By Kelly Connolly and Nivea Serrao
April 29, 2017 at 11:05 PM EDT
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Simon Ridgway/BBC America
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  • TV Show
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  • BBC America

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, Tanya sees a ghost—with some literal strings attached.

Roll Call

After three minutes of a musical montage depicting how Tanya’s parents met and started a family, we actually get to meet Tanya’s father — only as Tanya’s informed us already (and the flashbacks have demonstrated) the man in question has been dead for two years. Instead, it’s our alien villain of the week, the Lankin, and this is their cruel attempt to lay a trap so it can feed.

Tanya is convinced she’s handling her grief terribly, but as we quickly learn, the Lankin have vine-like tendrils stretching out from Coal Hill’s rift in time and space, and they’re stretching out all over the city, impersonating a whole bevvy of dead folks, or wrapping real life sleeping ones in them. And as Tanya’s “Dad” explains, he’s there because her grief is a “siren-song” because even two years later she hasn’t let go of him, while her mother and brothers have. So he’s here to use that grief to harvest her soul (a.k.a. “a perpetually renewing energy source), but he needs to convince her to take his hand because this whole process has to be willing on the victim’s part.

Elsewhere across town, Ram, unable to skype his BFF Tanya — which he won’t admit she totally is — calls April instead. But in the middle of their discussing who’s a closer friend of Tanya’s and their physics homework, there’s the telltale knocking at his window, only for Rachel, his since-dead girlfriend to appear. This prompts him to rush out of his apartment and call his dad posthaste. When he doesn’t get a response, he investigates the Lankin vines, only to discover they regenerate. Having witnessed the alien creature feed both quickly and slowly, he calls April, convinced the world is ending.

When she does join him he accuses her of being “too sensible” but April (having grown spunkier in the past few weeks) corrects him, saying she has to be because she’s constantly at war within herself. Later on, as they rest at a bus stop and ponder what to do, she elaborates, telling him her touring folk singer father was an alcoholic who attempted to kill himself with her and her mum in the car. As a result, he went to prison and mother was paralyzed from the waist down, while April herself got lots of therapy. April then says she couldn’t let her father win and take everything away from her, which is why she plays folk music herself. Having shared a tender moment, the pair kiss.

The duo then makes their way to the school, where they see one particularly meaty vine heading off in the direction of Tanya’s place. Concerned, they take off running towards their friend.

At the same time, the Lankin is also impersonating Quill’s sister and interrupting her as she reads (and questions) The Hunger Games. It doesn’t take long for the seasoned alien to recognize the Lankin’s sales spiel as a trap. But the stakes get a little higher when Quill’s Andrath’s sister offers her a gun. Thankfully, Charlie and Mattheusz — who has now been thrown out of his home, and has declared his love for Charlie, who loves him back — come down the stairs, allowing Quill to finally be able to treat her sister as a threat.

She tells her Rhodian charge to get her two big knives, but Charlie comes back with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers because bless him, he “doesn’t like knives.” Nevertheless, Quill makes do, having Charlie stab the Lankin figure in its hand as she proceeds to interrogate it. They confirm that Tanya is definitely in danger, which Charlie tells April when he finally does call her back. Then he, Quill, and Matteusz (who lives with them now) run to her rescue.

Back at Tanya’s apartment, April and Ram make their way up and into her room as the Lankin desperately tries to get her to take his hand. It doesn’t take long for the Lankin to get their tendrils on Ram and April, but that doesn’t stop Ram from trying to stop Tanya from reaching out and taking the Lankin’s arm. Only as it realizes, she hasn’t fed it her grief. She’s poisoned it with her anger because it doesn’t get to have her closure. Sadly, it’s not enough to weaken the Lankin. Which is why it’s perfect that Quill is able to get access to a double-decker bus and straight up drive through that one vine.

Having vanquished this week’s foe, April drops Ram home, turning down his offer to come “nightvisiting” while Charlie tells a deeply grateful Matteusz that he can stay with them as long as he needs. Also, Quill posits that as a warrior she needs a gun.

Independent Study

KELLY: In my continued efforts to call every villain on this show a more aggressive version of a Doctor Who villain (except last week, which was a more aggressive version of that killer tattoo Jodie Foster voiced on The X-Files), I’d like to start by saying that this hour gave me a real “Army of Ghosts” vibe. The Lankin feeds on grief, just as the Cybermen were pulled into Rose’s world on the strength of everyone’s desire to see their dead loved ones again. And like the Cybermen, the Lankin promises to take pain away.

But what Class gave us here is a bleaker upgrade (Cyberman pun intended) on what Doctor Who explored a few years ago. People wanted the ghosts to be their loved ones because they wanted them back, and the Cybermen were created to prolong life at the expense of emotions. The common thread there is things not ending. Immortality, almost. But when the Lankin offers an end to the pain, it’s pretty baldly offering death. Sometimes we want closure rather than continuity we want neatness and peace so badly we’re willing to die for it, even though life is too messy to wrap anything in a bow. I liked that angle, and I liked that Tanya was able to turn that messiness into strength. What did you think?

