Any time something you love is adapted from page to screen there’s a bit of nervousness. You want to make sure that the right amount of respect and reverence is used with the source material because at the end of the day without its existence there is no adaptation. There’s a reason that this is being put on screen and it usually centers on the fact that the story being told is special. I’ve seen too many things I hold dear not get the proper treatment on screen (*cough* Dark Tower movie *cough*I), and as fans, we protect the stories that move and inspire us. When I heard SyFy was going to be adapting Deadly Class, I had that nervousness. Deadly Class is a comic I’m incredibly passionate about. A story of misfits looking for acceptance that moves you in ways you don’t expect. How is it possible for a story about an assassin high school to cripple me emotionally? To move me? Which instantly raises the question, is it even possible to adapt something like this properly? There’s that fear of important moments, no matter how big or small, getting lost in translation. Every fan takes an obscure moment of a story that resonates with them and when making a show you want to keep that in account but it’s also borderline impossible. After last night’s episode, “Saudade”, one thing is clear, when it comes to a respectful adaptations Deadly Class is top of the class.
Much like the comic, the road trip to Las Vegas is a turning point in the story. This is when things change, and the pace in which those changes come is quick and without mercy. Up until this point, Deadly Class has been a show that has taken those ‘80s movie tropes and drenched them in punk rock in a way that tears down the wall of the corniness and replaces it with something much grittier. Something a little more real. We’ve had our Breakfast Club, Carrie, and Risky Business moments and they helped establish a sense of character within this insane murder high school environment. We know that Marcus is an outcast that just wants to belong. We know Saya isn’t as dark and cold as she wants to be and actually has a heart. We know Maria just wants to escape her hostage relationship with the monster Chico. We know Willie’s whole personality is a front and he’s actually kind of sweet kid stuck in a tough position. And we know Billy is a lost soul whose abusive father prevents him from being his own person. What “Saudade” does so effectively is it takes these high school problems and transforms them into adult problems. By episode end, you forget these are high school kids. You’re just consumed with the dread that everything that transpired in Las Vegas has altered who they are leaving us with a serious concern that some of them may not be able to come back from that.
The Las Vegas storyline is what sealed the deal for me concerning the comic series. I was all in after that. It was clear that Deadly Class didn’t concern itself with being the story you wanted it to be, but being the story it had to be. Your emotions be damned. “Saudade” has that same feel to it. When you think about it these are supposed to be sixteen-year-olds, and here they are blowing lines and dropping acid as if it’s no big deal. Where else on television are you seeing something like that? It would have been easy to work around all the drug use but that’s not Deadly Class. This has to count and all the gritty, demented, distorted reality isn’t being used as shock value but a device to help build a better understanding of the characters we’re spending our time with. Marcus’s inner monologue is less guarded as he tells us he runs from acceptance because he’s afraid to be happy. The death of Billy’s father tears him apart opposed to freeing him. Willie can’t pull the trigger because he knows who he is despite knowing that it could get him killed. While Maria is willing to do anything for her freedom despite the personal cost. The drugs consumed in this episode strip away the facades and leave us with some truly raw character moments with tremendous performances by Benjamin Wadsworth, Maria Gabriela de Faria, Luke Tennie, and Liam James. It’s difficult to choose just one as each performance was the backbone to different sections of this episode.
None of this is possible without the uncompromising vision of Rick Remender who, as co-showrunner, is adapting his story in the most loyal ways possible. After a few episodes that took content from the comics in an indirect way, in order to move up timelines and flesh out characters, Remender has helped provide us with an episode that is a literal comic book come to life. If you’re a fan of the Deadly Class comic last night was a treat. From the opening scene till the closing moments panel after panel is brought to life in such real and tangible ways. Seeing Wes Craig’s art manifested on screen with Remender’s words was a sight to behold, leaving me in awe of the series and SyFy for allowing this story to be told properly. Deadly Class is unforgiving and at times difficult, but at its heart, it’s a coming of age story as these harden kids find themselves and try to exist in a world that views them as pawns and/or monsters. This story is Remender’s baby, and with the help of co-showrunner Miles Feldsott, it’s being told the way it was intended. In a time where adaptations can be watered down versions of the source material, it’s comforting to see Deadly Class live its best life.
With such a drastic change in the landscape of the show, it’s easy to ask where we go from here. Billy has killed his father. Maria has broken the cardinal rule of King’s Dominion and killed a fellow student, and despite how badly Chico deserved it ’s sure to raise questions. F-Face has confronted Marcus, that was no hallucination, and has the leverage of Chico’s death to hold over the group. Saya seems to be jealous (?!) of the impending Marcus/Maria relationship. And Willie has been exposed as a pacifist. Suddenly the John Hughes of it all doesn’t matter. Our characters are beyond trivial high school drama. There are real stakes at hand, and survival is key. If murder school has taught us anything it’s you’re better off together then you are on your own. A new group has been built out these competing factions. Marcus, Maria, Willie, Billy, and Saya all share a secret. They’re all connected whether they want to be or not. Can this group exist without more bloodshed or is bloodshed the only way to protect what they know? Or will they turn on each other? These next five episodes are going to move like a freight train. The landscape has changed and our characters will need to keep up or King’s Dominion might swallow them whole.
Some quick thoughts before I leave you-
- You guys saw Hunter S. Thompson too, right?
- The animated sequence was breathtaking and I love how the show continues to incorporate that form of storytelling.
- Still in awe of seeing these panels come to life. Just masterful work all around.
- Have you guys noticed that the actor who plays Rory(Ryan Robbins) keeps popping up as different characters throughout the show? It’s such a subtle reminder of the burden Marcus is bearing.
- Everyone wants that Willie/Billy bromance, right?
- Halfway through the season and we’ve now completed volume one of the graphic novels. I suspect the season end close to the end of volume two… maybe?
- Ice-T was waaaaay better than Mr. T.
There you have it Geeklings, what did you think of this week’s Deadly Class? Were you expecting any of that? Comic fans, were you pleased with this episode? What do you think comes next? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts. If you’d like to talk more Deadly Class with yours truly you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. Until next time future disrupters of America, remember seven hits of acid is too much. No one is the Acid King. Not even you.