‘April’s sharing a heart with a murdering alien, and well, it looks like she’s cut a hole into his world to try and kill him.’Class, Series 1, Episode 5 is the continuation of all the plotlines of Episode 4. April and Ram have gone in search of ShadowKing Corakinus to somehow get April’s heart back, or at least stop Corakinus killing everyone on Earth. The Petals of Death (Ooh, possible title for some future use) are continuing to fall and multiply, and will soon be strong enough and many enough to tackle more than the occasional squirrel. Charlie Smith still has the MacGuffin of Ultimate Thingness that could kill either all the Shadowkin or all the petals (or, given the overuse of this idea already, maybe we should call them the Petalkin?), but not both, Quill is just a little pissed that he’s been lying to her all this time about the usefulness of the cabinet, and Headmistress Ames (with the backing of the mysterious Governors) is still trying to get Quill to force Charlie to use the cabinet on the Petalkin (Yeah, why not?), in exchange for which, the Governors will remove the creature from Quill’s head that stops her exercising free will.
‘Right…so this is a mushroom flashback.’
Oh and April’s once-suicidal dad is still back, she still hates him, and she’s still healed her mother’s paralysis.
Clear? Then let’s go.
Brave-Ish Heart is an episode that teeters constantly on the edge of a scimitar – will it be just the natural conclusion of all these story threads or will it be something more?
In the end, it’s actually very difficult to say. April’s quest for Corakinus feels like mostly-filler leading up to a duel for the Kingship of the Shadowkin, though along the way we get a lesson in Sikhism, and a lesson in what the Underneath – the realm of the Shadowkin – actually is. They couldn’t be more clearly demons in a concept of Hell if they were actually written as such. So there’s a chunk of subtext for you – April’s off to conquer her demons and free her heart from them. Everybody got that? Oh, and we get to feel old. Really, really old.
‘Fine, Frodo – let’s go hop in a volcano.’We had to look that up for this review. The Fellowship of the Ring was release in 2001, fifteen years ago. Don’t blame us for the fact you’re now feeling old, blame writer Patrick Ness.
‘Yeah – some old movie my dad likes.’
Of the story-strands, as in the previous episode, it’s actually the Petalkin and people’s reactions to them that are more interesting. Here’s a thing – while most of the action in this thread centres on Greg Austin’s Charlie and Katherine Kelly’s Quill, there’s a natural disparity on intensity in their performances. Kelly is blow-your-hair-back good, bringing her A-game to the reality of being the last of her kind, of seeing her people slaughtered before her eyes and wanting revenge. By comparison, Austin’s somewhat aloof majesty, while well-intentioned as an acting choice, feels passive. So while we’re fairly hopeful Quill won’t get her way (mini-spoiler alert: it means the end of our species if she does), there’s every opportunity for us to be shouting at the screen for Charlie to make up his mind, have a bit of spirit and actually do something.
As events unfold of course, he doesn’t need to do anything at all. Once we’ve accepted the slightly naff ‘gravel pit as fighting arena’ and the slightly more naff ‘armies of Shadowkin at a very great distance so they can just be vaguely CGId in,’ we have to believe one more fairly unlikely thing – that one pissed-off teenager is more powerful than the ShadowKing Corakinus. We don’t really buy that, because the duel between them looks staged, balletic, and is delivered from a distance as much as possible. Corakinus even stays on his knees when, to be absolutely fair, April has her scimitars crossed at least a step or two away from his throat and her dad arrives to give her a lecture on who she is. It all pushes the battle sequence from Buffydom to the realm of the actively absurd.
The Petalkin/MacGuffin of Ultimate Thingness stand-off, maintained by an efficient woman with a gun and Quill’s raw words of suffering, is more effective, but the whole thing grows a sense of inevitability as the episode wears on, like an equation being solved. Get the Shadowkin to attack the petals, then destroy the Shadowkin with the MacGuffin. Then solve for the unfortunate likelihood that the Rhodians (remember them? Charlie’s people, whose souls are in the MacGuffin?) all die, unless by some plot development he turns out to be the fabled hero of legend who can let his people live again in the bodies of their killers (Oh, the therapy bills). Oh wait, here’s April, having defeated, but not killed, Corakinus, to order the Shadowkin not only to kill all the petals, but then to handily naff right off again. Job’s a good ’un. What Episode 5 ends up being is two problems with too many available solutions, meaning it’s difficult to really buy in to the tension of either problem. And while Sophie Hopkins has some really solid moments here, she feels out of her depth in the fight scene, just as Austin does in the MacGuffin activation sequence. Maybe that’s the point – they’re teenagers with a lot on their shoulders, not heroes, written to solve every problem with a witty quip – but ultimately in Episode 5, we don’t buy into their moments of peril and anguish (as we absolutely did with Hopkins’ performance in Episode 4).
In the final analysis, there’s not a great deal actively wrong with Episode 5. The writing is balanced between story-strands, and there’s a natural progression from Thing A to Thing B. It’s really just the case that there are too many potential solutions to the problems presented here, and the one that was chosen is just a little too neat and a little too unconvincing to genuinely satisfy.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk