Review: The Russo Brothers' 'Deadly Class' on SyFy
SYFY’s latest school drama Deadly Class premiered at Los Angeles Comic-Con on Saturday. The adaptation, based on the comic book by Rick Remender and Wesley Craig, follows orphan and possible serial killer Marcus Lopez (Benjamine Wadsworth). Living on the streets, trying to avoid a particularly temperamental serial killer who runs the shanty town where Lopez lives, and chasing the next high is the only thing keeping Marcus together until four student assassins recruit him to join their secret school, King’s Dominion.
Stylistically, Deadly Class lives somewhere between The Magicians, SYFY’s other secret school drama, and Riverdale, the CW’s steamy murder mystery. There are shower scenes and lingering kisses to tantalize. Marcus is initially pulled between two girls. Maria Salazar (María Gabriela de Faría) is desperate to get away from under her abusive boyfriend, Vatos Cartel leader, Chico (Michel Duval). Saya Kuroki (Lana Condor) is the perfect assassin princess at King’s Dominion.
Think of King’s Dominion like Hogwarts from Harry Potter. Except, instead of learning spells and how to fly, young minds learn how to mix potions, fight with swords, and are assigned to kill someone who “deserves it.” The head of the school, Master Lin (Benedict Wong), is fond of giving students secret assignments, pitting them against one another. The school is filled with the fresh faces of cartel members, CIA and FBI children, Yakuza, south-central gang bangers, Dixie Mafia inbreeds and punks who learned to murder without the help of nepotism. And one day, if they survive high school, they will be the deciders of life and death running the free world.
Wong comes in as a saving grace. Fierce, strong-willed, and elegant as Lin, Wong brings a serious dose of maturity to this show. Every time a “student” is opposite him the actor performs better than they did in the previous scene. Lin sets the tone for the school. Students flee when he walks down the stairwell. He’s known to break noses for passing notes. Wong establishes tone within a scene. Pushing and pulling actors without force. I’m very excited to see how much deeper this character can go. To see how much elasticity Wong has as an actor.
A huge fan of the comic book series, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the premiere of this show. I walked away disappointed. I am not a fan of direct adaptations. The comic book is lovely, but it’s not a TV show. The pilot is an exact replica of the first four or five issues.
It suffers greatly from pilotitess. This is a term I picked up from the great Linda Holmes of NPR’s, “Pop Culture Happy Hour.” It means the show does much more explaining than showing. We are told why Marcus burned down his orphanage, how his parents were killed, why King’s Dominion was started, and how Master Lin runs his school. All of which could have been shown through an action instead.
That’s not to say I didn’t like it. Most pilots are bad. They are designed to establish the world and hook viewers into being emotionally invested in the story. The show, however, works best in the classroom or on assignment. As the lessons unfold so do the characters. The things they’re asked to do would make any normal person balk. The way they are treated feels similar to the treatment many assistants experience at the worst agencies in Hollywood. It’s exactly how you remember high school. Well, with less blood. Hopefully.
What really got me hyped were the special effects and fight scenes. Both are imperative for a show like this. They must be crisp and clean. If they’re not believable, the whole show falls apart. There’s one scene where Nixon escapes a television that gave me chills. The static electric figure stalked down the street in a very haunting manner.
My favorite students so far are Saya and Willie Lewis (Luke Tennie). Condor as Saya is once again mesmerizing. She kicks so much ass. I didn’t know Condor could flip and kick with such precision. Saya’s style (like LJ’s) is enviable. Note the sick white eyeliner. Plus, Saya’s got a lot of secrets, specifically with Master Lin, that I’m eager to learn more about.
Willie is the son of a gangster. His 80’s attitude from the way he chews on a toothpick to the way he reveals a gun, to how he drives his car feels so authentic. But also, he’s fifteen. The show never loses sight of that. Black boys are often made into men before their time. Willie is still a teen trying to figure out what kind of man he wants to be. The world, his mother imparticular, isn’t making that easy. Tennie, play him flawlessly.
Overall, I think this show has given itself room to grow. With the Russo brothers behind it, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll all be rooting for Marcus (or our favorite gang) by the end of the season. If nothing else, the show is an absolute pinnacle of 80’s punk music. Rap, heavy metal, death metal, and punk were all featured heavily in episode one. The Spotify playlist will be an education.
Deadly Class will appear on SYFY January 16, 2019.
Header Image Source: SyFy