Welcome, Class-mates! Take your seats for the latest Doctor Who spin-off, which trades all of time and space for the halls of Coal Hill Academy. It may have gotten a slight redesign, but it’s still the same Coal Hill School that’s brushed paths with the TARDIS so many times since 1963, and that makes it a magnet for timey-wimey trouble. Having a couple of aliens in its ranks doesn’t hurt, either. Every week, Nivea Serrao and Kelly Connolly will be issuing report-card recaps to break down the latest happenings at the Academy. This week, swordhands are the new scissorhands. Watch out.
One of the perils of sharing your heart with an alien creature? Just suddenly having swords in your hands. On the other side of the universe from Coal Hill Academy, the Shadow Kin are trying to anchor April’s heart to Corikinus’ body, which backfires: The connection between the two deepens, and April looks down from a palpitation to find she’s holding a sword. (“Oh my.”) Also, her body can heal itself. And she has super-strength. She could always pick out a superhero identity and start fighting crime, but she doesn’t have glasses, so you just know everybody would recognize her.
Class is more grounded than your average superhero tale, anyway. At school, April frightens herself, her classmates, and her teacher when a discussion on the Battle of Dunkirk unleashes the alien within, and she goes off on a cold tirade about the inevitability of death in war. She snaps back to reality with no memory of what she just said, and when she confides in Ram, the pair skip class to talk in his car. He promises that he won’t let her die, but April knows well enough that no one can make that promise.
Right on cue, her father shows up. He just got out of prison, and seeing April is in clear violation of his parole, but here he is anyway. Imagine his surprise when his daughter comes at him with a sword in each hand (honestly? Good for her) and warns him to run. Ram takes her home — with the full approval of new head teacher Dorothea Ames, who seems to know too much.
Alone in April’s bedroom, the teens comfort each other, and it leads to sex. Their feelings are unintentionally contagious; the Shadow King, sharing April’s heart, gets caught up in the rush and gets it on with one of his minions, Kharrus. April’s mom walks in on her after the fact, and she isn’t thrilled, even though Ram handles the ensuing sit-down well.
Right on cue, April’s father shows up again. He’s been lurking (ugh), and he overheard Ram calling Tanya as he left the house to loop her in on what’s wrong with April. Daddy dearest claims to share Ram’s concern; his daughter did just pull a pair of swords out of thin air, after all. (April: “They’re more like scimitars.”)
And she’s about to do it again — Corikinus and Kharrus are working together to steal her heart for real this time. April fights back, yelling at both the Shadow King and her father that they can’t have her heart, and she wins. But she almost loses it in a different sense, as she corners her father with the swords and nearly kills him. Ram talks her down. Corikinus, who doesn’t have a Ram, gives into his own anger and kills Kharrus.
The swords disappear. April’s mother is very confused. April tells Ram he can’t save her, asks her mother’s forgiveness, and plunges her hand into Jackie’s chest. WHAT? The Shadow King feels the effect of whatever April is doing, and so does Jackie; she falls out of her wheelchair, and it looks like she won’t be needing it anymore.
Then, rather than explain to her mother (and us) what exactly just happened, April swords up once again, slashes a tear in space and time, and jumps through it. She’s taking the fight directly to Corikinus. Without much of a second thought, Ram leaps through and joins her.
While those two are off to fight fiery alien monsters in a shadow realm, the rest of our gang seems to be gearing up for a much prettier (but no less deadly) fight. Flower petals have been blowing into town on the breeze, and they’ve got a bite to them: Every time they draw blood, they multiply — a lot. Right now, they’re feeding on pricked fingers and squirrels, but as they start to take over, they’ll be coming for everyone.
This info comes to us courtesy of Dorothea Ames, who knows everything about everyone. She tells Quill that the Governors, the same group who sent a robot to keep an eye on her classroom, are impressed with her work, so she’s either one of them or she’s in cahoots with them — unless, of course, she’s a free agent using them to get what she wants. Quill can’t tell either. At the moment, she doesn’t much care. Ames is offering what she wants most — that Arn out of her head — if Quill will just help her fight some deadly flower petals. Seems pretty doable. It probably isn’t.
However, the moment that really drove home her inner conflict is when she’s FINALLY taking her anger out on her dad. We’ve seen April be strong and resilient and “so goddamn sensible” for three weeks now. Turns out that despite all the therapy, this maybe wasn’t the most healthy approach for her to take?
KELLY: Oh, I don’t know — I don’t think emotionally manifested swords are healthy either. I agree that she’s still got a lot of anger (hence THE SWORDS), but it’s not that she never dealt with it. Her equilibrium in earlier episodes seemed pretty hard won, and what’s happening to her here struck me more as a violation. She found a way to work through her trauma and incorporate her coping mechanisms into her daily life — by playing the violin, for instance — and then along comes an outside force to snap her strings. She’s literally got a monster in her, and unlike with Ram, she didn’t give her consent. I would say that Corikinus is setting her back in her recovery rather than revealing a flaw in the way she recovered the first time. But obviously, her father doesn’t help.
