The Gathering on Channel 4: This Skins with smartphones story packs a punch

 (Channel 4)
(Channel 4)

Could this be Skins for the modern era? Channel 4’s new six-parter The Gathering certainly makes a strong case for being the natural successor to a show that came out before smartphones were everywhere and parents could track their misbehaving kids down via Find My Friend.

The Gathering certainly has plenty of hedonism with added tech paranoia, and it inevitably causes nothing good. Set in the suburbs of Liverpool, the bulk of the show is a have/have not story between Kelly (newcomer Eve Morgan) and Jess (Sadie Soverall), two girls who attend the same gymnastics club.

The pair could not be more different: Kelly lives in a tiny two-up, two-down in the suburbs. She skips school to spend her time free-running with a group of local punks in the name of thrill-seeking, while Jess spends hers practicing her piano recital for her Royal School of Music application and… well, not much else, really.

Except, little do they know that their lives are about to implode. As an ominous flash-forward explains, one of those girls is about to become involved in a serious accident at an underground rave, near local beauty spot Hilbre Island. But as we are soon to find out, it might not be an accident after all…

With that evening hanging ominously on the horizon, most of The Gathering revolves around finding out how we get there.

Much of it is to do with the parents, whose toxicity seeps into the girls’ lives like polluted water. Kelly’s dad has anger management issues and is still trying to keep the family afloat after the death of his wife, but that’s small fry compared to Jess’s mum Natalie, played with impressive froideur by Vinette Robinson (who recently fronted the excellent Boiling Point).

Kelly (Eva Morgan) and Bazi (Luca Kamleh-Chapman) (Channel 4)
Kelly (Eva Morgan) and Bazi (Luca Kamleh-Chapman) (Channel 4)

Natalie controls every second of Jess’s life, from sabotaging Kelly’s shot at making the gymnastics team so her daughter can nab a spot instead, to hurrying home from a date because her daughter isn’t answering her phone. “I will not be a taxi service for the parents whose kids can’t get their shit together,” she snaps at one point, as Kelly walks past with her head down. That’s before she almost runs over a cyclist and blames him for being in her way.

When the kids (understandably) start rebelling by sneaking out to see boys and sending explicit pics on social media, things start to unravel, and it’s in these fractured dynamics that the show is at its most interesting – these teens are having to balance living up to their parents’ expectations with finding out who they are, and what they actually want to do with their lives.

Of course, this being a teen show, there’s all the classic stuff too: hot men (this time free-running ones) without tops on, first forays into sex, and kids screaming “you don’t understand me!” at their parents.

With a fun, aggressively trendy soundtrack that samples everything from Liverpudlian rap to George Fitzgerald, it’s tailor-made for Gen Z, but its lessons go far further than that. A warning as much as anything, The Gathering shows what happens when trust between parents and their children erodes and social media creeps in to fill the gaps. Now put that phone down.

Streaming now on Channel 4