Such a whirlwind was to be expected though, with only two episodes left and Mini's baby bump still swelling. She and Franky both underwent intriguing transformations from their solo outings earlier in the series, as they were pulled together and pushed apart when they came to learn their true feelings about Mini's impending motherhood.
Franky is Mini's confidante when the episode opens and is leading her out of her bedroom for the first time in weeks for a hospital appointment. After just about managing to hide her bump from Mini's still-clueless mother and Eric, who make a surprise return from holiday, they soon discover that Matty is waiting for them outside. Though they try to ignore him, an argument inevitably breaks out between Matty and Franky as he tries to win her back. Franky's lips spit venom, but the little smirk on her face when she realises he is spying on her suggests that she's not yet done with him. In fact she becomes so enraptured by Matty that she doesn't realise Minny has collapsed in a heap behind her, complaining that something feels wrong.
She is quickly rushed to hospital where she spies Liv and Alex in the waiting room along with Franky and Matty. Alo bursts in shortly afterwards making a fuss about trying to see Mini, and more trouble arises when Nick arrives and spots Matty. He asks his brother why he didn't say that he was home and Matty replies it was because he came back for Franky. Nick tells him that they are together now, but Matty seems confident he'll get Franky back. As they continue to cause a commotion, Alo slips past the distracted receptionist and goes to see Mini.
She has been assured by a doctor that the baby is fine, though her anaemia and high blood pressure are a cause for concern. He shows her an ultrasound of the baby and lets slip that she's having a daughter, which causes a beautifully bright smile to spread across her face. For me, this was the first moment that Mini really comes across as a mother and not a teenager who got herself knocked up. It's a wonderful scene. But this is Skins, so Alo inevitably walks in right at this moment, spies Mini's giant belly and vomits on the floor. That's more like it, eh? We're not dilly-dallying around on the big reveals either, as Mini's mother turns up immediately after. She asks why Mini didn't tell her sooner so they could have "sorted it all out" and calls her a "f**king fool" for not wanting an abortion.
Alo, meanwhile, is shocked to discover that everyone - even Matty - knew about Mini's pregnancy before him. His frustration spills over to Matty, who declares that Franky only got with Nick to get back at him and orders her to come clean about how she really feels. Franky says nothing and Nick realises that Matty might just be right. Mini slips out as the brothers come to blows and all of the group steps in to stop them, with the exception of Franky.
Later, Mini faces the music as Alo reluctantly comes round to discuss the baby. She insists she wanted to tell him about being pregnant, though Alo can't come to terms with why she lied for months and told everyone else before him. Mini says she's only after his reassurance that they will be alright, but he says nothing. Again, it's refreshing to see Mini tiptoe towards letting herself be happy with her new situation by accepting her feelings for Alo, which makes his cold demeanour all the more devastating. She seems genuine with her emotions, but so does he. It did always seem like these two would be together at the end of it all, but here, it doesn't seem as certain. On top of that, Mini is also facing pressure from her mother to give up the baby, but she's not sure what to do and lashes out at her mum for failing to listen to her. She meets up with Franky, who's fallen out with Nick after failing to prove her love for him by refusing to call the police on Matty.
Desperate to escape their problems at home, Franky suggests they flee and gives an impassioned speech about how they can look after the baby together. Although initially unconvinced, Mini is swayed after Franky presents a picture of herself as an infant with her real mother and notes how happy the scene looks. It's a very sweet little scene and the idea that Mini and Franky would be better off doing this alone, in a world they've created for themselves, does actually seem like the most viable option for them at the time.
But that's what you get for watching Skins for so long - you can't help but see everything through a teenager's eyes and it's only when the realities of life on the run come hurtling on to the screen and the two have to beg their way into a shelter that it becomes clear what a bad idea this is. Likewise, Franky's tendency to bring her own background into Mini's situation initially seems empathetic, but soon becomes unsettling when she describes the baby as a way to "put everything right again".
