Well, that got delightfully stupid at the end there, didn’t it?
Never has Class felt quite so bonkers as the final few minutes of “Co-Owner Of A Lonely Heart.” It has everything: April’s eyes glow red in a delightfully cheesy special effect. She brandishes swords (well, more like scimitars, really) at her estranged father before using them to tearing a hole in reality. Between that, she plunges her arm inside her mother’s chest in order to heal her paralysis, which is technically set up earlier by April’s healing factor and the scene where Karras tells the Shadow King she will be healing him. Sophie Hopkins is asked to deliver a big monologue about said king is coming to kill them all, and how she has to stop him first. The other members of the merry little band show up too late to make any difference at all, with Charlie providing a line of exposition and Tanya looking stunned. And then Ram dives through the portal after April, though not before telling Tanya to tell his dad what he’s done.
While I realize the very end of “Nightvisiting” did devolve into some similar silliness, with Tanya somehow knowing how to transmit her anger instead of her grief into the Lankin, tonight’s closing sequence stands in sharp contrast to the steady, assured seriousness that defined last week’s effort. “Co-Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is the goofiest entry of Class to date, so why is it so much more satisfying that “Nightvisiting”? I could just say because this episode is more fun, but that’s perilously close to meaningless, or worse a handwave to turn ridiculous, undercooked storytelling into an asset. But there’s an answer, and it’s a relatively straightforward one: Class is the first episode that actually feels like it’s about not just the characters that make up the show’s ensemble but their relationships as well.
Let’s run through this: “For Tonight We Might Die” was about the group coming together for the first time, and only then at the Doctor’s vaguely contrived behest, so the characters spent most of the episode on their own. “The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo” kept the focus squarely on Ram, with Tanya contributing primarily through the relatively detached medium of video chat. “Nightvisiting” again isolated the characters, with Tanya and Quill spending most of the episode with dead loved ones while the pairs of Charlie and Matteusz and Ram and April mostly interacted through monologues and rote romantic story beats. Last week’s episode was fine, but it was primarily about how the situation affected the characters, with little exploration of how one character’s reaction to a situation affected the others. Class to this point has siloed its characters, yet it’s the interplay of the ensemble that makes the show distinctive.
And that’s what “Co-Owner Of A Lonely Heart” has in spades. Charlie, Matteusz, and Tanya have little story to speak of from a plot perspective, so everything becomes about character. Matteusz has been positioned as the auxilary member of the group—he wasn’t in the second episode and he’s not in the opening credits—yet he emerges here as the moral compass. Considering his school-aged character was presumably born around 1998 or 1999 (we’re all so damn old, my goodness), he’s too young to have direct memory of the Iron Curtain, but his Polish heritage clearly informs his concerns with Charlie’s princely actions. He repeatedly forces Charlie not to use euphemisms and to be honest in his intentions with the Shadow Cabinet, and both Patrick Ness’ script and Jordan Renzo’s performance have sufficient finesse to make it clear Matteusz pushes Charlie because he needs to trust the man he loves without having to say it explicitly.
The episode also sees characters push back against Charlie’s treatment of Quill, who otherwise again remains on the periphery of the main action—honestly, she might not even be close enough yet to count as on the periphery. Again, it’s not hard to understand why a black woman like Tanya might have a particular objection to a friend treating someone like a slave, but the episode trusts the viewer enough to not have to hit them over the head with the connection. Charlie’s argument that they shouldn’t judge his culture smacks of deflection, as the entire point Matteusz’s arguments drive toward is that some things are universally true or right, and Charlie’s actions are wrong in a way that transcends whether he’s human or Rhodian. Greg Austin plays up the more alien and more unnerving side of Charlie in these scenes, but there’s also a more recognizable sense of a spoiled teenager getting cross when someone dares stand up to him.
Ultimately, though, this is April and Ram’s episode. That those two went from barely being friends to having sex in the space of two episodes is… yeah, that’s probably pretty realistic, honestly. Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed’s chemistry isn’t really anything special, but again it doesn’t need to be: We’re talking about a pair of scared, horny high schoolers who have been through hell together, so it only makes sense attraction would take over. To have April’s mother accidentally barge in on them makes for a wonderfully cringe-inducing conversation around the kitchen table, with Ram spectacularly failing to be helpful at every opportunity—the most effortlessly real moment of the entire episode is when Ram assures April’s mother he had some condoms, only for a beyond mortified April to bury her head further in her hands. Again, if there’s a weakness here it’s that there’s no particular logic to Ram suddenly being so devoted to April he would leap into the portal after her, and I can only go so far in playing the “well, they are dumb high schoolers” card. Still, any storytelling choices that prioritize characters interacting with each other is all right by me, and April’s journey here—both in dealing with the Shadow King’s influence and in dealing with her father—is one complemented throughout by Ram’s presence.
“Co-Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is deeply goofy television, in a way that feels distinct from the goofiness one would expect on Doctor Who. The Shadow Kin scenes in particular play as the epitome of more self-consciously silly, youth-geared science fiction, even as the episode is far more sexually explicit than a Doctor Who episode would be. Put it like this: Class is trying to be honest about the realities of being a teenager while also being cool and hip about it, which is tricky when its parent program is maybe the least cool thing ever (and you know I all mean that in the very best way). The show still hasn’t mastered it tone: The previous two episodes were more self-serious than this, which I can (and do) respect, but they also failed to locate what was special or unique about Class. Having the characters interact helped bring out what could potentially make this show special, and if the stories that most typify Class are going to be on the sillier side, then so be it. This was never a universe meant for seriousness anyway.
- As I said, Miss Quill remains on the sidelines, though her interactions with the terribly well informed new head teacher are fascinating. We still don’t have a good sense of just how dangerous Quill could be without that thing in her brain, but I suspect we will soon find out.
- Speaking of which, I like that the head teacher is very clearly a major villain going forward, but she’s almost benevolent here, pointing out the threat facing Earth and enlisting Quill’s aid against it. She’s clearly bad news, but there’s no rush, you know?
- I appreciate how delightfully nice and supportive Ram’s dad is. It’s a nice change from April’s dad, who really is just the absolute worst.