20 November 2016

Class Episode 6 - Detained

If you’ve been following and enjoying the series so far `Detained` is a treat, if not then you may find this more character based episode heavy going as it relies on the developments we’ve so far seen to bring more conflict to the group. It’s something of an homage to seminal 1980s film The Breakfast Club though older eagle eyed viewers may also note some similarities with a 1970s episode of The Ghosts of Motley Hall. You can be fairly sure though that it is the only drama in which someone has been called a giraffe as an insult!

Our group find themselves all in detention one evening- this will only make sense in itself at the end of the episode so go with it- and slightly eccentrically Miss Quill locks them in the classroom. What even she probably didn’t expect was that one of those cracks would spew out a glowing rock which sends the classroom and its inhabitants into a void. They are they later learn “nowhere”, outside space and time. And none of them have been quaffing cheap cider from Tesco!

The scenario soon draws out tensions between them some of which barely seem to make any sense though it doesn’t take long for them to figure out their actions are being manipulated by whatever the rock is. Taking turns to hold the thing each of them is forced to reveal some hidden truth before they have the chance to ask a question. It’s a little awkward conceptually but worthwhile going on the whole journey before reaching any conclusions.

The idea is that we don’t reveal all of what we feel about our friends to them and the creature uses these niggles and issues to ramp up the tension amongst them while pursuing its own agenda. Watching it you really feel this is more where the series should be heading. Though impressive the visuals of the previous episodes have perhaps hidden some of the less likely character developments which probably would work fine in the books Patrick Ness writes but which sit awkwardly on a tv show. Other shows use sci-fi trappings to bring out these character moments and they are better for it so this feels like the sort of bizarre yet revealing scenario Class should be built from.

Vivian Oparah’s Tanya takes the lead despite her being three years younger than the others and it is she who constantly urges them to ask the right questions, the script leaning on her intelligence in figuring things out. It’s a little unfortunate that confessions played such a big part in last year’s Doctor Who though they seem more appropriate in this context. Their use relies on two key things. One is that we believe these characters would think these things and Patrick Ness achieves this successfully unveiling doubts and fears of each of the characters that are convincing. He gets inside the head of the kind of things that teenagers might think about relationships, love, friendships, families and events. Crucially much of these truths are based on uncertainty and trepidation which in the natural course of events would not be brought out into the open until it was too late. Perhaps every teenage party needs a truth rock!

The other thing of course is that the actors deliver these reveals as convincingly as they are written. They all do this but there is one in particular who knocks it out of the park. Greg Austin’s 45 minute journey from befuddled alien with claustrophobia to emotionally charged hero is the best performance in the whole series to date. His understated comedic touches early on are gradually replaced by a building frustration leading to a powerful conclusion. He's on point throughout never over or under playing, sometimes in the background but always on the moment.

The visual side of the episode relies more on unusual camera angles and sharp editing to keep the tension going. As ever the look of the series remains superb notably here the opening effects and especially the kids looking out of the floating doorway which has a Sapphire and Steel quality to them.  As for the ending, well this really is a series that knows how to do cliffhangers. All in all the best episode yet!

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