Those tuning into In My Skin expecting a poppy British teen comedy will need to look elsewhere—but not until you have first finished In My Skin. It’s not a difficult proposition: The series run five half-hour episodes, though features Welsh accents so thick that subtitles will be a must. But this brief, deeply affecting story defies expectations at every turn.
Another BBC acquisition for Hulu, one that originally aired in 2018, In My Skin follows the story of Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy), a misfit teen who has the weight of the world upon her. She lives two, and eventually three, separate lives. In one, she is caretaker for her unmedicated, bipolar mother (Jo Hartley), carrying responsibilities that her wasted, biker father (Rhodri Meilir) refuses to engage with. She has a nan (Di Botcher) who checks in and who offers for Bethan to come and live with her, but the idea of changing schools is too much to bear.
Meanwhile, at school, Bethan is a pathological liar seeking to keep her broken home life a secret from her two best friends, the exasperated Travis (James Wilbraham) and foul-mouthed Lydia (Poppy Lee Friar). But after being recognized as a talented student who just needs to apply herself by an English teacher, she also catches the eye of a smart and popular student, Poppy (Zadeia Campbell-Davies), who Bethan is desperate to impress—creating yet another identity.
Creevy is exceptional at balancing Bethan’s many different lives, lies, and feelings from one moment to the next. You can feel the release of how her friendship with Poppy, full of flirtation and touching that seems to signal something more from one or both of them, is a sunny respite from the shadows she tries to escape elsewhere. As harsh and obscene as she is with her friends, she’s calm and caring with her mother. She scoffs in class, but is clever and driven when with Poppy. She can be different things to different people, but who is she to herself? (Occasionally we also hear Bethan’s inner thoughts, but it’s so sporadic that its more of a confusing interjection than a revelation—Creevy telegraphs to us through her expressions what we need to know).
Created and written by Kayleigh Llewellyn, In My Skin approaches familiar teen TV beats in naturally awkward ways, with its young cast nailing the discomfort and constant strangeness of high school. The teachers are sardonic, the bullies are gross, and everyone is always fearful that they are ugly and hated. It feels like a real school, and moreover, these feel like real kids. The gloomy skies and cold, damp weather only augment a seasonal sense of unease and longing that permeates teenage life (heck, often adult life as well). And while there are constant small trainwrecks all around, In My Skin manages to find earnest moments of triumph that lift it out of hopelessness.
The ultimate end to In My Skin’s season follows a well-trod path, including an impromptu inspiring school speech. But there’s an overall blanket of darkness that makes the series feel a lot more grownup, and realistically so. The final episode suggests Bethan’s various spinning plates are on a collision course with one another, but it still manages to end on a hopeful note. Though the series hasn’t yet been given a second season, it hugely deserves it. As does Bethan, who indeed seems destined for great things.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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