26 November 2016

Class - The Metaphysical Engine or What Quill Did

For those who have felt that Class lent too far towards Young Adult fiction here’s an episode that would not be out of place in shows aimed at an older audience. It pivots on the concept of belief becoming real and courtesy of what seems to be a mini TARDIS that provides a far less smooth ride, Miss Quill is taken on a mind bending journey to several of these metaphysical domains as she tries to get the troublesome Arn out of her head as promised by the new Headmistress. Suffice to say it’s a tad more traumatic than a trip to Tesco.

More than anything this episode pulls our ever oscillating support back towards Quill. The series has done a fantastic job of making us push and pull our sympathy one way or another. When you have just two survivors from a war it is difficult to decide which- if either- is in the right. Katherine Kelly’s performances have always been a highlight of the series and here she is front and centre throughout allowing us to get inside her head (just as Quill’s trying to get something out of hers!) in a manner that offers a different perspective. It’s a remarkably assured performance given some of the things she has to say and do which in other hands might fall short or just seem silly. Yet she has a steely conviction about the material that really helps the episode along.

The journey is made in the company of two others. There’s Dorothea Ames, the head who is an aloof all -knowing leader with a penchant for obfuscation when questioned. Yet she’s not without a hint of playful malice about her. And there’s Ballon who’s a shape shifter frozen in the shape of a human which offers some parallels between the two warriors’ stories. There’s a touch of Star Trek about the way Quill and Ballon come to respect each other’s scenario and this leads to a surprisingly emotional climax manipulated by Dorothea. I suppose a little of the tension is taken from the situation by the fact that we saw Quill afterwards in last week’s fictionally concurrent episode; it might have been better to have shown this one first to add to the tension. Additionally there are perhaps rather too many similarities in Quill and Ballon’s situations though maybe this is a deliberate move on the Head’s part to pitch them together?

There’s much to enjoy visually here with the team making a real effort to disguise woods and caves as something more other worldy. There’s some gory stuff too especially when the Arn is being removed. Writer Patrick Ness delivers a novels worth of ideas in 45 minutes, delving into creation myths and rituals with abandon, some perhaps a little too quickly. Yet this in keeping with some of the latest US telefantasy which burn up ideas at a rate of knots. The climax sets up a potentially thrilling finale next week and shows the flexibility of Class. It’s the most accomplished episode yet in a series that just seems to keep getting better.

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