For many, high school could be considered the formative years in any young person’s life, but much like any other life event, the experience varies from person to person. For some, it symbolizes the best of times, a feeling that often is chased throughout adulthood. For others, high school is something you survived. An event that propels you forward and shapes the person you want to be opposed to the person that you’re defined to be within the high school hierarchy. In a lot of ways, Deadly Class’s King’s Dominion is similar to a typical high school except with Deadly Class the emphasis is on survival.
SyFy’s latest tv adventure, based on the brilliant comic series by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, is like Hogwarts… on acid. Set in the late ’80s with a punch you in the face soundtrack, Deadly Class takes on a number of the classic 80’s movie tropes and spins something new, unique, and wildly violent. This isn’t the Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles even though you can see the DNA of those films weaving through the narrative. Much like many 80’s high school movies the students are broken down into clicks except at King’s Dominion those clicks are a bit more extreme. There’s an Asian crime syndicate, neo-Nazis, cartel kids, and Russians all posed to represent the stereotypes of the typical high school class structure. Instead of the popular kids, you get neo-Nazis. Instead of jocks, you get the Russians and so on and so forth. Much like any other high school drama, what happens to the students who don’t fit in? The outsiders. What happens if your literal high school survival is based on finding a way into a certain click?
Enter Marcus Lopez (Benjamin Wadsworth) who is as much an outsider as you could possibly find. Currently, on the run for burning down his all boy’s home, Marcus has garnered a bit of a reputation for himself. It’s that reputation that piques the interest of Master Lin (Benedict Wong) the headmaster of King’s Dominion, who sends seemingly an all-star team of would be high school assassins to bring him in. And that’s where things get interesting.
The strength of Deadly Class, both the comic and now the tv show, is that nothing is what it seems to be. Hidden underneath the grime, punk rock, cigarette smoking, and swordplay facades are individuals who are struggling with who they actually are. Assassin school may be a badass place to attend but it in no way prevents any of the everyday trial and tribulations that teenagers go through. Once you start to take a closer look you understand that everyone in King’s Dominion is playing some sort of game, and a key to surviving is learning who to trust (if anyone), who is authentic, and who is going to get you killed (everyone?!).
Marcus plays into his reputation, hard, and it almost gets him killed. Benajmin Wadsworth does an excellent job of giving us a character who is clearly in over his head but has little choice but to keep digging himself deeper and deeper in fear of being exposed. The thing about Marcus is, his backstory… it’s not essentially true. Here is a kid who lost his parents horrifically, after a mental patient jumped from a tower and landed on them, and has yet to recover from it. The all boy home he was sent to was not what it was perpetrated to be, and continued the expansion of this massive dark cloud that follows Marcus around. There is little doubt that the all boy’s home burnt down, but there is much doubt that Marcus is the one who set it on fire. Living on the street, and now entering King’s Dominion, Marcus needs to rely on that reputation either for street cred or intimidation, but it’s may not be enough.
Marcus’s very arrival makes him a target and instead of finding a group to support him, Marcus is thrust in a life and death conflict with the leader of the cartel gang, Chico. Chicho is known for his hot temper and his killing, and instantly Marcus is put in a situation where he can’t possibly win. And while he’s able to maintain his life, for now, Marcus leaves a massive target on his back that Chico is sure to be gunning for. In the meantime, Marcus finds solace with the outsiders. A group of kids, within assassin school, who have been given rat skeletons for some reason and lack the ability or prestige to join a click. That’s rough.
The thing is, Marcus isn’t the only one who is hiding something. Maria, a member of the cartel kids, acts like she has her stuff together but is secretly taking pills in bathroom stalls while crying. Willie, a gang member with major street cred, is unable to pull the trigger during a crucial class assignment showing his backstory is just as cloudy as Marcus’s. Then there’s Saya, of the Asian syndicate, who is instrumental in the recruiting of Marcus, kisses will go a long way, but is still working with Master Lin secretly. And then there’s Master Lin himself. It seems that everything the man says could be perceived as a lie.
The driving force of Deadly Class isn’t the fact that this is a high school for assassins. That sells itself. No, the strength is in its characters, and while the pilot episode is used as an introduction to this crazy-ass world it’s clear to see that the characters are going to be what drives this series. Maria Gabriela de Faria’s portrayal of Maria was particularly show-stealing as Maria came across as sexy, vulnerable, a bit crazy, and a lot dangerous. Every time she’s on screen you’re pulled to her, and despite the fact that she’s a timebomb you can understand Marcus’s attraction. Lana Condor’s Saya is another character just waiting to explode on the scene and its this tattoo sleeved ninja that holds the most mystery thus far.
As a massive fan of the comic series it almost seemed impossible to imagine Deadly Class on any type of screen. What makes this pilot work is the care that’s taken in not only establishing this universe but these characters. With Rick Remender not only show running but also writing all the episodes this season one can imagine that we’re going to get a pretty loyal adaptation to a beloved story. That will be the real treat.
Some other quick thoughts-
- What’s up with the rat skeletons?
- Henry Rollins as the potions master is perfect casting and I can’t wait to see more of him in this setting.
- Does anyone else kind of love Liam James’s Billy?
- Keep an eye on Siobhan Williams’s Brandy, Taylor Hickson’s Petra, and Sean Depner’s Viktor. Williams ate up her scenery and I fully expect the others to follow suit. Crazy things ahead.
- Chico is bad news, but why does Maria want him dead? Is it as simple as him being abusive or does it run a little deeper?
- Speaking of Maria, sharing that kiss with Marcus can only mean good things, right?!
- Willie is right about his X-Men “Dark Phoenix” thoughts. A little aggressive, but right.
There you have it Geeklings, the first episode of Deadly Class is in the books and how are we feeling? Fans of the comics, are you happy with the adaptation thus far? New fans, does this make you want to pick up a comic? How do you think Marcus will be able to fit in or does he even need to? What’s up with Saya? Sound off in the comments or if you’d like to talk more Deadly Class with yours truly then you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. Looking forward to taking this adventure with you guys! See you next week with a brand new review, until then… class dismissed!
Images from SyFy