This Class review contains spoilers. This article originally appeared at Den of Geek UK.
Class Season 1 Episode 6
Class, you beauty.
If every show had one calling card episode that summed up exactly what it does, this would be it. “Nightvisiting” may have been more heartrending, and the Shadow Realm two-parter more epic in scale, but “Detained” drilled into the core of Class’ mission: using sci-fi to tell sincere, emotional stories about young people’s lives.
The sincerity is key. Like “Wolfblood” before it, Class respects its teenage characters and by extension, its audience. Matteusz, the funniest and most nurturing member of the group, was right when he called “teen angst” a pejorative term. It’s contemptuous to dismiss anyone’s pain, love, or fear because it’s newer than your own. Feelings hurt more when they’re new. They’re a bit like shoes in that respect.
Class understands that. It understands that Charlie and Matteusz aren’t in adorable puppy-love, they’re in hit-by-an-asteroid-and-kicked-out-of-space-and-time love. (Sorry, Ram, meteor.) It knows about the ruinous insecurities of teenage friendship groups, and feels that too. It understands that anxiety can sometimes make people feel as though they’re dying (would it be too mean to point out the irony in Charlie having trouble with confined spaces when his entire race currently resides in a cabinet?), and it cares.
That’s the crux of it. Class cares. It doesn’t patronize or mock its characters for what they’re going through. It cares about them, and it shows them caring about each other. We can’t underestimate the good that does. Especially now, when it seems like every time you turn on the TV you’re faced with another blowhard characterizing the strength of decency and compassion as weakness.
Take Ram’s story this week. He’s a popular, good-looking, athletic footballer shown here as emotionally vulnerable and in no way diminished by it. That stuff is the alkaline to the corrosive acid of masculinity myths. It’s a lot more than just space dragons and killer flowers, this show.
Space rocks, I should say. “Detained”’s confession-meteor was a solid idea, one part sci-fi mystery to two parts character development. As has happened before on Class, the resolution (Charlie killed the rock and they all fell over) perhaps wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been, but until then, I was hooked.
Like a liter of vodka, the prison and meteor brought out the worst in the students and prompted them to guilty confessions. When that function became clear, the impatience I felt to find out what each of them would confess is testament to the attraction of these characters and their actors’ performances.
Those were strong, Greg Austin’s and Vivian Oparah’s in particular, but the group worked as a whole. Minus the parental clutter of last week’s episode (April’s mum and dad were central to that story, but aside from being lovely, what was Ram’s dad doing there?), the young leads shone in a tense, dramatic story that left us understanding each of them in much more depth. Kudos to director Wayne Yip and co., by the way, for that glorious, dynamic shot of April falling backwards.
Yes, the gang are still pretty alien as teenagers go, even the human ones. This idealized, rarefied lot may swap eloquent speeches on existential loneliness and independently reached insights into the religious misogyny of C.S. Lewis the same way real-life teenagers swap selfies, but that doesn’t stop them being a great TV ensemble.
Speaking of greatness… enter, Quill.
Thematically, “Detained”’s story about alien punitive measures tied neatly into the show’s ongoing ethical debate over Quill’s forced servitude/punishment. Now Arn-free, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do next, which is a tantalizing place to be.