Wednesday, January 16, 2019

REVIEW: 'Deadly Class' - Marcus Is Recruited Into a Dangerous Life that Could Offer Him Purpose in 'Pilot'

Syfy's Deadly Class - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

A disillusioned teen finds purpose and fights for survival at an elite academy for the Deadly Arts.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Syfy's Deadly Class.

"Pilot" was written by Rick Remender & Miles Orion Feldsott and directed by Lee Toland Krieger

Any viewer will know fairly early on in this premiere whether or not Deadly Class is a show for them. It paints such an extreme picture of 1987. Every single detail is turned up a significant amount. That produces a premiere that is visually stunning to watch. Director Lee Toland Krieger has absolutely created a niche for himself when it comes to presenting subversions of the high school formula mixed in with some supernatural elements. He has done so previously with Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. This show represents a wildly different world that is certainly more grounded. It depicts a school for assassins because it ascribes to a nihilistic world view. However, that can get the show in a lot of danger as well simply because it can be too monotonous with its immoral perspective. King's Dominion is a place that Master Lin believes in wholeheartedly. There are students who come here as a part of a legacy. This has been the school that previous generations of their family have attended. They have a responsibility to follow along the same path and enter the same deadly profession. That's not the life for the protagonist though. Marcus is recruited into this school because he's homeless and on the run from the police. He is a suspect for the burning down of an all-boys home which killed many of the children trapped inside. In fact, this hour goes back-and-forth on whether he is ultimately responsible for that central crime. It paints his reputation no matter where he goes. Above ground, he is being hunted by the police as they see him as the only viable suspect. That leads to him living in a tent city and begging for money on the sidewalk. He's eating out of the garbage when the students of King's Dominion find him. At first, he wants nothing to do with whatever they are offering him. He chooses to go though because it's potentially the only thing that can give his life purpose. That's when it is revealed that he wasn't responsible for the destruction of his prior home. He didn't set the fire that killed everyone there. He was certainly traumatized and abused in that environment. He's grateful to escape it. But he may not be the killer everyone in this new school views him as well. That makes it very dangerous when he is forced into a fight with Chico simply because he looked at Maria. The show has a rather unflattering approach when it comes to its female characters. Of course, many of the ensemble are just broadly introduced here. Even though this is an extreme world, it still believes in the idea that cliques form in high school no matter where it takes place. This isn't a normal school. And yet, those comparisons are still made to which groups are the jocks, preps and outcasts. That attempts to make everything more accessible to the audience. However, it mostly just proves that everyone is hiding behind some outside identity. That could represent a significant flaw in the series. It may be all style and no substance. There is ultimately no reason to care about Marcus actually becoming a killer here. That's the worldview of the school. It's what he would have to become in order to survive here. It's just unclear what path he is on moving forward and how the audience should be invested in what happens. At times, he is simply a boy trying to fit in while dealing with his high school crushes. At other times though, he is becoming a monster simply because it's the only rational way to view the world. That sensibility can certainly create a consistent and entertaining show. However, the execution really isn't there with this drama just yet. These are some big ideas that could eventually morph into something compelling. At the moment though, it feels like the characters are just reacting to whatever situations they find themselves in without bringing a strong sense of self to the proceedings.