On the subject of emotional battles being fought physically: Did April just give her mom back the use of her legs? If so, how? I’m generally not okay with TV’s miraculous cures for paralysis, but I’m withholding judgment on this one based mainly on the horror in her mother’s eyes. April just violated the natural order to suit her own means, and it’s already clear that there will be consequences.
NIVEA: YES. That unnerved me as well! One of the things I really admire about the show is the range of inclusivity it features without making each character’s story about that. Instead, they get to exist and go on adventures. But I definitely think you’re right in terms of waiting to see how this particular storyline plays out because the show has been very good about following its characters through the various traumas they’ve experienced — though it’s unfortunate that April’s mom has had to experience this. (I also think you’re actually right about Corikinus setting poor April back in her progress.)
Speaking of Tall, Dark, and Angry, I actually enjoyed our trips to the realm of the Shadow Kin, especially Corikinus having to cope with April’s more romantic (and later, sexual) feelings. It was both a hilarious display of “teenage hormones” at work, as well as a great reminder that they can share less negative emotions. And I know I keep making Harry Potter references but honestly, April and Big C’s connection feels like something Ginny and Tom Riddle may have dealt with had his diary made its way to her later in her Hogwarts career. But while we are on the subject of “feelings” what did you think of April and Ram taking their newfound relationship to the next level?
KELLY: It was refreshing. Two teenagers, one of whom is (however wrongly) seen as something of a goody-goody, had sex, and no one was corrupted, and it wasn’t a rebellion. And no one lost their soul afterward, which is obviously where this show diverges from Buffy, one of the influences it wears on its sleeve. And they used protection, which of course brings us to their conversation with April’s mom. I appreciated that Jackie was concerned and realistically upset but not disown-your-daughter upset, and Ram’s gentle but direct approach to the whole situation was endearing.
There’s also the obvious contrast, which I touched on earlier, between this choice April willingly made with her body and the choice that was made for her with Corikinus. She deserves to retain some agency here. This episode hit a lot of the same beats we’ve been hitting since the pilot — April is at war, kindness isn’t weakness, etc. — and while I’m not sure it did anything especially new with them, it at least raised the stakes. No one can say April is just sitting back and taking it. She’s making bold moves.
Shifting gears a bit, the same themes at play in April’s story are all over Charlie’s subplot this week: They’re both exploring what kindness looks like in such a monstrous universe. Matteusz is worried that Charlie can justify using a deadly weapon, even to save his own people. Charlie argues he’s being just, but the Doctor Who TV universe as a whole tends to favor mercy as the only real justice; anything else corrupts both sides instead of just one. As much as Class aims for a darker take on Who’s themes, I think it’s still firmly in the Doctor’s camp on this one: Tanya and Matteusz are the ones whose arguments come across as sound. What did you think of that debate?
NIVEA: Well, I’m firmly in Camp Tanya and Matteusz (which totally needs to be a thing) on this one. While I understand Charlie’s sense of responsibility to his people — which Greg Austin is doing a great job of conveying — I’m less enthused by his refusal to consider being kind to Quill. Because Tanya does bring up an important point, his behavior is a very slippery slope. If he’s willing to treat one of his own people (which Quill technically is) this way, how will he feel about replacing the souls of the entire human race with that of the Rhodians?
At the same time, I think it’s an interesting choice to have Charlie be so rigid in his view of Quill, which is a complete 180 from how he treats everyone else in his life. I don’t know about you, but Katherine Kelly has had me completely empathizing with her character for the last two episodes, and this one really drove home how helpless her character must be feeling at everything she’s going through. In a way, it parallels April’s story as suddenly Quill might be getting rid of the Arn, giving her full agency back.
And this brings us to the Governors and our latest alien threat. To paraphrase Ram, it’s not just alien shadows and tattoos we now have to fear (along with Doctor Who’s blinking, forgetfulness, etc.) but also carnivorous, squirrel-eating petals? But more importantly, do you trust the Governors? Could they be on the side of good — albeit displaying that in a very shady manner — á la Torchwood and UNIT, or are they up to no good?
KELLY: In this franchise, the Big Secretive Organization That Claims to Fight on the Side of Angels is never, ever to be trusted, so I’m guessing the Governors are more pre-Doomsday Torchwood than post-Doomsday Torchwood. (I’ll stop applying Doctor Who standards to Class when they stop filming outside the church from “Father’s Day.”)
NIVEA: OMG. It totally is shot outside of the church from “Father’s Day,” which kind of does make it apropos for this episode, even if Rose’s own resolution with her father was a lot more fruitful. I know things are really ramping up now that we’re at the midpoint of the season — literally, everyone‘s storylines could have gotten an hour to itself — but as we head into a bunch of big showdowns next week (April and Ram vs. Corikinus, Quill vs. Charlie, etc.) I find myself agreeing with Chancellor’s review. This show definitely needs more episodes. Or better yet, a second season.
“People go missing from Coal Hill have a distressing tendency to stay that way, don’t you find?”
“I’d like to know my progress. How I can improve. Don’t we want to be better students to help our parents?”
“Duty is another word of bad government.”
“Is he… all human? You know like, down there?”