1) For Tonight We Might Die
2) The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo
4) Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart
• • •
As I set out to write this review, I realized that it will likely end up a bit shorter than the other posts in this series. For one thing, it stuck to the fundamental themes of its first part, so there isn’t a whole lot more for me to say about those.
It’s the same story, just the beats that close up the plot instead of advancing it and setting up the pieces. There are some aesthetic and ethical problems with the episode that are starting to appear in the show. Let’s talk aesthetic first, because those are easier to dispense with.
I have to praise the cast once again, especially Sophie Hopkins and Fady Elsayed. This is praise with faint damnation, because they delivered such hammy dialogue so well. Punchy dialogue about how neither of them wants to say they’ve fallen in love with each other can work great in a lot of contexts.
When you’re about to have a gladiatorial contest with the supervillain leader of a species full of literal ash demons on a planet that makes Io look like a Bermuda beachfront resort? Maybe you’re stretching it a little here.
The parents’ dialogue amounted to the same mess. Ram’s dad Varun mostly got a bunch of nervous babbling. And since this constitutes
April’s dad Huw’s speech about his despair and how strong she’s become didn’t come off nearly as well as it could. The thing is, Doctor Who itself can do this kind of emotional confessor dialogue in the most ridiculous situations.
It seems as though the direction dropped the ball on this one. The Shadowkin’s planet is too dark a setting, and the camera holds back too much from closer shots on the actors’ faces. Huw’s speech seriously suffers from this, as he’s held almost entirely in wide shots when the camera should focus on the power of his face.
|My discussion of the material nature of a creature's existence owes a|
lot to the philosophical vocabulary of Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari, particularly their chapter on their concept of 'becoming-
intensity' in A Thousand Plateaus. If you're interested in a good
#longread open-access article, check out this piece by one of my
favourite Deleuze scholars (and quite a nice guy), Manuel
One success for the direction, however, was in making the carnivorous petals properly menacing. Indeed, director Philippa Langdale did a better job of displaying the petals’ agency than she did the emotional power of her human actors’ performances.
Not only do her cinematographic choices one-up M. Night Shayamalan’s pathetic attempts to make plants scary in The Happening. They also display the peculiar character of the carnivorous petals – they sweep across the screen, cluster and build their presence to take over more and more of the viewer’s field of vision.
The petals express their agency in their motion as a cluster that literally infests the sets, spreading across the visual fields of the viewer’s sight and the physical fields of the sets and actors’ movements. They’re a living infection of physical space, a plague of visual domination.
The parallels with the Shadowkin are clear, yet so are the differences. As Headmaster Dorothea says at the end of the episode, the petals likely only consisted of one soul – one centre of agency. The one-dimensional drive to infest.
The Shadowkin function as a plague in their attacks, especially in this episode, as they manifest as a literal smoke that consumes the petals entirely. But despite their telepathic links and strictly hierarchical society, each individual Shadowkin is a distinct subjectivity.
Although they seemed to move as one with the direction of their King in the first episode, “For Tonight We Might Die,” the Shadowkin are individuals. They have a society, and a morality that links an ontological conception of their nature with a religious perspective about their purpose in the universe. And they have political principles that organize the strict and brutal monarchy of their politics.
The Heart of Ethics
Fady Elsayed also gets one of the only philosophical monologues on the Shadowkin world that actually comes off well, despite a few clunker lines. That’s his discussion of the ethics that come with his Sikh heritage.
The outward signs of Sikhism – the five Ks of the long hair and turban, ceremonial comb, bracelet, dagger, and underpants* – are ethical signifiers to yourself and others.
* All these words start with the K sound in Punjabi, you know – Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kirpan, and Kachera, respectively.
For Ram, they and his father’s more open embrace of them are the links to his heritage. But they’re also his ethical reminders that he must always act in the world so as to do what’s right and best. He wears the most ethically important sign of Sikhism, the Kara, the bracelet that is literally a reminder to yourself to let justice guide your actions.
Even non-consciously, justice and fidelity to the people you care about motivates Ram’s actions. He even jokes, after following April through the portal, that footballers are well-known for impulsively acting without thinking or understanding why. But his impulses aren’t the typical “acting without thinking” of selfishness and malice. Justice remains his motive force. His ethics is built into his subjectivity itself.
|I'm quite hopeful for the potential of Matteusz, whose character isn't in|
the main cast yet (and he should be, given his talents and role in the
show) in developing through his relationship with Charlie and Quill.
Those concepts could come from religion, ontology, morality, politics, and even the theory of knowledge or other sciences. What unifies these disparate concepts as ethics is their use – to answer or explore the questions of who you are and what your purpose can be.
If anyone needs that grounding, it’s Charlie, who is tortured by his conflicting loyalties to his murdered people, the traditions of his crown, and his new home on Earth. I’m quite impressed with how central Matteusz has become to this thread of the Class story, and I’d like to see his role expanded in the show’s next season.
Because it looks like Charlie’s ethical mooring will be an important element of the conflicts that define the rest of this season. And since a bottle episode is coming next week, all those conflicts are coming to the forefront.
I love bottle episodes. It’s the theatre nerd in me.