Full of promise and boasting a stellar young cast, Deadly Class looks set to be a real hit for SyFy, and a welcome rethink of the traditional teen drama.
This recap of Deadly Class Episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
Deadly Class builds a teetering Jenga tower out of teen-drama tropes and takes great delight in sending the whole thing crashing to the ground, which as it turns out is a very effective way of getting in my good graces. It comes from the reliably demented imagination of Rick Remender, who is the showrunner and executive producer and, in 2014, created the comic book source material alongside Wes Craig. If the pilot is anything to go by, this’ll be a sure-fire hit for SyFy.
The titular deadly class is in King’s Dominion, an academy for gifted youngsters not unlike the X-Mansion or Hogwarts, with the difference here being that the classes really are deadly. It’s a finishing school for the children of gangsters, neo-Nazis, serial killers, assassins and government agents; the lessons are all in how to poison, bludgeon and shoot people to death. Harry Potter would have had his work cut out here, let me tell you.
Our protagonist is Marcus Lopez Arguello (Benjamin Wadsworth), a sullen orphan who blames the death of his parents on Ronald Reagan’s socioeconomic policies, and who is notorious for the massacre of a group home that he didn’t actually commit. Scouted by the school’s Headmaster Lin (Benedict Wong), he enrols in King’s Dominion and immediately finds himself as a “rat”, which in Deadly Class is a cheerful euphemism for those who don’t belong to any established gang or faction.
Needless to say, this is all a metaphor for high school cliques and the usual adolescent anxieties. And it works despite being taken to an extreme because the fundamental point is the same – all this s**t is potentially dangerous but entirely necessary for survival – and is divvied up along the same lines of race and class. It makes the show relatable and grounded in real-world assumptions and prejudices, despite its ludicrously anarchic and dystopian spirit.
The success of the pilot episode is mostly predicated on shock and a kind of old-fashioned adherence to stereotypes; it remains to be seen if subsequent episodes will start subverting those expectations – hints, such as the neo-Nazi Southern Belle character having sex with non-white classmates, have already been dropped – or if it will exhibit enough self-awareness to recognise some of its internal contradictions. But for now a stellar young cast (including Lana Condor, fresh from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) provide an excellent ensemble in a promising new show that looks to make the traditional teen drama entirely non-traditional. I’m down for that.
You can check out our thoughts on the next episode by clicking these words.