Sunday, November 20, 2016

Class, Season One, Episode Six: Detained

By all accounts, for me, this episode should have been an utter disaster.  The one thing I cannot stand is teenage angst and Class was absolutely dripping in it. Somehow, the writers not only made it all work it made it compelling.

Quill tosses Charlie into detention with the others.  We don't know it at the time but this is her excuse to see the superintendent and get the parasite removed from her brain.  Charlie is actually whiny as he pleads that he was only three minutes late and therefore does not deserve detention but Quill will not be talked out of it. After tossing Charlie into the room, she locks the kids in, thus triggering Charlie's claustrophobia. 

When Charlie begins to panic, April fishes out a key to open the door at the exact same time as some kind of asteroid is exploding in space.  The classroom they are in is shifted outside of time and space. It doesn't take long for the kids to realise that they are in trouble.  Emotions quickly shift and the kids find themselves getting angrier and angrier.  It's Matteusz who picks up the chunk of asteroid first and it takes him to the day that he came out to his grandmother.  He is then compelled to tell the group that while he loves Charlie, he is scared of Charlie and what he might do.  As you might well imagine, Charlie does not take this news well. Matteusz never meant for his fear of Charlie to become common knowledge but the rock forced the confession out of him.  Matteusz tries to explain what happened by invoking Narnia.  He talks about Susan overhearing a friend say something awful about her and that this knowledge ended the relationship.  We have to pause for a moment because I think that the writers screwed up.  The person who hears a friend talking shit about her is actually Lucy and not Susan.  Anyone else agree with me that Class got this one fact wrong?

Matteusz's confession only adds to Charlie's angst.  Unlike the others, this is the first time in Charlie's life that he's ever really had friends.  He cannot relate to the idea of liking someone while still having a private beef about them sometimes.  It's a sign of just how isolated Charlie has been and how different he is from the others.  

The next to pick up the shard of rock is Tanya. Her big confession is that she believes the others aren't really her friends.  Tanya feels as though they don't see her as an equal because of the age difference between them. Tanya also learns that they are all in a prison with a prisoner who killed the others he was imprisoned with.  Tanya realises that each of them must pick up the rock in turn to learn about their situation if they are to have any hope of getting of here.

So, yes, there's some angst there but at this point, the tension is so high that it's impossible not to wonder what Ram, April or Charlie will confess when it's their turn.  We recognize that the characters are in danger but the devise of the confession rock keeps it grounded while providing a really great opportunity for character growth.  It's April who tries to stay positive and assure Tanya that they are indeed her friend but Tanya sees this as white people's optimism.  The idea that a happy ending is always possible Tanya surmises is because Whiteness offers a buffer from the harsher realities that marginalised people face.  When April tries to argue that her mother was paralyzed, Tanya argues back that April's mother has been healed which is the perfect white people ending. Jackie being healed is a sore spot with me but not because of her whiteness but because curing disabled people on television is a vicious trope that needs to end. It feels very much as though Class is trying to avoid what they did with Jackie's character. 

The next big confession comes from Ram, who admits that he's in love with April and worries that she doesn't love him like he loves her.  What was that about teenage angst again?  Yeah,I know that in this episode Matteusz makes it clear that the very term "teenage angst" is offensive because it denies the reality of people feelings based on age. Call me curmudgeon but I could care less about Ram and April's relationship drama.  As it turns out, when April grabs the stone, she confesses that she doesn't love Ram and doesn't trust the speed at which he declared his love for her.  I actually think that this is quite sensible for April given how quickly this romance developed and the fact that Ram didn't have two words to say to her before cosmic events threw them together. Ram is hurt by April's rejection and points out his good looks and the fact that he's an athlete as justification for why April should instantly be in love with him.  It actually makes Ram really unlikable because it suggests that by virtue of his appearance and athletic abilities that he is entitled to April. Rather than challenge this, April tries to soothe Ram and say that she is trying to be open to possibilities.

Charlie has a full blown panic attack and it's Matteusz who calms him down. I really like that Class went out of it's way to talk about how a panic attack can feels like dying and how serious they are. Far too often, the media turns panic attacks into comedy, as though people who are in the midst of one aren't actually suffering in real and pain ways.  Matteusz affirms that what Charlie is feeling is real as he offers comfort and gives Charlie something to focus on beyond being trapped in a small room with no real escape. As someone who has had panic attacks in the past, I really appreciated it. 

Charlie is the next one to pick up the rock and unlike all of the others, he confesses before he does so. Charlie tells the team that he desperately wants to use the cabinet of souls to kill all of the Shadowkin and the only thing that stops him from doing so is his fear that Matteusz will no longer love him and that he will lose himself in the process. This is a huge confession.  When Charlie picks up the rock, it tries to make him confess but because he has already done so, the rock actually holds zero leverage over him.  The alien prisoner in the rock cannot influence Charlie and though Charlie starts to bleed from his eyes and his nose, he holds onto the rock until it explodes and returns them to their normal place.  The team doesn't get to relax for long because the rock releases a golden lasso and grabs Charlie by the foot.  It seems that the prison, now devoid of a prisoner ,has chosen Charlie to replace him because though he hasn't actually used the cabinet of souls as a weapon his desire to do so convicts him. 

Luckily for Charlie, this is when Quill shows up and shoots the lasso attempting to drag him into prison.  It's Matteusz  who is the first to grasp the implications of Quill being able to use a gun on her own.  It's Matteusz who notices that Quill's hair is different and that she has a scar on her face. Quill is all happy to declare that saving Charlie was her last act for him because now that the tech has been removed from her brain, she has her free will back.  Yep, shit is about to hit the fan in a big way. 

There are only two episodes of Class left  which seems far too soon for the season to be over.  We're just getting to know the gang and now it's almost over.  Some episodes have obviously been more successful than others but the one thing that Class hasn't done is bore me.  It's self aware, funny and intriguing much of the time.  In this episode, I found myself wishing that Tanya's discussion of race had been more involved.  It seems that she spends too much time making throw away points about race even if they are always on point.  If Class is going to go there, it needs to really go there without holding back.  Have the courage of your convictions Class, or drop it altogether. 

I couldn't help but reflect on Matteusz and Charlie's relationship this week.  It's not the same as the one between Ram and April, whose relationship I consider to be full of unnecessary angst.  Charlie is a prince who has never been loved or appreciated.  Charlie is one of two beings surviving in his race and Matteusz has been kicked out by his homophobic family.  The issues these two have are far from teenage angst and so I cannot help but be upset by the fact that Class for some reason wants to juxtapose Charlie and Matteusz with April and Ram.  It's telling that it's Matteusz is the one who talks about it being wrong to reduce the feelings of the young to teenage angst, given that the issues he is negotiating are serious and real.