romanies and racehorses. It’s a distant and lonely place. There’s no background chatter and barely any wandering extras. It’s as if the only inhabitants of this village are the ones that matter to the story. It creates an eerie atmosphere in which characters always feel exposed and isolated; a cunning use of unease that make mysteries like this so effective.
The countryside is beautifully shot. You really get a sense of scale from the external scenes. It also makes clever use of time and sound to make the whole show seem like one of the extended drug induced hallucinations you imagine characters like these have all the time. You never really feel like you’re part of the action. Rather, you’re a voyeur; a spectator wandering around ghostlike in and out of their lives, observing them as one would the actions of a dream.
Jack Thorne’s script captures the decadence of adolescence without indulging in the chaos that could make a show like this unbearable. The characters feel real, even if sometimes they fit into their boxes a little too conveniently. The stand outs for this episode were the WPC Ruth, the horse rider Tina and wildcard Rob. Ruth’s conflict with her Romany heritage is the most interesting character development of the episode, as is her assertion that she is stronger than she seems but we feel she may be deluding herself. Rob and Tina though, are the most compelling. They are the rock and roll lovers. You can feel the friction between them even when they’re being cosily intimate. It’s like their skin is flint and you’re just waiting for them to burst into flame.
Cal, the deceased, and his brother Eli also seem to be characters the show wants us to care about, but unfortunately we’re not given much to go on right now. Hopefully we’ll find out more about them as time goes on, especially Cal, who gets offed almost immediately. I know we need a death to kick off the drama and grab the attention of an easily distracted audience (this is aimed at teenagers after all) but if we are to really feel the loss of Cal we need to feel that there is something to lose. A few briefly uttered words about never looking down before a jump doesn’t really do it. We know what kind of person he is, just not why we should care that he is dead.
This is a promising start that creates a mystery and introduces its characters and leaves us wanting to know more about both.