Evidently, I can’t go for *one second* without talking about whatever TV show it is I’m currently obsessed with. These days, I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing Skam (which means ‘shame’ in English), a lil gem of a Norwegian series that somehow perfectly captures what teenagers are going through, without ever feeling over the top (see: Skins) or preachy. Season 3 ended a month ago and I’m STILL not over it.
Set in Oslo, the first season introduces five girls who are trying to fit into high school. But Skam really goes beyond that — sexual assault, religion, feminism and eating disorders are just some of the issues that are tackled and they’re always handled carefully and tastefully. They’re weaved into the storylines naturally so even though some of the topics can be a little heavy, they’re important conversations that add value to the series without weighing it down.
1. Short and easy-to-watch episodes
There are 3 seasons in total with about 10 episodes each, and each season focuses on a different main character’s point of view. The episodes are different in length but on average, they’re about 20 to 30 minutes each so they’re really easy to binge watch. I watched Season 3 in a night and I also introduced the series to a friend who watched all 3 seasons in less than two days. Trust me, it’s very possible.
2. Clever marketing
The show is probably most famous for the way it’s marketed. Clips are released online over the course of the week, as if airing in real-time. For example, if the characters are in school on a Tuesday afternoon, that particular scene will go up during school time, and if there’s a party on a Friday night, then a party scene will probably pop up on a Friday night. You’ll never know when these clips will drop, so fans are always kept on their toes, constantly speculating what will happen next and when. At the end of the week, these clips are packaged together into a full episode. On top of that, not only do the main characters all have social media accounts, screenshots of text conversations are also released on the main website. These usually serve to fill in the gaps in storylines (scenes that don’t necessarily end up in the actual episode) or contain hints as to when the next clip will drop.
Skam is such an important show because of the kind of topics that are raised and the characters that they have. In Season 1, Eva loses all her friends when she begins a relationship with Jonas but as the season progresses, she realises she doesn’t like who she becomes when she’s with him — someone who’s insecure and whose opinions are reliant on a boyfriend’s.
Your opinion meant more than my own. That’s not how it should be. I have to find out what my own opinion is and I have to do it on my own. – Eva Mohn, Season 1
In the series, they also have a kickass Muslim female character named Sana, who gets some of the show’s best lines. At this point though, she’s mostly there to dish out sage advice whenever one of the mains is going through crap. There are so many awesome Sana moments but one of my favourite conversations happened in Season 2 between Noora and her.
I love that they brought up the question of what it means to be “strong and independent”. At what point do you let go of your opinion without feeling like you’re displaying some sort of weakness? If you change your opinion, does that mean your opinion was never important? No. I mean clearly, as the above scene shows, there *is* a way to still have an opinion yet be challenged on it. Talk it out. Engage intellectually.
4. Amazing soundtrack
I don’t know how they manage to do it time and time again, but it feels as though every single piece of music played in the show was specially handpicked to accompany each scene. The songs are a mix of modern and old school, each specifically chosen to bring out the exact emotions of the scene. Now whenever Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’ comes up on shuffle, it immediately brings up images of Isak’s starry-eyed gaze as Even does his cool guy slow-mo saunter across the quad. Same, Isak, same.
(Here’s a link to the Season 3 playlist on Spotify, which helps me hold on to the magic a little bit without having to rewatch the whole season for the fourth time. The playlists for the other two seasons can easily be searched on there too.)
5. Squad goals
Nothing gets me in the heart quite like a strong core friendship in a drama or TV series. I especially love that we saw the formation of the girl squad in the beginning of the first season, saw them go from grudgingly coming together for Russebuss-planning meetings, to using those same meetings as an excuse to hang out together as a group. Although we got less of the girl squad in Season 3 since there was a shift in the point of view to one of the guys, an entirely new squad came into focus. Sure, we didn’t get to see the same kind of growth since the boys in the squad were all already kind of friends from the start, but it was still heartwarming to see the way they had Isak’s back no matter what he was going through.
6. *squawking sounds* EVAAAAK
Yeah, I hate to be that person, but also, Evak. It’s the ship name for Even and Isak’s characters, the latter of which, as mentioned, is the main for Season 3. The season explores his coming to terms with his sexuality and his growing attraction to the good-looking boy in the year above. But it’s so, so much more than that, I cannot even begin to explain. This is the season that catapulted the entire series to international fame, and I can see why. Season 3 is my fave, by far, but the first two are definitely worth watching too. In fact, please definitely do watch them as well!
For me, what sets the third season apart is really how well the characters are written and acted, and how detailed each and every scene is. There’s no room for filler here (which is more than I can say for Season 2, ahem). There are movie references, talk about parallel universes and also Easter eggs if you know where to look. The two leads have tons of chemistry, and their entire relationship is so central to their growth as individuals, their interactions so heartfelt and genuine that you can’t help but root for them both. If you’ve been hanging around online, you’ve probably also seen screenshots or GIFs of the characters, or come across long, emotional responses to the various plot developments of the season. Everything’s been analysed to death by Tumblr fanatics by now and I’m just here, eating it all up with a spoon because I can’t get enough of this damn show.
NRK is still in the midst of working out the music licenses and getting them approved for an international audience so while that’s happening, clips and episodes on the main website won’t be available outside of Norway. But since it’s a Norwegian series, a lot of us have to rely on fanmade subtitles anyway and if you know where to look, it isn’t all that difficult to find subtitled episodes. Not that I’m endorsing any sort of shady activity but you know… the Internet is your friend. ;)