Alex Moreland reviews the sixth episode of Class…
The truth came clear and had to be said.
Nothing about this episode should work.
It’s a bottle episode, restricted to one setting, and relies on the fairly simplistic, even cliché, premise of the gang being put in detention. The central conceit – a rock that prompts the characters to tell the truth – is seemingly little more than a piece of pure artifice.
There was, at the outset, every danger that this episode would prove to be the one that brought the tower of cards tumbling down – a piece of filler that couldn’t meet the quality of the episodes around it.
Rather surprisingly, though, ‘Detained’ proved to be the best episode of Class yet – possibly the closest it’s come to a genuinely resounding classic that could stand alongside the best of Doctor Who.
In many ways, it’s because this episode plays to the strengths of Class, and indeed to the strengths of Patrick Ness; it isn’t, and doesn’t try to be, an intricately plotted story. Indeed, much of the plot is fairly basic, sketched out quite thinly across the episode’s forty-five minute runtime – but then, it doesn’t need to be anything else, because ‘Detained’ is in fact one of the most intimate episodes of Class yet.
On the strength of Ness’ writing, the central conceit of the episode is able to transcend its apparent artifice, instead providing the impetus for some powerful character drama. It’s often moving, consistently nuanced, and regularly insightful; Ness has a real ability to get to the heart of his characters, and ‘Detained’ is the best example of this. There’s a real energy to this episode – it’s a tense, moody piece of drama, quite unlike anything the show has given us so far. And yet, in many ways, one can’t help but feel that Class would have been significantly diminished, to the point of being incomplete, without this episode.
Naturally, the performances of our core cast are worth remarking upon; particularly so, in fact, as this episode was anchored entirely by the younger actors, without a meaningful role from Katherine Kelly as Quill. While it’s always been clear that each of the core cast were quite talented, there’s also been the feeling that their performance has been elevated because they were acting alongside an established actor in Kelly. ‘Detained’, however, provides a real showcase for the abilities of the younger actors; not only do they pitch the interactions between each character perfectly, playing off one another with a real ease and genuine chemistry, they’re each able to sell afford their confession sequences genuine dramatic weight.
It feels worth highlighting Jordan Renzo, who plays Matteusz, for a moment; he occupies something of an odd position, in that he’s been a regular across the series, but for some reason isn’t credited amongst the core cast. It’s an undeserved slight, frankly; if ever an episode of Class put forward a case for Matteusz as a character, it’s this one. Renzo gives a nuanced performance here, one which is in fact rather sweet. Despite the growing tension, it’s Matteusz who remains grounded, the voice of reason, the most understanding of all the characters – it’s a role that Jordan Renzo fills perfectly, and an essential aspect of the group dynamic at the heart of Class.
‘Detained’ also deserves credit for being the best directed episode of Class too; Wayne Che Yip has done an outstanding job with this episode. It’s a deeply evocative and atmospheric piece of television, which manages to be one of the most visually interesting episodes of Class yet; a series of unique directorial choices really give this episode a style all of its own. Wayne Che Yip’s work on this episode elevates it further, taking the already impressive work done by Ness and the actors and further highlighting their respective strengths, bringing the drama together as one cohesive whole. It’s the third crucial aspect of the trifecta that makes this episode so effective – between the excellent writing, the fantastic performances, and the gorgeous direction, Class is really able to sing with ‘Detained’.
Ultimately, then, ‘Detained’ is a huge step up from previous episodes of Class – it knows its strengths, and every aspect of the episode is clearly working at full power to emphasise them as much as possible. We’re presented with a deeply intimate, nuanced affair; it’s an effective yet immensely suspenseful character study, which must surely be counted as the best episode of Class so far.