The sentient tattoo feels like something straight out of Series 1 Torchwood (in fact, I have a recollection of this plot actually being used in The X-Files). The amateur alien-bungling feels more excusable in this show in that our protagonists are actually school children, rather than simply behaving like them (while passing themselves as a crack extra-judicial quasi-governmental special-op). But, Although Ness’ take on OFSTED is less subtle (and less satirical) than JK Rowling’s, it was actually the school inspector B-plot I enjoyed more in this episode. Of course that may have simply been the Katherine Kelly factor (she’s still way more fun than Avon) but I’m happy it looks like this narrative strand is just beginning.
But the extreme (non)reactions of the inspector reflect a problem I’m having with Class that deepens in episode 2: calibration. Of reality. Because episode 1 did a lot to establish the alien stuff, but little on the school life, it used a lot of short-hand to point to what’s “normal”. When characters react to events, we expect things that aren’t normal to be explained. For example in episode 1 when Quill drops Charlie’s phone his (non)reaction is odd… but is accounted for by the subsequent reveal about their relationship. Similarly, the inspector’s reactions are explained in this story… but the reaction to Quill’s outburst at the inspector, exemplified by Armitage’s rather muted rebuke, is odd. What’s Armitage’s agenda? Well, nothing, it turns out, as he gets…er…engulfed by the A-plot. Similarly, why isn’t the disappearance of not just several pupils, but now senior professionals, attracting more interest from the authorities? in episode 1, there was no massive police interrogation of witnesses in the aftermath, but at least there was a nod in the form of the fire engine to some sort of official response.
The pacing is a little more sedate this time round, and there’s space for the most exquisite moment. Ram, increasingly desperate at the way his disability has impaired his footballing prowess, confesses all to his father – alient tech and all. Rather than asking about the xenoprosthetic or the shadowkin, his father recollects how Ram learned to football as a young boy.
It’s a lovely moment, that we can enjoy in the comfort of the well-calibrated reality of the relationship between these characters. More of that, please.