Rich Hardbeck (Alexander Arnold) is a character who speaks to me. He is strikingly similar to my friends from high school and there haven’t been many, if any at all, like him on other teen shows. Here are the basics about metal Rich: he listens to music, goes to gigs, and hangs out with his best mate Alo. And he doesn’t compromise. Ever.
Alo and Rich’s bromance is something else. Both are outsiders with their different fashion sense (are those leggings Alo?) and both have ways of charming (er, deterring) the opposite sex. Alo sees Rich as the key to himself getting laid. That is, if Rich could just stop being a douche to every girl they meet. Alo decides to remedy this by finding Rich a female metal head counterpart. When Alo discovers her, the Angel of Death, in the library, Rich messes up the opportunity,
My first thought about this mystery woman was when did Ellie Nash emigrate to the U.K.? It was followed by: Roundview has a library that the characters know exists? Damn, they really are different than the first two generations.
Music is Rich’s life. He wakes up to Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” (another song of my teen years) and works on perfecting that metal image, right down to crinkling his shirt and calling his dad by his Christian name. Music in Skins is also a secondary character. Each song serves a purpose. This is easily the most musically explosive episode ever. If you’ve never listened to metal, never heard of Napalm Death, or never understood what metal is all about, this episode is your crash course.
After his failed attempt of wooing the Angel of Death, Alo and Rich realize that if they are going to get laid, they need advice from a girl. Or as Alo puts it, “We’re going to need someone who properly knows girls, but isn’t going to think we’re weird. Like a girl… well, not like a girl.” Cut to Franky. She can’t really help because her experience is mostly being beaten up by girls (as we saw in last week’s episode) so she leads are metal loving gent and his cohort to Grace.
Grace, still under the control of Mini and Liv, agrees to help but only if her “friends” don’t know about it. She’s wearing an awesome Grace Kelly inspired get up too.
Rich doesn’t know how their pairing will work out. She represents everything he despises in the world. She thinks the way he dresses is a joke. But they turn out to be wonderful duo. Grace, who is also an actress, suggests she gets into character as the Angel of Death so Rich can practice talking to his crush. He tries showing her some music at Toxic Bob’s… and Grace passes out. Rich continually treats Grace like crap. His behavior is so repugnant that Toxic Bob tells him some wise advice: “Don’t be an asshat and people will like you more.”
Rich and Grace have one more confrontation. She’s trying to understand why he loves metal but he can’t be bothered to see why she loves ballet. They reach an impasse. So Grace goes into character as Sub, her metal loving alter ego, and they have a heart to heart. Rich tells her what has been apparent to us (and Grace, but she is unwilling to admit it). She lets her friends walk all over her and treat her like crap. Grace finally gets mad at Rich’s urging (“You shouldn’t let anyone trash talk you.”) She knows that none of her friends really know her and she rages… against the machine. (Sorry, bad joke). The song used as Rich and Grace dance in the bar (and Rich maybe starts to like Grace) is Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name“.
Rich finally works up the courage to talk to the Angel of Death. Ellie Nash, she is not. She turns him down but not before using words like AIDS, dead horse, rim, vile and inadequate. What a bitch. Grace also tries to ask Rich out again, to her dance recital. He rudely turns her down. Alo tries to reason with him but Rich is adamant. He’s metal, he doesn’t compromise ever, and going out with Grace is the ultimate compromise.
Rich takes his aggression out the only way he knows how, by listening to a rare record. The music (a track by Segal) causes him to go deaf. What is Rich going to do now? He’s lost. There isn’t any point in going to the Napalm Death show if he can’t hear. Instead, he goes to Grace’s ballet recital. For the first time, he sees the artistry in ballet. Afterwards, he sees Grace and she reveals that she has two Napalm Death tickets. (Okay, collective “aw”.) At the show Grace joins the band on stage and Rich realizes that he is in love with her.
The next morning, his hearing is back (phew) and his father gives him some advice about how to ask Grace out (“If there is a girl that you like, all you have to do is ask.”). At college, he makes amends with Alo, or as Franky observes, “That was like an outtake from Rainman.” The bromance lives! More importantly, Rich wants to find Grace. They awkwardly talk about the previous night and she tells him it is for the best that nothing happened between them. Rich placidly agrees before Grace is whisked away by Mini and Liv. This scene is torture. Just ask her out and give her the flowers already!
The love between Rich and Grace is like the love between Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. They’re defined by adjectives and their friends’ expectations. Rich is a metal head, Grace is a ballerina. Their friends, well probably just Mini, won’t understand their bond. And both these relationships are symolized in one epic closing image.
So how did you like Rich? Do you think the Rich-Grace pairing is a good one? What is your take on this season of Skins so far? Sound off below.