Alex Moreland reviews the fourth episode of Class, ‘Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart’…
“You remember what I told you, about being at war with myself? I’m losing.”
Once again, Doctor Who forms a useful counterpart to contrast Class against, as we have our first two-part story of the series – interestingly, it’s exactly halfway through the series, with only four episodes left to go.
Regardless, the two-part story has at times been a difficult art, and one that Class’ parent show has struggled with over the past few years, frequently trying different approaches and swinging between new extremes. It looks as though, broadly speaking, Class is taking a few pointers from Doctor Who, with next week’s episode looking to take place in part in an entirely new setting, but naturally we don’t know the full picture as of yet.
Certainly, one thing that Class does succeed with is ensuring that ‘Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart’ is still an engaging piece of television in its own right; often with two-part stories, they run the risk of feeling like they’re only half of a piece of drama, and not really functioning so well on their own. Thankfully, however, that’s clearly not the case with this episode, which manages to provide us with 50 minutes of compelling entertainment; yes, there are marked differences between this and a typical episode, as ‘Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart’ clearly takes advantage of the ability to indulge in a slower pace, taking a more measured approach than previous episodes. The cliffhanger ending doesn’t prompt a feeling of incompletion – it’s pitched perfectly, and acts as an effective tease for next week.
But, of course, one shouldn’t reduce this episode simply to its closing moments, because there’s a lot of excellent content throughout. Particularly intriguing is the new headteacher, who knows a surprising amount about our core cast, and has a connection to the governors from ‘The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo’; equally, another stand out aspect of the episode are the petal monsters, a fantastic blend of the mundane and the dangerous, which will no doubt play an important role next week.
As ever, though, it’s the character work that makes Class sing. Matteusz is fast becoming a fascinating character, who really deserves to be counted amongst the core cast of the show; in providing a challenge to Charlie, the character is really taking on a life of his own, rather than just being an accessory to Charlie (in the same sense that one might consider Ram’s father a supporting character for Ram, rather than a focal character in his own right). It’s excellent to see Matteusz and Tanya challenging Charlie for his treatment of Miss Quill, because it forces us to look at Charlie in an entirely new light; his air of affability and charm clearly belies a real steel, which is ample ground for further exploration. In future episodes, hopefully more time will be given over to this argument – particularly Charlie’s point about “judging the morality of his planet”, which has a lot of potential for interesting drama.
There’s also an interesting running thread regarding parents running through this episode, with Ram’s dad forming a direct contrast to April’s, and the parents’ evening that forms a backdrop to the episode. It’s nice to see a YA property that does depict one of the main characters trusting their parents, confiding in them about the aliens and so on, and actually maintaining a positive relationship with them. Equally, though, the depiction of April’s family is quite effective, with Sophie Hopkins giving another stellar performance. It’s clear that she’s a very talented actress, effortlessly switching between the vulnerabilities of April to the rage of the Shadowkin. No doubt she’ll have further opportunity to delve into this plotline next week; a more in-depth review of April and Ram’s story this week form part of next episode’s review, when the plot is completed.
There are few downsides to this episode, as it goes; perhaps the only one worth raising is a minor aesthetic quibble. It’s somewhat debatable just how effective the realm of the Shadowkin is, appearing to be just a little too stereotypically evil with the imagery of fire and brimstone; nonetheless, director Philippa Longdale does an impressive job in shooting the other realm, and ensuring it still looks quite stylish. There’s something quite gothic and haunting about it; while it might be a common aesthetic, it’s undeniably an effective one.
Ultimately, ‘Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart’ is another strong episode from Class; indeed, the realisation that, already, we’ve only got four weeks to go is a particularly bittersweet one, caught between a sadness that there’s so little left, but the knowledge that if they’re all as good as this episode, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.