TV Sorry if I'm a bit distracted. As I write, the FBI Director has published another letter admitting that contrary to the buzz surrounding his correspondence from a week ago, his assessment is that the agency's attitude to Hillary Clinton hasn't changed since their original judgement in June. That although she used poor judgement in setting up the private email server, that she didn't commit a crime. Well, thanks a bunch mate. On the upside it's before election day so the voters can factor it in and it won't be hanging over her should she win on the 9th. On the downside we don't know what damage it's done in relation to early voting and the overall trend in the polls. Would they have been in this state if the original letter hadn't been released anyway? We'll never know. I can't believe this is the agency of Mulder and Scully, of Cooper, of Starling, Dunham and Canton Everett Delaware III.
If only my passion in following the US election was mirrored in this week's Class. Reaching the mid-point of any series leads to an assessment of what the show means to you and if it's been worth your time. To an extent this is unfair in the UK, because a mid-point for most series is just four episodes in. Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation recently reminds me that their episode four (assuming you follow Encounter At Farpoint's production codes) is the racist Code of Honor in a show which didn't become the well loved series we think of until its third series. But Class is part of the ongoing Doctor Who production schedule, so it's not coming from a standing start as we might consider the first series of the revival or the 2010 series. Like Torchwood and SJA, it's a reflection of something which already exists.
So far, I've been relative to very positive, but this fourth installment doesn't quite hang together. As Buffy discovered it's always narratively "dangerous" when you divide yourself between two antagonists in one episode especially when they're as potent as this. Both Alice's affliction and the man-eating blossoms are strong enough to carry their own episode, but stuffing them together and then spreading the lot across two episodes is risky and I'm not sure it quite worked. They're integrated well enough with characters commenting on one while dealing with the other, but as TNG often discovered when ramming together unconnected A and B plots (typically something like the Enterprise discovering a cosmic anomaly while Data discovers something about humanity in his own time), you run the risk of not giving either the attention they deserve.
There's an especially difficult period in the middle when the action cross cuts between April and Ram's post-coital embarrassment, Quill and the new Head Mistress's summit and Charlie's revelations to Matteusz in the school yard (along with Tanya's scolding) and the pacing slows to a crawl, all three scenes feeling much longer than they possibly need to be. Nothing seems to be accomplished my throwing between the three and I wonder if more could have been accomplished by presenting them sequentially since there isn't much to thematically connect them. This kind of micro-criticism is born of trying to work out exactly why I didn't enjoy this as much as I probably should. It's fine. It's not Torchwood, but it feels less cohesive than SJA. But all of the shows which it claims to mimic had off episodes so it shouldn't be unexpected.
Which isn't to say I wasn't hooting in places. The copulation connection between April and the Shadow Kin king was unexpectedly hilarious, notably when he asked his potential consort for a cuddle, although I agree with Clint Hassell in retrospect that it does undercut the emotional undercurrent of the human coupling. The scenes between aliens bespoke of similar moment in times past when the Ice Warriors, Zygons or some other fibre glass or rubber creatures would discuss their plans, guest actors trying desperately to give their character some individuality despite essentially wearing the same costume. Every now and then it wasn't entirely clear which of this beasties was talking, partly because of the blurring imagery and low lighting choice which while probably gladdening Mat Irvine, made it difficult on occasion to see what was actually going on in this interstella Mordor. I hadn't realised he'd murdered his potential mate until he spoke to her prone body.
Plus as a fan of a particular type of action film, I can't say I'm not taken with April's sword wielding antics, especially given Sophie Hopkins's multi-layered performance, oscillating between tentative femininity and full on Amazonian goddess. But as has been seen previously, the strength has always been there, the actions of April's father forced that upon her. Her predicament has simply magnified. That stops the writer from the potential criticism that the only reason she's become cable of all this is through absorbing a man's power. As we've already discussed, all of the characters work against their stereotype but it's also true that there isn't a standard white, cis, male figure, there hasn't been an effort to pander to that particular age group. Not many US shows in this genre have been capable of that. If all of the characters keep gaining special powers, this is threatening to turn into posh Misfits.
So perhaps my unease is simply the usual business related to having to write about the first part of a story. Gen of Deek offers the alternative that it's almost as though we've skipped through a bunch of episodes to get here, that this has all the hallmarks of a series finale and we're only at episode four, "there should have been at least one misguided comedy romp, a crossover ep, a guest star vehicle of dubious merit, and a handful of filler episodes" and I'd concur with that too. If the joint heart story is resolved next week, are we to assume that the final run will be about discovering who Wolfram & ... sorry the Board of Governors are and whether Charlie is in fact an embedded antagonist ala Willow in s6 of Buffy? If he does decide to try and resurrect his people via humanity, what about all the Zygons? Will they be inhabited too?