Episode 4 of Class looks like we’re going to be getting to know April a bit better. April is conflicted; her heart is in two places. I mean that literally. The Shadow King and April share a heart. But that’s not the only way in which she’s conflicted. Her dad is out of prison after having tried to kill himself and his family some time ago. Now she’s got to face him too. Meanwhile, Quill meets the new head master of Coal Hill and finds out there may be a problem with the Cherry Blossoms turning up everywhere. And while all this is going on, Charlie is showing signs of a being a bit too comfortable doling out orders…
This episode offered little humor but instead focused heavily on the strong emotions April is going through. It works well from her side but what failed was the Shadow King. Oh, sure, the Shadow world is great looking and I love their red eyes, but they feel like they belong to Harry Potter’s world or any fantasy world for that matter. And half the time I struggled to understand what was being said, wishing I had thought to turn on the subtitles. Now I readily acknowledge that Doctor Who is barely a step removed from fantasy, but I still think of it as science fiction and Class was set up to follow its parent series, so the Shadow World with its pseudo-science feels off to me. It’s hard to get my head around it. What we do have going for us is superior writing, which means I’m not taken out of the moments by this pseudoscience. And the episode gives us a lot to unpack. The series was clearly planning on building up the universe.
April thinks she’s losing the fight against the Shadow King and her emotions are all over the place, coming out in a controversial but brave discussion about soldiers going to war. While she calls soldiers cowards, which I did consider more than a little offensive, one has to take her words to heart: both sides sign up to kill – no one is signing up to die, and yet that is precisely what both sides intend for the other. It’s risky writing, but packs a punch. Compounding her anger is her father. When she takes comfort with Ram and her mom finds out (in a scene that had me wondering where her mom was anyway, until she came into the room) she says of Ram, “he’s not dad”. April’s mom says “neither was your dad at first”. And that’s especially interesting…
Life is often full of parallels and it’s when Tanya overhears Charlie giving Quill orders that the parallel is drawn. Tanya gives form to it with April’s father explaining bad people don’t start out to be bad. They do a little thing, maybe repeat it, and get a taste for it. That darkness multiplies. Charlie tries to sweep it under the rug saying not to judge the morality of his culture, which is indeed what is happened: applying human cultural norms to his world, but he has befriended humans and they might just be right. Still, what is happening to Charlie is also happening to April as she starts to use her powers both for terrorizing her father and then for healing her mother. But that was the point about April’s dad: he didn’t start off bad or broken. Charlie may not intend to be bossing Quill around for any nefarious purpose, but if he doesn’t see the path he’s on, it may just lead to a similar situation.
Interestingly, the idea of an evil multiplying is exemplified further by the cherry blossoms of doom. These are multiplying along with the story arcs! This leads to Quill’s story and by far the part of the episode I was most interested in. Quill is approached by the new head master, Dorothea Ames, who knows far more than one might expect and seems to be on good terms with “The Governors”. She doesn’t try to hide it or pull punches but comes clean right away; a quality I love in characters. I was able to get a close look at the fact-file Ms. Ames has on Charlie and it’s very clear they know everything that’s been going on, right through to the Doctor and his connection with UNIT, which does beg the question: who are the Governors and what do they want?
So the parallels are everywhere in this story: April may be co-owner of a lonely heart with the Shadow King but Charlie isn’t far behind, having a shadowy secret that plagues his heart. And as evil reproduces, so do the cherry blossoms. Like April, they are beautiful but they have a bite. I applaud the cleverness of the writing for the 4th consecutive week and wonder if they can maintain it for the remaining half of the series.
One thing I’ve observed with writing for the Junkyard is that there is a distinctly different feel between watching something and watching something with focus. My first time through was a casual viewing but now I’m watching to pay attention to the way the story unfolds. So far this series has had a far higher success rate than Torchwood did. By episode 2 of Torchwood I was cringing, and here we are 4 episodes in and I can’t wait for more. (Yes, Torchwood did get better but it was the original impact I refer to!)
The episode ends with April tearing a hole in space/time to go bring the battle to the Shadow King on his world but Ram leaps in after her. We are left wondering about the cherry blossoms, April’s well-being, Charlie’s plans, and how her mom and dad will deal with what they just witnessed. Color me impressed and excited to see what happens next. In the meantime, you may have to zoom a bit, but take a look at a piece of the fact file. And if there was any doubt about it, Charlie is masquerading as human, proving once and for all in my mind that what we see is not what he really looks like. We’ll see where things go from here, next week! ML