While crashing at the hostel, Mini comes clean about her feelings for Alo, admitting that she misses being held by him. It's a real breakthrough for the former "mean girl McGuinness". You don't realise just how far her character has developed until that very line. In the morning, Franky's true intentions become disturbingly clear when she deletes a voicemail message that Alo (with a little cajoling from Rich) left on Mini's phone declaring his love for her.
Turfed out of the shelter, Mini comes to realise that Franky's plan amounts to running for as long as possible until the baby is born and she can become the mother she never had herself. Her declaration that she doesn't want to go to Oxford falls on deaf ears, as Franky desperately tries to argue her way on to a bus. Finally, the girls clash and Mini tells Franky that she "can't fix" her own problems with the baby. Their argument is interrupted by Eric, who implores Mini to come home. She says she will only return if her mum will allow her to keep the baby, and although Eric admits he cannot promise this, Mini chooses to go with him. Her decision sees Franky completely unravel in a harrowing moment in which she fights for them to keep running, before collapsing into Eric's arms.
The final straw for Franky comes when Mini is reunited with her mum, who finally accepts her decision to keep the baby. They declare their love for each other, at which point Franky flees, distraught that her misguided plot for some form of makeshift family has left her more isolated than ever. Don't say Skins isn't challenging TV - Franky has hurt so many with her devious ways and been utterly despicable this episode. Yet every time, I feel like I have to forgive her. Is this right?
Luckily, Rich is still on Mini and Alo's side. He whisks her away to farmboy's barn and she discovers Alo building a makeshift home for them and the baby. And then it happens, the moment that it feels like the whole series has been building up to... Alo and Mini kiss, properly, for the first time. Yes, the spinning camera and the red lighting are just a little bit cheesy, but they're necessary to differentiate this smooch from the dull, frigid ones that have come before. The passion is practically bursting out of the screen and seeing such an unlikely but rewarding romance come to life is all kinds of satisfying.
But like I said, this is an episode that gives and takes in equal measures. If this seems like too much of an uplifting ending for Skins, well, that's because it is. Once the extravagance of Alo and Mini's first kiss is over, the episode closes with a cruelly perplexing ending in which Mini discovers blood under her dress and MC Hammer's 'U Can't Touch This' plays on as the credits roll. It's an agonising final scene, but one fitting for such a turbulent story. And it seems cruel, but the prospect of Mini and Alo trying to cope with such tragedy when they've only just matured enough to admit their feelings for each other is so tantalising that it almost justifies the unhappy ending. Franky becoming mum for her own selfish reasons was also an intriguing premise and, somewhat surprisingly for Skins, the whole thing felt like a realistic account of what two troubled teenagers in a situation far beyond their comprehension might do. One of the best episodes of the series for sure and it seems that next week's finale will be absolutely brimming with emotion. I can't wait!
What's the skinny?
- Eric. What a man. Absolutely loved him coming to rescue Mini and standing up to Franky.
- "You look like you've swallowed half a goat".
- "Dr Thang" got a few chuckles out of me, although I'd never want to be treated by him. Luckily, I've never fallen naked on to a bottle of creme de menthe.
- Not a fan of the hospital receptionist, though. Seriously, what was with the fake American accent and her "confidentiality's a bitch" line? Awful.
- I like how the scene where Mini and Franky pretend to be a couple was not only funny, but showed early on that they were way over their heads.
- Rich asking Alo: "Have you turned into a 13-year-old girl or just f**ked one?" - cheap shot, but I laughed.
- So I guess there's no hope for Nick and Matty making up then. Would you want your brother banged up just so you could have his girl?
- I'm pleased to see that the spirit of Grace is still lingering. Rich thinking about what could have been and visiting her grave to tell her that she's an auntie were particularly touching moments.
- Bit disappointed with the lack of screentime for Alex and Liv. Next week involves everyone though, so they should be back with a bang.
- It was nice to see Mini's mum soften up towards the end of the episode. But I did like her telling everyone to f**k off too.
- Mini's reaction to spying Matty outside - delightfully over the top.
- So many dances this week! Franky cooking breakfast in her 'blow me' undies was my favourite sequence.
- Will Mini and Alo be able to survive their baby tragedy? I genuinely can't tell, so I say roll on next week.