Skins has always had a dark element, but there's no doubt that killing off Grace in last week's devastating episode was a risky move. Having taken that gamble, the show had to deal with the aftermath and the effect on Grace's friends.
Not to do so would be not only lazy, but downright ingenuous. But if that was the entire focus of the instalment - if it had consisted entirely of scenes like that uncomfortable moment in the pub - it would have been impossible to watch.
Luckily, Skins smartly dealt with this problem by introducing a new character. Alex is a bold risk-taker, which allowed for those fun moments Skins loves. But he didn't know Grace, so he's not restricted by grief.
What's more, Skins gave Alex a reason to behave in such a risky way beyond being lazy and saying: "That's just the way he is." He's dealing with trouble at home, caring for his grandmother with dementia while his father stays away, returning only to scold him and give him money.
He's supposed to be packing his Gran's belongings so she can move to a home, but he can't bring himself to do it. She cares about him, which is more than can be said for his dad (at least, that's how Sam sees it).
It's not long before he's finding himself in trouble, thanks to his quirk of rolling a die and choosing an action from a card. Reading that he has to punch someone, it's Alo who's at the receiving end of his fist - but Liv who's intrigued.
Liv's understandably having a tough time after Grace's death. She's not talking to Mini, who's really struggling. So though Liv slaps Alex when he rolls the die and kisses her, she's really grateful for the distraction.
This is where the much-needed light relief came in. Liv meets Alex's grandmother, the pair get into a sticky situation in a dodgy gambling den, and after rolling the die, they break into a stranger's home and clean it up for him.
The rest of the group aren't so taken with Alex - when they meet at the pub, Nick makes an effort, but Mini's grief-stricken and can't do much more than down shots and dance.
But Liv's falling for her new friend - so it's interesting when we find out he's gay in a sex scene which also happens to provide more evidence of Alex's devil-may-care attitude. When his 'date' offers him money (yuk), he complains that until that moment everything had been "meaningless".
Later, when an insufferable idiot at college announces plans for a Grace memorial, Liv snaps that they're not going, and Mini replies that she doesn't get to decide for all of them. What's more, she accuses Liv of not caring about Grace - she's always with Alex, after all.
In one of the most intense scenes of the episode, Liv sobs about Grace in the bathroom, but when Alex comes to comfort her and she kisses him - emotions all over the place - he's forced to tell her he's gay. Liv, who's already heartbroken enough, is furious.
Mini's seen the whole thing and hisses that they don't want or need Alex. Freya Mavor's face practically contorts in anger - it's wonderful. Alex runs home upset, only to find that his grandmother has committed suicide.
Liv and Mini are by no means friends again, but they - along with Franky - do attend the memorial. Infuriated by the faux-grief on show, Franky screams at the organiser. And Liv, angry about people taking photos on their phones, gives them something to remember - she flashes.
Afterwards, Alex calls Liv to apologise and invites everyone to the harbour - he's rented a boat. As they sail, Franky, Nick and Alo drown their sorrows, while Alex urges Liv to make it up with Mini. Unfortunately, Mini can't talk to Liv: "Even if I did [want to], I can't. Not without her here."
Things take a stranger turn when they discover that Alex has brought his dead grandmother along. He wants to bury his Gran at sea - her husband was a sailor, and before the boys tip the coffin into the water, Alex reads a postcard from him.
It's truly an emotional moment as everyone cries, remembering Grace. My only complaint was Franky's trite: "If you see our friend, tell her we miss her", which was a bit unnecessary - the point had already been made. Much more powerful was when Franky later called Matty, angrily telling him never to return.
But we end on a high - after rolling the die, Liv and Alex make up and jump into the sea together. I'm glad that Skins didn't tie everything up in a nice bow - Mini's grief is horrendous and her relationship with Liv is by no means mended, while Franky's obviously still struggling. But the instalment gave us both the emotion it needed to and the light relief to keep it bearable. An impressive feat!
What's the skinny?
- Fenella Fielding was wonderful as Alex's grandmother - a heartbreaking but humorous performance. Similarly, it's always good to see Green Wing's Karl Theobald on screen, this time as Alex's awful dad.
- Speaking of which, I know the adults on Skins are always exaggeratedly horrible as they're from the teens' points of view, but seriously - Alex's dad was genuinely horrendous.
- I'm not entirely sold on this dice thing, but it did what it needed to do.
- So far, it seems like Skins is going to show the different ways people deal with grief, which is excellent news - I hope it stays that way.
- "I don't need any new friends." Mini thinks Liv's trying to replace Grace with Alex - so sad.
- "You need to see someone about your dental hygiene problem. I'm not telling you that to be cruel - I'm telling you because it's true." Ouch.
- That memorial service for Grace was just so awful. Especially the song. Rhyming Devon with heaven? Really?
- I like the fact that Mini, scared by the coffin on the boat, turns immediately to Alo. A quiet but adorable moment.
- It's a shame Rich was absent from this episode. I know he was heavily featured last week, and it would have been really tough to include him with all the grief he'd be facing, but still.
- I'm not sure how I feel about Liv flashing. I understand the motivations, but it seemed a bit out of place.
- Mind you: "I think Grace would have liked that." "Oh yeah. Liv always had top t*ts."
- "I practically had my tongue down your throat." "And that was a nice thought."
- Alex stealing his grandmother's coffin took me back to the first generation, with Sid and Tony stealing Chris's casket. Just me?