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Deadly Class teaches a lesson on rep for second session

Illustration for article titled Deadly Class teaches a lesson on rep for second session
Photo: Katie Yu (Syfy)
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The second episode of Syfy’s Deadly Class, a show that could have been pitched as “Harry Potter but with assassins instead of magicians,” reveals that there are bullies and cliques in this heightened high school world too. It’s an episode that mostly serves to push the characters forward, filling in some background on a couple of them and defining some relationships between others. Much like the premiere, it’s a solid episode of TV, even if the show is still leaning into some of the tropes that the comic book was defter in subverting.


One of the questions often answered by a second episode is what the structure of a show will be going forward. Will this program be episodic, featuring standalone stories, or focus on multi-episode arcs? Deadly Class will clearly be the latter as “Noise, Noise, Noise” builds on the plot of the premiere, primarily the murder of a homeless man by Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) and Willie (Luke Tennie), and the growing ball of macho rage that is Chico (Michel Duval). However, in the final scene, we get to meet the TV version of one of the most memorable characters from the book, the monster who will be Marcus’ true first enemy, and a notable distraction to his plan to kill the outgoing President of the United States.

Most of “Noise, Noise, Noise” takes place at a crazy teen house party, but there’s a great scene before that in Professor Lin’s (Benedict Wong) class. He gets to do what so many high school teachers probably wish they could do—poison his students. He gives them a riddle to find the antidote in the botanicals lab, and, of course, it’s Marcus who solves it, saving everyone’s life. Deadly Class is clearly setting up Marcus as the superhero of Kings Dominion, the guy who’s not just the most morally upstanding but the smartest as well. In fact, one hopes that Marcus doesn’t solve every riddle and complete every assignment—the source material never really portrayed him as quite as perfectly heroic as he has been through two episodes of the series.

Of course, Marcus is a defender of the bullied too. A nerdy kid named Shab (Isaiah Lehtinen) is running for Class President, and Marcus is the only KD student who’s nice to him, even when he talks about Spuds MacKenzie and talks about playing on his Commodore 64. (We get it, writers, you can pull back on the ‘80s pop culture references a bit). Because Marcus is cordial to the least popular kid in school, we get a party episode, wherein everyone shows up at Shab’s house. And I mean everyone. It feels like there are more people at the party than actually go to King’s Dominion, which means they’re social with kids from other schools. Do they tell them about their homework?

While Shab’s partygoers are getting drunker, Maria (María Gabriela de Faría) and Chico are out at a romantic dinner that goes predictably awry. Chico is no mere asshole boyfriend—he’s a murderous lunatic, shooting a man in the head, splattering blood all over his girlfriend’s face. And he does so, at least in part, to send a warning to Maria about challenging him. He’s a true sociopath, which could be an interesting subplot for the writers to explore. A lot of these wannabe assassins feel like posers, lost children looking for focus in their lives. But what if one of them is a true serial killer in the making?

Back to the party and the key events that unfold there. Willie has been talking all day about how he killed Rory, taking credit for a murder that’s haunting Marcus. Writer Rick Remender alters Willie’s back story into something even more tragic, although its themes aren’t explored enough in a scene that rushes by too quickly—hopefully they will be later. In the show, Willie postures as a tough guy not only to gain a rep with his crew but to hide the tragedy of the day he accidentally shot his father in the head. How we alter our image to hide our trauma could be an interesting theme for Deadly Class to explore.


However, this episode is too interested in teen romance. Billy (Liam James) has a crush on Petra (Taylor Hickson) and gets just drunk enough to tell her how he feels before she panics at the raw emotion of it all and runs off with the hunky Viktor (Sean Depner). Meanwhile, Marcus and Saya (Lana Condor) draw closer, but she’s still reporting on him to Lin, revealing that he’s not really responsible for the deaths at the boy’s home, and that his greatest weakness is a common one for superheroes: his needs for friends and family. Anyone else think that will end up being his strength?

Before the disturbing scene at the Mother Goose Fun Time Petting Zoo, there’s a key moment with Marcus and Lin. This wannabe killer’s Dumbledore takes him to the funeral of the man he killed and tells him, “You made the world better.” It’s an interesting moral code of vigilante justice that one hopes the writers develop more now that the party’s over.


Stray observations

  • Props to whoever DJed Shab’s party. Tunes overheard include “Sex” by Ice-T, “Peter Piper” by Run-DMC, “Add It Up” by the Violent Femmes, and “Clean Sheets” by Descendants. (There’s also a nice snippet of “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran in an earlier scene.)
  • The early speechifying reminded me of Chuck Palahniuk’s work, a clear influence on the source material and now the show. I am Jack’s overwritten voiceover monologue.
  • Speaking of influences, I’m hoping Deadly Class embraces some of the nihilism of Gregg Araki’s work, which it easily could do with a little darker edge. Go rent The Doom Generation and Nowhere to see what I mean.
  • Director and executive producer Adam Kane brought a nice visual sheen to “Noise, Noise, Noise.” He’s helmed episodes of Hannibal, American Gods, Daredevil, Pushing Daisies, and more. He’s directing more episodes this season. That’s a good thing.

Brian is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, President of the Chicago Film Critics Association, and a contributor to Vulture, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times.