Class Season One - Episode 2 - The Coach With The Dragon TattooBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Class - Ep2 - The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo - Ram (FADY ELSAYED) (Credit: BBC/Simon Ridgeway)Starring: Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins, Vivian Oparah, Katherine Kelly, with Ben Peel and Nigel Betts.

Written By: Patrick Ness,
Directed By: Edward Bazalgette
Released Online (BBC Three)  - 22nd October 2016

This review contains spoilers

 

Not long having bonded together, the quintet of would-be heroes, drafted in by a mysterious and anonymous Caretaker, are faced with a new challenge. A spate of brutal killings have occurred on the premises of Coal Hill Academy. The P.E coach - or 'teacher' depending on what parlance one opts for - is looking like a red-handed suspect as he takes packages of raw meat out for the consumption of a mysterious entity. Ram is still struggling to make use of his new leg that belongs to a world far away from Earth, and is feeling painfully self-conscious as he cannot kick a football to save his life. However other talents and virtues of this youngster soon will come to the fore..

*

First off, the actual title of the episode has very little to do with Stieg Larsson's famous trilogy, although there are both murders and some detective work featured at times. Instead the 'tattoo' is literally the focus of the episode, as it concerns one of a pair of dragons being somehow trapped on the skin of a staff member at Coal Hill. This boldness in playing with such a well-liked series of books/films is to be admired, nonetheless.

There is plenty to enjoy, although the episode is a touch uneven, and only really gets going about a third of the way in. A number of flashbacks and sudden edits do make things feel slightly overcooked, but eventually the direction matches the opportunities Ness has laid out in his second straight script for the maiden season. Perhaps Ed Bazalgette was opting for a different type of storytelling method, but sadly this goes down as his least successful spell in the director's chair to date.

Dialogue is mostly on the nose for these 45 minutes of (online premier) hi-jinks, and is inevitably allowed the luxury of less exposition and introduction. The portal that allows any manner of creature from time and space is christened with such a funny - but ribald title - that I alas cannot repeat it on this particular site. Trust me: it is amusing. 

Tanya stands out after two episodes as a character with much potential. She mainly intrigues in that she is less pious and upset at the death and chaos around her. Perhaps her outward empathy is that bit less developed, despite her many intellectual gifts. The script for this episode allows actor Vivian Oparah to show more of her innate abilities, and why she was chosen over others for the role; some of whom may have had more experience. 

Miss Quill is once again a very enjoyable component of proceedings. She is blatantly amoral in attitude, but also a lifeform that needs companionship. Her obsession that something is up with the sinister and creepy Ofsted inspector eventually proves a justified hunch, but does lead to her losing control and causing consternation for boss Mr Armitage. Eventually, she uses the most direct method to try and get a romantic partner, but is rewarded with a robotic lack of interest and then a near-death experience. Regardless, the succession of dramas are likely still considerably preferable to her experiences as a freedom fighter on her home world.

As for Charlie and April, who had such a wonderful overlapping arc in the Series premier, there is far less screen time than I personally was expecting. It almost feels like a deliberate focus away from them, at least until the final clash with the villain and the reflections on the ordeal the team have just been through. There are suggestions that whilst Charlie might certainly prefer men on a romantic level, he can have at least an emotional, deep platonic connection with women too. This is of course precedented in the wider Who universe with Captain Jack, Ianto and other characters over the years.

Class - Ep2 - The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo - The Inspector (JAMI REID-QUARRELL) (Credit: BBC/Simon Ridgeway)

A number of one-off supporting player bite the dust in conclusive fashion, most memorably the Ofsted inspector played by Jami Reid-Quarrell (who has graced prime time Saturday nights before in the parent show - most notably as Colony Sarff). However it is perhaps regrettable we lose Nigel Betts as Mr Armitage so soon into this brand new show, although he did have a good innings when taking into account the Doctor Who episodes that featured him in 2014.

As for the actual villain, I must say I was left a touch cold. He is undoubtedly a reprehensible and selfish character, but the lack of sufficient backstory and a rather overly taciturn demeanor from Ben Peel make him slightly forgettable. Consequently, there is less to care about when Raj's quick thinking condemns the wrongdoer to either a horrible demise, or even potentially a 'living death' as a chair, or whichever object the dragon so chooses to enable a reunion with its mate. After all, the laws of physics in the dimension the beasts originate from are kept very much a mystery and stem from an excellent central premise for the series itself.

The story ultimately manages to make its focus on Raj, and his struggle with the incredible turn of events he has had to process in double-quick time, fully pay off.  The final scenes with the young would-be athlete being consoled by his dad - whilst the surreal and alien events may not fully register with a rather conservative and religious individual - do work on several letters and feature delicate performances. Aaron Neil in particular as Varun is very authentic and engaging, in his supporting role.

This episode overall works sufficiently in doing the tried and tested 'monster of the week' formula and is watchable enough in one or two sittings, depending on the inclination of the viewer. It also allows the principle cast to stand on their own merits and draw us into their characters' highs and lows. The first salvo of the double bill is clearly the stronger script and production, but Class has delivered two works that have more than respectable marks. The remaining episodes are now expected to at least provide the same easy-watch diversions, and a succession of twists to excite the intellect and heart in equal measure.