This review contains spoilers.
1.7 The Metaphysical Engine, Or What Quill Did
I told you Class was full of helpful messages for its young audience. This week’s episode ended with the implicit reminder that, when shagging an almost total stranger in a cabinet, it’s a good idea to use protection unless you want to be left with a souvenir.
Quill (Katherine Kelly, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways) brought back a fair few souvenirs from her metaphysical mini-break: a scar, a gun, a new ‘do, her free will, and an instant-bake half-shapeshifter/half-quill baby that, if it’s a stickler for tradition, may just eat her corpse upon arrival. It’s no wonder she came back short on patience with Charlie and his questions. Girl had herself a day.
The concurrent-episodes structure worked a treat. Knowing from the start that Quill would eventually get shot of the Arn didn’t sap the story of tension or peril, it simply made you lean in further to find out how she’d reach that point.
Painfully, was the answer to that. Quill gritted her teeth not only through the physical pain of having a bloody space rat yanked out of her face, but also the heavy emotional strain of some affecting scenes. While the Physics A Level group were busy arguing about rocks, she was on a quest for freedom that took her to hell (and heaven) and back.
What started out looking like a fun, straight-up adventure game (a battle and something to retrieve on every level) quickly pivoted into an intense exploration of character and the philosophy of liberty. As a result, the character of Quill became much more than an enjoyably sardonic warrior who does a good line in quips. She raged, empathised, grieved, challenged her existential beliefs and rediscovered her personhood. Class stuffed a whole series’ worth of character development into forty-five gripping minutes.
By so doing, it cemented its own identity as a brainy series with more ideas than you can shake a metaphysical stick at. A beast that feeds on powerful childhood memories. A parasitic creature that attacks only when you start to believe you can kill it. A sci-fi doohickey that lets you travel to places that exist only in the abstract realm. A road trip through other species’ heavens and hells. A race of shape-shifters for whom prison is being contained to a single form… Any one of those could be the premise for an entire episode of another show, but Class, having imagination to spare, throws them all into the mix and more. And by the looks of this week’s dynamic range of special effects, it also has the ability to bring them impressively to life.
Fingers crossed that creator Patrick Ness has kept something in reserve for series two, should the BBC do the smart thing and commission one.
Quill wasn’t the only character developed by a great performance in the episode. Headmistress Dorothea also took great strides forward (courtesy of Pooky Quesnel in a pair of great strides). Chike Okonkwo as tragic soldier Ballon too, was the latest in a line of this show’s very solid guest performances.
After a run of episodes with the kids centre-stage, this was the perfect time to bring Quill into the spotlight. A change is as good as a rest, they say, and this invigorating episode left me rested and primed for next week’s grand finale.