Brave-Ish Heart

(13 comments)

Still not a spectacular insta-classic, but at least it’s an episode that stays away from most of the obvious things it could be as well. The double-threat structure means that there’s building momentum at all moments of the plot, which is good. Less good is the no-doubt budget-required decision to have two of the three plot strands consist of people standing in a room urgently discussing the plot. The biggest problem here is probably the strand consisting of Tanya and her parents, which ends up being in the kind of awkwardly stupid position of ineffectually relaying information between the two actual plots. But none of the plots are particularly high on urgency - it’s a significant problem that the flowers plot requires Dorothea to simply declare that they’re running out of time in order to garner momentum, and a pretty big one that Ram and April are essentially left with nothing to do but walk around for most of the episode.

So that’s what keeps it just shy of genius. On the other hand, however, there’s what the show always has, which is a dogged determination to be interesting. For instance, Ram and April’s relationship continues to be pitched well. It’s very eager to shout “WE ARE NOT FALLING INTO CONVENTIONAL TROPES OF TEEN ROMANCE,” which is probably irksome to some people, most probably teenagers, but the flipside of that is that it’s legitimately not falling into the conventional tropes of teen romance. Personally, I hope the season ends without them saying they love each other. That would be fantastic. (Also, though I missed a fair chunk of the details of the dialogue, the conversation about Ram’s Sikh heritage was a hoot.)

Even better are Charlie and Ms. Quill, who continue to go in unexpected directions. Has there ever, in the history of Doctor Who, been such a concentrated effort to take violent revolutionary politics as a serious moral position? I mean, it’s far from perfect, and the show would be wildly more interesting if Quill were presented as a hothead who considers violence a legitimate tactic as opposed to an ideological warrior for whom killing her enemies is her default setting. Indeed, and this is obviously a viewpoint influenced by political concerns that the episode couldn’t possibly respond to, I think equating violent resistance to slavery with the fetishization of violence is grotesque and irresponsible. But I still appreciate that this is a show willing to take the accusation of slavery completely seriously in the first place. And I want to be clear, I like Quill’s tendency to fly off the handle in the general case - her last scene with Dorothea is brilliant stuff. And I like that she’s being freed from her slavery now and that we get to see her unchained. I just wish that the surprisingly nuanced portrait of revolutionary violence was subtler yet.

But for the most part this is still another worthy but unspectacular example of the show’s default setting. It’s not leaning on any overly obvious plot structures, which is nice, but it’s not replacing them with interesting ideas either - just with a different sort of autopilot and wallpaper. And while that’s a form of progress, this was also probably the best shot the show was going to have to demonstrate an ability to do something extraordinary or surprising, at least in it’s first season. It deserves a second to keep trying, and I’m excited for the remaining three episodes, but I don’t see much that’s going to make this show stop feeling like a missed opportunity.

  • So apparently they are doing the “April’s mother regains the ability to walk” plotline, albeit with a Class-standard twist whereby it’s not a straightforward miracle cure, and where her mother explicitly asserts the non-necessity of it. Still, like fridging Rachel this is a case of doing a pretty shitty plotline well, and thus fits into my larger complaint that I wish the show would do new things.
  • Speaking of which, next week’s apparently the obligatory bottle episode. I’m torn between argh and the fact that I actually quite like bottle episodes. While still not looking like a likely occasion for knocking anybody’s socks off, it at least looks a high chance to top my rankings.
  • I’m still completely baffled by Matteusz, who desperately needs character traits other than being good and perfect. Though hitting Dorothea with a candlestick was a nice touch.
  • I rather think they missed a trick by having April seal off the Shadowkin’s access to the world. I mean, nobody would be surprised if that plot reactivated, but on a fundamental level I think giving April that kind of power is more interesting than having her return to normality. Again, this is a matter of “should we tell stories that are unlike the usual ones that get told, or should we go with a more ordinary sort of character.”
  • I do still like the flower petals, though. And the gore was indeed well-used - about the only thing that effectively cut through the budget restrictions in terms of making things feel urgent.
  • In that regard it’s a marked contrast to the Shadowkin, which are perhaps the show’s worst instincts epitomized: a villain that desperately has to be interesting and isn’t. They’re stompy rock people whose planet is almost certainly just Clearwell Caves. This works when it’s the Sycorax and the point is that they’re just generic aliens that the Doctor can dispatch in five minutes. It’s disastrous for the big bad of your two-parter.
  • To end on a bright note, the governors. They’re certainly interesting and behaving in unexpected ways, and there even remains a slim chance they could make the season finale interesting. I like that their default mode seems to be “benevolent but still unsettling.” That makes for a much more interesting antagonist than, well, the Shadowkin.

Ranking

  1. The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart/Brave-ish Heart
  3. For Tonight We Might Die
  4. Nightvisiting

Comments

Tom Marshall 9 months, 1 week ago

One small correction: you write "Tanya and her parents" but you mean April. Tanya's parents didn't feature in the episode.

