This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This review contains spoilers.
1.5 Brave-ish Heart
I was dead wrong. Corakinus’ warrior spirit didn’t waver because of April’s heart’s humanizing influence. She simply defeated him using the power of gritted teeth and emphatic line delivery.
This was an emphatic episode, start to finish. There was no let-up in its urgent intensity. Between April usurping the Shadow Kin crown and Charlie almost dropping his race’s version of the A-bomb, it was an exhausting forty minutes. There were resolute speeches, battlefield speeches, pleading speeches, a brief introduction to Sikhism’s external articles of faith, then yet more impassioned speeches.
The failure wasn’t in story but tone. Keeping emotions running that high without skidding off into histrionics is a delicate balance, and one Class didn’t quite pull off here. The knowing, self-aware style it arrived with in episode one promised to be an antidote to the fantasy genre’s tendency to ponderous bombast. That all seemed to disappear in A Brave-ish Heart’s Shadow Realm scenes, which went full Mordor. (Ask your dad. It’s from some old film he likes.)
The will to counter tension with light-heartedness was there, but the zingers were drowned out by the deafening drumbeat of April’s Very Serious Quest. On this alien planet, she became the Doctor, omnisciently explaining how it all worked to wide-eyed Companion Ram. (It felt very Doctor Who didn’t it? That showdown in what was presumably a Welsh quarry, at least.)
It didn’t help that April and Ram’s habit of pausing for touching character development mid-peril almost reached parodic levels here. I enjoyed learning about Ram’s religion, but come on, kids, there’s a time for reflection and philosophy and it isn’t when you’re seconds away from doing battle with a massive volcano man.
When the fight did arrive, it could hardly be called thrilling. The mighty Corokinus fell after a bit of roaring, a few Scimitar clashes and a couple of kicks from a pair of size four Hi Tops. For a destruction-thirsty war lord, he proved a most obliging opponent, waiting patiently through April and her Dad’s confab (picking inopportune moments for a heart-to-heart must run in the family).
Great as the wish-fulfilment image of a slip of a girl physically conquering her almost-literal mountain of a foe always is, it also felt premature for the character. It’s only week five. We’ve heard April talk about her inner strength and being underestimated more than we’ve seen it in action. Imagine that same battle happening as the “I’m mad as hell and not going to take this anymore” culmination of weeks of her being trampled by life. That would have been thrilling (if admittedly tricky in such a short, packed series).
Speaking of Huw, the movement on his character felt a little uncomfortable. His comedy gags (“She’s driving”, the slapstick leap into the portal) were welcome attempts to balance the seriousness elsewhere, but felt as though they diminished the family’s complex backstory.
Back on Earth, a satisfying political thread is developing in the ongoing story of the mysterious and fearsome Governors. As any teacher or NHS worker will tell you, there’s little more chilling than the rhetoric of ‘efficiency’ from the higher-ups. Add that to the robot Ofsted inspector in episode two, and it’s clear a satirical seam is being mined here. Perhaps creator Patrick Ness’s work as a YA author takes him into the staff room on school visits? Whatever the inspiration, it’s good stuff.
As was the neat resolution. The petal threat and the Shadow Kin were both tidied away, taking April’s Hulk powers with them. Charlie (saved by the bell from having to make the decision of his life) and Matteusz reaffirmed their commitment to each other, and April took control of her dad situation. We’re left with April’s mum healed and Quill (catch that tantalising line about her having once been in love?) potentially getting free of the creature in her head.
If all this reads as too harsh a critique, it’s meant with love. Class has the potential to be something special. Fingers crossed it’s given the time to grow into just that.