Class 1.04: Co-owner of a Lonely Heart, 1.05 Brave-ish Heart
If Nightvisiting was the series high-point, last week's Co-owner of a Lonely Heart is something of a disappointment. Exploring the premiere's revelation that April (Sophie Hopkins) now shares a heart with the King of the Shadow Kin, the effect of which sees her slowly absorbing some of his temperament and become more volatile and aggressive; something eventually explodes when her father re-enters her life after being released from prison. The whole re-appearance of a lost relative and the implications it brings were beautifully realised in the previous episode whereas the similar conceit here feels a little bit of a retread even if the end result is something different.
The Shadow Kin mostly take a back seat here, which maybe not a bad thing given their pretty much generic monster-of-the-week feel but having their King's fate tied in with April's is interesting enough to warrant looking at more closely as there was the feeling that the idea might not be revisited again for a while.
The weakest thing about Co-owner of a Lonely Heart isn't the concept or the performances - both of which offer ample to be excited about, it's just the fact that as the first part of a two-parter it feels really unbalanced. There's an interesting sub-plot that lets Charlie also show something of a darker side - it's not just Sophie Hopkins chance to shine and it's good to see his relationship with Matteusz get some more focus.
Thankfully Brave-ish Heart works as an effective pay-off - if one that actually becomes a subplot in a much more exciting episode in a different way. April visits The Underneath - homeworld of the Shadow Kin - set on severing her link to Corakinus once and for all but she is taken by surprise with the protestations of her father to spare the Shadow Kin leader's life. It gives Con O'Neill something to work with that gives him a chance to be more than the previous episode's plot contrivance and it shows just how strong an actor he is.
It's not April's fate that grabbed our interest though; it was that of the flesh eating petal subplot back on Earth which feels like the Triffids on speed. It's a bit hokey and makes not a jot of sense but it's a great idea that's well realised and gives Charlie's developments in the last episode a suitable pay-off.
Special note should be made to Philippa Langdale's direction - a stalwart of Grange Hill back in the nineties, she seems to have a great handle of working within a school setting. Great stuff.
These two episodes are definitely greater than the sum of their parts; neither works (or it would be fair to say, is intended to work) as a stand-alone and the balance meant that last week felt a bit thin with all of the real fun AND payoff landing in the second part; the killer petals could have been an effective driver for an excellent bottle episode. But taken together they work well; Sophie Hopkins really stands out, Katherine Kelly's Miss Quill is beginning to feel like a more rounded character; especially in Brave-ish Heart; not just the cipher we'd come to know up until now. In all, maybe a slight step down from Nightwishing but still decent, intelligent sci-fi even if there's a tiny undercurrent of gibberish in the science itself.