A lot of awkwardness this week, though I do still love the killer flower petals and the next two look more experimental so I have my fingers crossed. I do hope it gets a second season to iron out some of the flaws.

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ViolentBeetle 9 months, 1 week ago

Poor Tanya got her niche stolen, her romantic plot stolen, her relevance stolen and now even her name got stolen by another girl.

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Tom Marshall 9 months, 1 week ago

Romantic plot? I don't think she was ever supposed to have a romantic plot, especially not as she's the youngest by 3 years.

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ViolentBeetle 9 months, 1 week ago

Probably not. It wasn't an entirely serious comment. I wasn't seriously expecting a romantic plot between her and Ram. Just sort of you know, nights chatting is usually how romantic plots start, but instead Ram is banging April now.

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Tom Marshall 9 months, 1 week ago

Well given that Tanya is 14, Ram would actually be breaking the law if he slept with her, so I doubt they'd go there.

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Daibhid C 9 months, 1 week ago

But April wasn't standing around with her folks for most of the episode. He meant Tanya, but he didn't mean her parents.

I'm deeply intrigued that they're doing a "miracle cure" story with an actress who is actually in a wheelchair. Both in terms of the fact Shannon Murray is a disability advocate who presumably won't let it go in any obvious direction, and the purely technical point of how they did the scene where she stood up.

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Tom Marshall 9 months, 1 week ago

I think Phil's point is that April is standing around yapping in one place, while her parents are standing around yapping in another, and occasionally the two yapping plotlines/locations intersect - Huw coming through the rift and talking at her, or the psychic connection between April and Jackie.

I agree with your second statement though; I was sure they wouldn't be going there based mostly on Shannon Murray, but they seem to be. Odd.

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ViolentBeetle 9 months, 1 week ago

I really hate shadowkin. Really really hate them for embodying every single evil race trope in existence with a shred of irony. That's about it for this episode.

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AlfredJ 9 months, 1 week ago

When they started discussing the soul box in one of these episodes for the first time (in that it could be a weapon, but it's original intention is to be used for the souls of Charlie's race to get new bodies, if I remember right), I immediately thought that would be the link with the Shadowkin. After all, we didn't know anything about them (the minor backstory in this ep hadn't happened yet but didn't change much) beyond them being mortal enemies of Charlie's race and basic, big, bad, Sauron type bad guys from a lava planet. When the Shadowkin king (Shadowking?) started talking about how they were an evolutionary mistake that shouldn't exist at all, that sealed the deal for me. My theory was that the Shadowkin were meant as a sort of empty vessels for Charlie's race to begin their second life after death, but that that piece of their history got lost/corrupted, which lead to the endless war between them (and which also resulted in the idea of the soul box as a weapon).

In the end, I figured it had to be something like that, because even though Class hasn't blown me away so far (I still like it!), i thought Patrick Ness was a smarter/more interesting writer than just making the primary bad guys of his show typical 90s videogame end bosses. Maybe I'm wrong though, as I suppose this episode didn't hint at any possibility of that, so perhaps they are really just boring old fiery bad guys.

I did love the sex scene between the two Shadowkin in the earlier episode, which has to be one of the most gloriously baffling things I have ever seen on a Doctor Who show.

On another note, is it just me/my setup or is some of the dialogue really impossible to hear? Seemed worse to me in this episode than usual, although I've had this problem before. Like Phil, I would have loved to have heard more of Ram's story about his father's religion, but even with rewinding there were just entire parts that were unintelligible to me. It's an odd production mistake that has been, for me, exclusively recurring for Doctor Who these last couple of years.

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Tom Marshall 9 months, 1 week ago

Are you watching in America? I always rely on the BBC iPlayer subtitles in the UK.

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AlfredJ 9 months, 1 week ago

Ah, yes, i should probably just watching with subtitles. I usually try to avoid that for languages I actually speak because it's a bit too distracting for me. I can't avoid reading them when they're there and I read faster than the actors speak their lines, which ruins some of the delivery for me.

But now I'm just complaining so I'll shut up.

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Riggio 9 months, 1 week ago

Well, I'm really glad to see the Shadowkin storyline seemingly over with, since they really were some of the most laughably generic villain races I've seen this side of Before the Flood. This was an action-heavy episode, which made it tough to get its tone right, since Class isn't really about action. Underlying the swordfights, WMD, gunfire, and flesh-eating flowers, there was a really interesting meditation on how religion and wider conceptions of the nature of the universe can shape a person's character. Which is the sort of thing Class is quite good at.

As usual, I'm piggybacking on Phil's reviews to throw up a link to my own stuff.
https://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2016/11/a-strange-taste-to-this-status-quo.html

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Rodolfo Piskorski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Duh, Mateusz has those nice, long, muscly arms. Surely that's enough?

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