I managed to watch another episode of Class, hooray! I know I am chronically behind, but the episodes are going to be on iPlayer for like another 10 months, right? And they are also showing on BBC One, according to Wikipedia the Fount of All Knowledge. So that’s all right.
Anyway, the fourth episode, slightly overbearingly titled Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart, follows April, who is Not Coping with the fact that she’s sharing a heart (literally not metaphorically; though it’s just occurred to me how appropriate this episode is for Valentine’s Day) with an evil alien from space, quite understandably. She is also Not Coping with the release of her father from prison, having tried to kill her and her mother several years ago.
And then there’s a new headmistress at Coal Hill, and all these weird-ass blossom petals that are at least as sinister as the Lankin, and also Charlie’s being a bit of a dick to Miss Quill, who is badass as ever.
I think Class is hitting its stride here; I think this is the episode where it settles on what kind of show it’s going to be. It actually reminds me quite a lot of Davies-era Doctor Who, and also slightly of the Sarah-Jane Adventures: occasionally overacted, the CGI often sitting awkwardly alongside the live action, a jury-rigged plot whose ricketiness you don’t notice because it sweeps you along with its pulpy drama. None of these are criticisms, by the way: they give the show a kind of unassuming, relatable homeliness that Moffat-era Who, for all its declarations that Love is the Strongest Force, never manages to reach.
What’s more, it splices that pulpy SF plot with a heady mix of emotion: teen lust, identity crises, anger, helplessness, rage. Two things really stand out to me about this episode: I love the way that April’s articulateness with Ram transmutes into embarrassed teenage surliness with her mother – it’s a well-observed way of balancing the validity of teenage experience with adult perception of that experience. And I also love how the show’s using its SF conceits actually to think about timely issues in a relevant way – there’s a scene when Tanya calls out Charlie on his treatment of Miss Quill, which she sees as slavery, and he snaps back at her, essentially, that she can’t possibly understand their relationship. The question raised here, it seems to me, is: at what point does morality override cultural sensitivity? When do we call out behaviour that looks unfair to us, and how valid is that calling-out? (It’s worth noting, by the way, that Miss Quill is very definitely unhappy with their arrangement, and that Charlie’s continued high-handed treatment of her is going to cause Problems for everyone in the not-too-distant future.
Then, of course, there’s April and Ram’s relationship, which I had doubts about after Nightvisiting – I thought their mutual half-articulated contempt was more interesting than gooey teenage love – but Ram’s such an unexpected sweetie (who said football jocks couldn’t be respectful?) that I forgive writer Patrick Ness absolutely.
And I really am curious about that blossom, and the Governors, and the subplot with Miss Quill and the headmistress. Class delivers a lot in a small package, which is what makes it such a treat.