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The aftermath of a murder disrupts the harmony of Deadly Class

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The kids of Kings Dominion are back from Vegas. Well, most of them are. Chico’s never coming back, even if his head makes a surprise appearance this episode, but his ghost haunts this episode as we learn more about his relationship with Maria and learn how his murder could break up the Scoobs of Deadly Class. It’s a solid episode with some sketchy gender dynamics, but solid enough direction and performances to save it. On the latter note, the cast here seems to be getting more confident every week, settling into their characters in interesting ways. We knew Deadly Class would be flashy and stylish, but the young ensemble has been surprisingly effective too.

The theme of the episode and maybe the show overall gets to come out of Lin’s mouth late when he says, “We don’t have to let the damage define us.” We learn more this week about the damage that threatens to define Maria. Not only does she have bipolar disorder, which she’s decided to stop treating because she’s naïve enough to think her love for Marcus can cure it, but Chico was more than just her first romance. We see in an animated flashback that Chico was the son of the local crime boss in Maria’s hometown, a crime boss who killed Maria’s father in a public square before basically kidnapping the girl. Chico stopped his dad from killing Maria—so he is both the person who saved her life and one of those who destroyed it. No wonder Maria had so much trouble leaving him behind.

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In terms of the teen drama brands into which this show sometimes tumbles—school dance, house party, road trip, etc.—”Stigmata Martyr” is a virginity episode! Sure, there’s more to it than that, but it’s an episode that climaxes (sorry) in Marcus finally losing his virginity to Maria, after she nearly kills him, of course.

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Before then, we learn that there’s a deep investigation into Chico’s disappearance but no one in the crew seems to be cracking. Lin’s superior Master Gao is leading the inquisition, and making enemies along the way, including the teacher of Hand-to-Hand Combat, who Gao thinks is favoring Saya. She tells her, “You are nothing special.” Is this tough love or true hatred? And how will Lin’s relationship with Saya come into play with Gao’s treatment of her?

While Maria is unraveling a bit after stopping her meds, Willie gets a subplot! A cute scene in a comic book shop where Marcus works unfolds in which Willie reveals he hasn’t been sleeping since Chico died. A girl named Gabrielle comes along to flirt with the big guy, who totally misses the signals the first time, but falls in love when she name-drops Alan Moore. Want to woo a comic nerd? Just mention Watchmen.

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Finally, Maria enters an unmedicated state that isn’t healthy for anyone, much less someone trying to keep a murder under wraps. After accusing Saya of being jealous of her relationship with Marcus, she totally spirals, and it’s a spiral that includes Siouxsie and the Banshees so you know it’s intense. We get the aforementioned animated flashback, revealing that not only does Maria suffer from bipolar disorder, and not only was she in an abusive relationship, but she has deep trauma from a nightmare childhood.

So what does she do? Almost kill Marcus! While Saya and Marcus are having a moment, an arrow slices the air, caught by Saya just before it kills Marcus. He chases after the archer, and discovers it’s Maria! She claims she did it as a test, knowing that Saya would save him? Huh? Would Saya not have saved another student’s life if she wasn’t secretly in love with that student? Maria needs some help, but not before Marcus and her finally have sex. Nothing like a woman trying to kill you to turn up the heat.

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Final episode beats include the revelation that Gao is Lin’s sister and that Lin has a totally normal life outside of KD with a wife and kid. Perhaps most importantly, Marcus’ nemesis, Chester, finally speaks to him in a state when Marcus isn’t tripping balls. He calls Marcus and reveals that he found Chico’s body, and even has the jerk’s head on ice in a bucket of beer. Marcus looks totally shattered—there’s a great character beat in which he gently touches the scar on his face when he hears the voice of the man who gave it to him. The love triangle with Maria and Saya will have to wait—there’s a homicidal lunatic coming to King’s Dominion.

Stray observations

  • Are they writing off Billy killing his dad with one “I’m free” scene? That’s a tad disappointing if true.
  • Does Benedict Wong have the deepest voice on TV? No one says “Previously On” with the same gravitas.
  • It may have been in a previous episode but I just noticed the Fright Night poster in Marcus’ room. It’s a great ‘80s horror movie. Check it out if you haven’t seen it or even if you just haven’t seen it in a long time.
  • Appropriately dark music cues this week including the title song playing over the credits, “Stigmata Martyr” by Bauhaus; “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees during Maria’s breakdown; and “I Would For You” by Jane’s Addiction in the final scene between Maria & Marcus.
  • Speaking of music cues, props to the composer who often uses original music in a way that reflects the well-chosen rock tunes, such as when Maria, Brandy, and Saya are fighting and the heavy guitar behind them sounds like it could easily be a Ministry outtake.
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About the author

Brian Tallerico

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.