NIVEA: I think it’s interesting that this is the second week we’re dealing with grief and closure, though of course Tanya’s is a bit of a contrast to Ram’s, which was much fresher and raw. It’s a good reminder that this kind of loss is not something you can just glaze over and move on from like we see a lot of television shows do. Though, while we are on the subject of pain and loss, I thought Quill’s expression when the kids were embracing each other and celebrating was a curious one. And while it seems like she didn’t have the closest relationship with her sister when she was alive, I think the Lankin taking her form definitely signifies that Quill never got the chance to say goodbye. But also, it might be a sign of how lonely she must be. As much as she tries to hide it, she’s now lost not only her entire planet, but she’s tethered to someone she doesn’t like, and her best friend the headmaster is gone. (RIP.)

As for Tanya turning her pain into a strength, it definitely fits into what April was saying about not being made of glass. All our kids are stronger despite the experiences they’ve gone through. Like Ram! He’s gone from a reluctant friend to someone who checks up on Tanya AND is nice to April. Looks like someone is making this “new normal” work for himself.

KELLY: I know! I was also surprised (but glad) to see that grief took center stage here for the second week running — it didn’t feel like a retread so much as an acknowledgment of the fact that, like you said, grief can’t be glossed over. Last week, Tanya and Ram bonded over sometimes not wanting to talk about it. This week was all about how being forced to talk about it can kill you (literally, in this case).

The Lankin makes a big deal out of its inability to snatch people unless they reach out willingly. You can’t force a grieving person to respond on your terms any more than you can force grief itself to respond on your terms. And Charlie and his people would probably say the same is true of love. I’m caught on the way he described the Rhodian concept of love: “The wish told you where love is found; it wasn’t love itself.” In a way, that’s kind of a takedown of the idea that loving someone means you’re entitled to them. Love isn’t love unless it’s reciprocal. That’s true for Charlie and Matteusz (poor Matteusz), it’s true for the “family” these kids are forming, and it explains why the Lankin’s offer was so hollow — it only pretended to go both ways.

NIVEA: I think an interesting thing that the Lankin’s offer highlighted is how it expected many of its victims to simply say yes and grab on, especially when it took on the form of family members. But as we see with many of our characters this week, family (especially parents) can be a very complicated thing. Maybe the moral of tonight’s episode is that parents aren’t always what we need them to be, which really underscores how amazing the parents we do have on the show (Ram’s dad, April and Tanya’s mums) are just for simply being there and listening to what their kids have to say. Even Quill is turning out to be a serviceable enough guardian (despite being forced to), which she will now be for both Charlie and Matteusz.

Speaking of which, I kind of appreciate that the show gave us two sets of teen romances this week! It was about time something nice happened to our boy Matteusz, who really is the unofficial fifth member of this ragtag “family” we have going on. As for April and Ram, I’m kind of rooting for them as well just because it would signal that Ram really is moving past what happened to Rachel. And because both of them also deserve a little happiness. Honestly, they all do. (Though minor side note, I love that everyone knows the way to Tanya’s house considering she didn’t know her address in the pilot.)

KELLY: Tanya not knowing her address in the pilot was an underrated highlight of that episode for me. She just knows how to get there! That’s fair. And I’m in full support of Ram and April (as well as Charlie and Matteusz, obviously). Ram is softer with April, but he also understands and is learning to respect that she has her own edge. I had a feeling they’d become a thing when they had their talk at the bus stop, but good on them for not wasting any time whatsoever. Near-death experiences will do that to you, I guess. And it’s a good sign that this show doesn’t expect the will-they-won’t-they of it all to be the main focus. These kids have bigger aliens to fry.

NIVEA: That’s true! And from the looks of next week, things are only going to get tougher.

Top of the Class

He doesn’t play the biggest role in this hour, but Matteusz deserves a shout for handling his parents’ rejection with so much composure. He could have let his situation turn him against Charlie, but he opens up to him instead — and calls out the dismissal of “teen angst” in the process. We’re rooting for him.

Parent/Teacher Conference

For an hour driven by a daughter’s grief, this episode was light on real-time, real-life, non-alien parents. But the montage that kicked it off rivaled the first few minutes of Up in terms of its ability to wordlessly sketch out a family (and make us cry about it), and it gave more weight to the scene Tanya shared with her mother after the Lankin left. Tanya’s mom wants to remember her husband by his smile. We do, too. And it’s good to see her take a break from scolding her daughter for once.

Comments

“Alien invasion or teen angst?”

“‘Teen angst’ is a pejorative phrase.”

Quill discovers The Hunger Games: “Did this really happen?”

“Holy mother of Kanye.”

“Do you often see your parents after sex?”

“Oh my God, I’ve heard more about folk music in the last half hour than in my entire previous life.”

“No one disgraces the memory of my sister by making her nice.”

“Alien shadows will kill me. Alien tattoos will kill me.”

Episode Recaps

Class (BBC America)

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  • TV Show
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network
  • BBC America

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