Did the writers of Deadly Class really have to follow a house party episode with a school dance episode? Hopefully, they’re just getting the most clichéd scenarios out of their system early because this is yet another episode in which it feels like this TV student isn’t quite living up to its potential. And that’s kind of hard to do in an hour that includes a bad-ass fight scene with Henry Rollins.
Most of “Snake Pit” centers on divisions at Kings Dominion—between cliques, something called legacy students & non-legacy students, and even teachers. Both the comic book and now show are very much about “finding your tribe,” and both Willie and Petra have found theirs at the end of the episode. Again, the themes explored by the writers of Deadly Class are interesting, especially for a show that could be merely superficial fluff, one just wishes they chose to dive deep instead of so often skimming the surface of them.
Take for example the opening act of “Snake Pit,” which pretty much just repeats elements of the first two episodes. All shows with teen protagonists have a habit of repeating elements and even stories – yes, even Riverdale – but usually not this early. Rivalries in the poison lab, Shab going over the cliques again for Marcus, the chatter between Maria and Saya – other than Shab calling his asshole the Eye of Sauron, we’ve been here before.
The episode really only gets going when it gets closer to the Sleeps with the Fishes dance, a soiree for the “legacy” students. Maria wants a break from Chico, who is not the kind of guy who gives breaks, so it’s unclear if she’ll go. Viktor invites Petra to the dance, and Petra’s buddies give her a hard time. And a prank/hazing war ensues between the legacy kids and the newbies, including feeding kids rat in the cafeteria and delivering paint bombs to their rooms. Good times.
After a couple of cool classroom scenes including The Fundamentals of Psychopathy (with French Stewart!) and Atypical Combat Skills, we learn that Jurgen (Rollins) wants to leave the school, which forces Headmaster Lin to speak to his superiors in some crazy-looking, Lynchian headquarters. More of this please. More weird, kinky elements of this world. In this one, Lin’s superior tells him what he already knows – there’s no retirement plan for KD teachers. Lin is going to have to kill his old friend.
A good scene unfolds between Saya and Maria, as the differences between the two are defined. Maria wants the sound of children running through a family home; Saya wants to rule the world. It’s a nice bit of development for critical supporting characters, and it even ends with a fight! The ladies smash and grab after Saya gets caught trying to steal a liquor bottle and the clerk pulls a gun. Meanwhile, the Marcus and Willie tension continues after the tough guy doesn’t talk to his buddy in the hall because it might ruin his rep. It’s all just set up for…
The dance ! While the other kids are moping and lighting fireworks on the roof, Petra learns that Viktor’s interest in her was just an elaborate prank. He drags her into a bathroom, where Brandy pulls a straight razor, ready for the most intense hazing yet. They full on “Carrie” Petra, putting her in a wig, make-up, and a new outfit, before dragging her on stage. The walking Eye of Sauron that is Viktor high-fives his buddies.
Petra makes her way to the roof, where her real friends decide it’s time for vengeance. As Saya and Mari leave the party to go streak – really just a reason to get them out of the fight scene that follows – chaos reigns. Marcus uses a lesson from earlier in the episode to shoot a poison blowdart at Viktor, causing a hallucination. Petra gets to headbutt Brandy and do the same. Chico doesn’t get a dart, and a real fight ensues, but Lin steps in to stop it. “This dance is over.”
Well, almost. Billy puts on “The Lady in Red” and he and Petra are the only dancers left. It’s kind of a nice moment but also an example of where this show disappoints. It’s the trope of the teen girl needing to be humiliated to make the right decision. What if Viktor wasn’t a monster and she still chose the better guy? Why does she have to be tortured to do what’s right?
While Willie and Marcus are learning about teamwork while playing Contra, Lin goes to speak to Jurgen, encouraging him to stay and bring his righteous anger to a new generation before giving him a glass of wine. But you can’t poison the poison teacher. A well-choreographed fight blows up. Lin gets the advantage, nearly choking Jurgen to death, but he can’t do it. “They will come for you,” he says. And he tells his friend to run. Remember when Saya said that Marcus’ weakness was “friends and family”? Yeah, Lin too.
- The soundtrack for Deadly Class continues to rule, and this episode pulled more deep cuts than usual. There’s “Superficial Love” by TSOL when Lex is delivering the paint bombs; “Young and Tender” by David Lindup when Lin goes to the secret meeting; and the dance includes “Go!” by Tones on Tail, “Our Lips Our Sealed” by The Go-Gos, and “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart. One more during the Alternaprom on the roof: “Good Guys (Don’t Wear White)” by Minor Threat.
- After three episodes, Riverdale had already developed more of a consistent voice than we’re seeing here, and yet there’s enough to like to think that this show could pull it together. The cast is strong and the production value high. Let’s just hope that the show about counterculture and rebellion starts to feel less like the product of the machine.
- That could happen with the emergence of one of the true villains of the comic book, seen in the animated opening this week speaking of his abuse of Marcus and pleasuring himself to dog show footage in a sequence that mirrors the book. Now that the kids have been defined, let’s give them a united purpose. Sort of a Breakfast Club meets Kill Bill thing.
- The ’80s references are overwhelming but I did like that Willie demanded his $2 without the writers having someone say, “like Better Off Dead?”
- On that note, couldn’t they have been playing Punch-Out instead of Frank Bruno’s Boxing? Maybe Nintendo wouldn’t give up the rights. Yes, I’m old enough to remember both.