The second half of this week’s Class double bill is an entirely different beast to the series opener – in more ways than one. Can the show get two gold stars on its debut weekend?
Episode 2 sees our newly formed team facing the scariest subject of all… PE! Following another incredibly gripping pre-titles sequence, it’s time to solve the mystery of The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo. The question is, after making such a good first impression, does it manage to strike it lucky twice in a row?
Honestly, it’s a little difficult to say, because Episode 2 is a marked departure from the previous chapter. And yet, it also really isn’t. Tonally, it’s certainly the same Class as in Episode 1 – the difference is that it’s now been ramped up to eleven. Or rather, it’s been Ram-ped up to eleven.
Oh, Ram. Poor, poor Ram.
The guy just can’t catch a break, can he? Already haunted by the events of Episode 1, he’s thoroughly put through the wringer time and time again here as well. Maybe Patrick Ness just really enjoys seeing Fady Elsayed suffer. It works though, as Fady can take it like the best of them and gives off a tremendously damaged performance. This is very much his story and he owns the role, carrying the episode from start to finish.
That’s not to say that the other characters don’t appear at all – they do, and they have their own parts to play. They’re just not so much in the spotlight on this occasion. Miss Quill, however, does get a thoroughly enjoyable sub-plot involving an Ofsted inspector that provides some welcome comic relief. Again, she’s gifted many of the funniest lines and is hilarious in the face of danger. Katherine Kelly is a true talent and we hope she continues to impress as the series goes on.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Whereas Episode 1 was loaded with exposition and world-building, Episode 2 fires on all cylinders to differentiate itself from Doctor Who. Well, sort of, anyway. In terms of format, it’s actually closer to the “monster of the week” approach we’ve become accustomed to. The story arc is less prevalent though, and that makes things less immediately engaging – but this isn’t about plot so much as it is about character. There’s a lot of development and a greater focus on family, something sorely missing from recent Doctor Who.
It’s not all emotion though of course – this is a sci-fi show, after all! The special effects are again visually stunning and the monster is effectively realised. The episode’s title isn’t just a knowing reference (it’s rather more literal than that). The way it comes to life is very impressive indeed. While the villain here isn’t necessarily as exciting as the Shadow Kin, what it lacks in intrigue it makes up for in spectacle.
Now, if Episode 1 didn’t convince you that Class isn’t Doctor Who, then Episode 2 makes it abundantly clear. It’s worth stressing: this isn’t a show for kids. There’s a lot of blood and gore during these 45 minutes, including some truly horrifying imagery. Those of a squeamish disposition, prepare to look away more than once. Admittedly, it does feel a little over the top at times – but it’s hard to deny, it makes the show stand out.
Perhaps ironically then, Episode 2’s biggest downfall is its resolution, which falls into many of the same pitfalls as Doctor Who itself. It’s a very talky showdown and a war won with words rather than action – a far cry from Episode 1’s climax. In context, it does feel earned, and the excellent acting helps to sell the characters’ message. By comparison though, it’s just not quite as satisfying an ending.
All in all, Class Episode 2 doesn’t hit quite as many highs as its predecessor. But, after a high octane premiere featuring a cameo from Peter Capaldi, that’s probably not unexpected. What’s here is still very, very solid and a sign of good things to come. We’re eager to see where the series take us next.
Great acting, great writing, and most importantly, great potential – Class is on track to achieve a stellar record over the coming weeks. Now tat’s what we call entertainment!
…geddit, tat, tattoo? Oh, never mind.