There’s something grimly and hilariously inevitable about Class ending with the Weeping Angels. I mean, it’s not as though “The Weeping Angels try to invade Earth” is a particularly gripping premise in and of itself, but after a fourth episode of the Shadow Kin it’s more than slightly galling to see the show offer such a straightforwardly superior alternative, as though it wants to remind us one more time on the way out that this could have been a much more interesting show than it was.
Instead we get yet another case of the show being pretty good with a clear attitude of “will this do?” to it. The big bad returns. There are some carefully selected secondary character deaths – enough to flag “it’s the season finale and things are serious,” not enough to actually require that we grapple with it on a level other than having Ram or Tanya shout “my dad”/”my mom” in suitably distraught tones a few times. The trigger on the MacGuffin gets pulled, revelations are made about next season, and we end with a cliffhanger instead of a narrative resolution.
It’s not that there aren’t good bits. On the whole I quite liked the “if we kill them are we any better than them,” “yes” exchange, though it’s even better in the gifset version I’ve seen floating around Tumblr where it instead cuts to Tanya saying “white people” back in “Detaned.” Tanya fighting was delightful, even if it’s difficult to imagine how the 5-10 minutes of training she had with Quill could, you know, matter.
But a lot more noticeable than the good bits of the episode, or indeed the bad bits, are simply the bits that aren’t there at all. For instance, Corakinus’s plan is… what, exactly? Matteusz will be “five” in his count-up of kills, which handily implies a revenge scheme along the lines of “he’s going to kill someone close to each of our main characters,” except of course Quill and April don’t actually have anyone available (since we’ve apparently decided April’s mother can’t be killed, presumably because that would actually have consequences) the murders are distributed as one for Ram, three for Tanya, one for Charlie. All of which apparently exists to get April to return to the Underneath with him, except his actual plan is just to destroy the Earth apparently? I mean, you can tell how little actual weight is being put on this by the obligatory “but we beat you,” “yeah but we’re back” exchange between April and Corakinus, which all but counts on the fact that the viewer is sufficiently uninvested in the outcome of the midseason two-parter to just go “oh, OK, sure.” For the most part this isn’t a problem per se – the episode has enough momentum that a bit of incoherence in Corakinus’s plan doesn’t really register. But it illustrates a lack – the degree to which there’s nothing going on here but the raw, unfiltered bombast of a season finale with the big bad.
But this gets at the bigger thing that’s missing, which is any sort of character work whatsoever. The episode hinges on the April/Charlie relationship, which is, of April’s relationships with the other three core students, by some margin the least developed. And it gets next to no time to breathe here, because there is no time to breathe in this. Ram is reduced to sniveling from the sidelines, with essentially all of his development since the opening minutes of “The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo” undone in the cold open. Tanya gets a bit more, in that she’s at least paired with Quill to do some things, but it’s more that Tanya gets screentime than that she gets any actual character moments.
All of which is, if not minor stuff, certainly not major travesties. But it’s also all stuff that completely forecloses any possibility of this show being great. And more to the point, it’s stuff that forecloses any possibility of this show being unique or special. Surely the point of hiring a top young adult novelist to solo-write an entire eight episode show is to get a show that has its own perspective or voice. If the BBC wanted this, they could have just hired Toby Whithouse.
- Two truly stellar bits of awful Ness dialogue here in Tanya’s “I am 100 years old now” monologue and, a possible series best, “do you ever feel like it’s so dark that it’ll never be light again.” Good lord.
- Much as I like the departure from standardized Doctor Who ethics whereby using the weapon of mass destruction is treated as the right choice (which I like not so much because I’m fond of weapons of mass destruction as because I’m fond of disrupting ossified dogma within Doctor Who), there’s something a bit icky about the way in which Charlie’s status as a prince becomes an intrinsic moral force. “Aristocrats are necessary to do the dirty work” is a pretty spectacularly ugh message.
- It doesn’t help that Quill’s back to a somewhat uncertain marginal role here. So the aristocrat gets pushed into a role of moral centrality, whereas the terrorist freedom fighter gets knocked up and lands firmly in the support role. Lame.
- Dorothea almost managed to have an interesting arc-like thing. But killing her off seemed utterly pointless – I can’t imagine any execution of Season Two that wouldn’t be more interesting for having her in it. Instead the Governors get to be fairly generic-looking villains backed by Weeping Angels. And perhaps more to the point, nothing she did was ever bad enough to make her death feel cathartic. Instead it added to the sense that this would have been a better episode if it had spent more time finishing the story of season one than setting up a (presently not actually announced) season two.
- Right. Rankings, rejigged a bit to reflect my overall sense of the show. See everyone towards the end of the month for some actual Doctor Who!
- The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
- Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart/Brave-Ish Heart
- For Tonight We Might Die
- The Lost
- The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did