Detention season 1, episode 1 recap – “Devil”

December 5, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
3

Summary

“Devil” sets the scene for a spooky new Netflix original series, even if its sedate pace and lack of shocks keeps it from being overly impactful.

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3

Summary

“Devil” sets the scene for a spooky new Netflix original series, even if its sedate pace and lack of shocks keeps it from being overly impactful.

This recap of Detention season 1, episode 1, “Devil”, contains spoilers.

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Lots of people disliked high school when they were there, so imagine how much they’d have complained had they attended school in 60s Taiwan during the White Terror political suppression when the Three Principles of the People governed everything and you could be very severely punished for reading banned books. In that kind of climate, ratting out the secret book club might seem a good idea, but it was a bit much for Fang Jui-hsin to deal with, as we see her cast herself from the roof of the Greenwood High School’s Hancui Building after blowing the whistle on her classmates and seeing them carried away at gunpoint. Some brief on-screen text informs us that, following the incident, the building quickly became haunted and was eventually shuttered.

But Greenwood is still operational. In a dimly-lit sequence, we see a current teacher, who we will later learn is named Mrs. Chao, rooting around the dilapidated Hancui building looking for Cheng Wen-liang and Lin Yun-hsiang, a couple of supposedly mischievous students. After searching for them in an empty closet, she turns away and is promptly pulled inside by a pair of hands.

Detention episode 1, “Devil”, promptly cuts to three days prior, as we see Yun-hsiang arriving in town on a bus with her odd and rather severe mother. She has recently transferred to Greenwood, and will be staying in living quarters that contain a stashed-away copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and a photo of Fang Jui-hsin and the whistleblown book club.

Yun-hsiang is slightly odd, and her dynamic with her mother is weirder still. She takes three pills with her breakfast and as her mother brushes her hair, she whispers in her ear a reminder that how she looks and acts reflects on her. Yun-hsiang’s father isn’t present but is mentioned often as a kind of nebulous reminder to behave.

Good behavior seemingly doesn’t come easy to Yun-hsiang, or perhaps it’s just that Greenwood is so draconian it makes good behavior almost impossible. Yun-hsiang is immediately accosted in Detention season 1, episode 1 by the militaristic Inspector Pai for carrying around a copy of 1984, another book that isn’t on the curriculum and thus isn’t allowed. The social hierarchy of Greenwood is bizarre, with certain students labeled “devils”, hung with wooden signs identifying them as such, and made to clean the toilets. More buttoned-up students like Su Chieh-yu are given much grander titles like Class Rep and are the ones who tell everyone to stand up when a teacher enters and such. As we learn in a bit of idle chit-chat, Yun-hsiang studied a year in England and is a year older than everyone else.

Naturally, Yun-hsiang befriends one of the devils, Wen-liang, who we know she gets pally with since Chao was looking for both of them in the opener. During an illicit getting-to-know-you chat on the roof of the Hancui Building, they both witness a student commit suicide in the same manner as Fang Jui-hsin, claiming just beforehand that she can’t remember who she is anymore. Inspector Pai later pores over the body and reveals to the enigmatic Principal that she’s a senior devil named Li Tzu-chi. The Principal is concerned that the last ritual wasn’t done properly, and tells him to investigate and keep the matter quiet.

Pai’s first order of business is to warn the students against gossiping. In something of a panic, Yun-hsiang tells Chieh-yu that she left something in the Hancui Building after getting lost there, but their conversation is overheard by someone in the bathroom, though we don’t see who. We quickly find out, though, as the class devil reveals the information to Pai during a stern interrogation. As penance, Yun-hsiang becomes the class devil, and Chao is told to get a better handle on Class 2-1.

This sentiment is reflected in a meeting between the Principal, Pai, and the teachers — there’s obviously plenty that the faculty is aware of that they’d rather keep quiet. Yun-hsiang, though, continues to experience weird visions, and when she ventures to the Hancui Building to retrieve her incriminating bottle of pills, she gets locked in a bathroom cubicle and offered a deal by a ghostly voice outside. Yun-hsiang says she doesn’t want to see “her” again, meaning Chao, since the teacher gave her a whooping only recently, and the voice agrees. But Yun-hsiang gets quite a bit more than she bargained for when we revisit the opening scene from a new perspective and see she was present for what happened after Chao was freed from the closet — her limbs were all snapped in the wrong directions.

Naturally, this isn’t quite what Yun-hsiang had in mind, but the deal with the devil has already been made. As Fang Jui-hsin says to her, it’s her turn to help now. And in my experience ghosts don’t tend to make reasonable requests.


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