Episode 4 – Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart
Episode four of Class highlighted a lot of what’s been good and what’s not been so good about the new series so far. With superb acting throughout, along with the show being so good at making you want more, this episode was much more entertaining than last week’s. However some strange pacing, awkward scenes and the urge to shove how relatable and diverse the series is down the viewers’ throats, made it quite a tough watch in parts.
I’ll start with the negatives. One thing I think has let Class down is the lack of marketing from the BBC. Yes, there has been the odd trailer on BBC One and BBC Two, and the Doctor Who social media pages have shared a lot of content from Class, but in a year without Doctor Who itself, the BBC just hasn’t advertised Class well enough. How does this affect episode four of the series though? Well I like to keep up to date with all the goings on within the Doctor Who universe, and although I may not have all angles covered, I was unaware this story was a two-parter until there were just five minutes left. Admittedly, it may have been shared somewhere that episode four wasn’t a stand-alone story, but I didn’t see that information anywhere and it should’ve really been in the synopsis of the episode at least. We don’t even know the titles of all of the remaining episodes yet, and I think this is information that should’ve been disclosed prior to the series beginning. I’m not saying this is the fault of Patrick Ness or anyone else working on Class, but it definitely made the pacing seem really slow for the first thirty minutes of the episode.
Secondly, I really didn’t enjoy the cringe-worthy scenes between April, her mum and Ram. April’s mum reacted so unfairly to Ram when she first saw him. Of course some parents are uneasy seeing their kids grow up, but threatening to kill your daughter’s boyfriend two minutes after meeting him? Really? It just seemed a bit over the top, and a character I think we’re meant to at least sympathise with became pretty dislikable with that one line. Also when the Shadow Kin were replicating what April was doing, it was such a feeble attempt at humour. The monsters had enjoyed a strong debut in episode one and seeing them act so churlishly here made them feel like less of a threat. The last five minutes were a bit of a mess too. Things just seemed to happen for no particular reason. Why did Ram suddenly get out of his car when he had no way of hearing or seeing what was going on to April? What did April do to her mum and how did she know how to do it and what would happen? Why did her mum then fall out of the chair? Everything seemed to just happen and nothing was explained. I know in an intense scene like that it’s hard to fit a lot of information into dialogue, but luckily Patrick Ness has got the chance to reveal all in the second part of the story next week. If he doesn’t explain the the ins and outs of the last five minutes, then I think he’s made a big mistake.
The last thing I didn’t like about this episode in particular was how obvious it was that the script was written to emphasise that the show contains diverse characters. One of the great things about Class is that it’s tackled homophobia, disability, loss and to a certain extent religion. However, there were so many occasions in this episode where April’s mum’s chair was mentioned, just in conversation, as if we didn’t know she was disabled and had to have it pointed out to us. April’s mum said to Ram “Don’t let this chair fool you, if you hurt my daughter, I will kill you.” I didn’t like this line anyway, but why does the chair even need to be mentioned? Arguably the line would’ve been even more powerful without mention of the chair.
I know I’ve made a few criticisms of the episode, but there was a lot I liked too. Sophie Hopkins’ performance as April was superb. She was convincing from start to finish and swung between being vulnerable and innocent to strong and brave masterfully. Her storyline was brilliant and I really enjoyed seeing how she dealt with her dad being released from prison. It’s this sort of real life situation that a main character has to deal with that’s making Class such an enjoyable series. I hate to sound repetitive but Katherine Kelly was once again terrific. Her fierce, snappy and frustrated character is a good balance against the four younger and calmer main characters.
I also found the new head mistress and the mystery of the petals intriguing. The mysterious replacement for Mr Armitage was eerie and set up the second part of the story, or perhaps the rest of the series nicely. Her scene with Miss Quill was one of the best and most intense of the episode. The petals seem like a real threat too, but my only worry is they’ll be cast aside in next week’s episode due to April and Ram’s departure through the crack and onto a new planet. They seem threatening enough to be given a story to themselves so I hope they are given the air time that they deserve.
Despite some messy moments, and my other nitpicks with the episode, it was a marked improvement from last week. It was much more enjoyable to watch and there were more scenes of greater intensity and drama. Despite not knowing exactly what happened in the last five minutes, it was a well directed scene and one in which you just didn’t know what was going to happen next. One thing Patrick Ness has done well is left me desperate to see how this story will continue next week.
Episode Rating: 5/10