“World War One was started by a teenager with a pistol…” and so begins a seemingly dry history lesson but neither the lecture nor the action of the opening scene is what it seems.
We learn quickly that this is a school with consequences. They may wear uniforms but they are anything but conformist.
Flashing back a single day, we witness the Call to Action for our hero, Marcus Lopez Arguello (Benjamin Wadsworth, Dad vs. Lad) who has been living on the street since the boys’ home he was living in burned down.
This is San Francisco in 1987. Marcus carries a Walkman. Social media is a thing of science fiction. A kid can hide from the cops relatively well on the street. Even one wanted for a dozen deaths.
Hiding from a team of assassins-in-training, on the other hand, proves to be trickier. Running from assassins looking to recruit while high on a joint laced with PCP and hallucinating that Ronald Reagan is climbing out of a TV to chase you through a Day of the Dead parade makes for a helluva introduction to King’s Dominion, basically the Hogwarts for killers.
Like so many heroes who’ve come before him, Marcus doesn’t welcome the invitation and returns to the streets to face the hobo bullies and hunger he’s familiar with.
While hiding from the cops who’ve picked up his scent, we get an animated flashback of how Marcus ended up on the street and why he’s got the hate on for Reagan and everything the yuppy era stands for.
When we return to live action, Marcus has returned to Coit Tower, the iconic landmark where he saw his parents killed. His suicide attempt is thwarted by Sayo (Lana Condor, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who lures him back from the edge with a kiss.
Settling in to King’s Dominion seems remarkably familiar to Marcus. As his voiceover narrates:
“Doesn’t matter where they’re from. Kids are all the same. A**holes. Only difference is, in this place, the dagger in your back is real.”–Marcus
The dangers make themselves known early. The pretty pout on Maria (Maria Gabriela de Faria, Besieged) puts Marcus in the cross-hairs of her boyfriend, Chico (Michel Duval, Queen of the South), the head of the strongest gang in the school.
And that brings us back to the classroom from the opening scene and Master Lin’s (Benedict Wong, Marco Polo) lecture on choosing your target. A nasty note passed from the Nazi gang leader, Brandy Lynn (Siobhan Williams, unREAL) gains her a broken nose and Marcus a splattering of blood.
Master Lin teaches AP Black Arts. Miss De Luca (Erica Cerra, Eureka) teaches Hand-to-Hand Combat and Poison Lab is presided over by the impressive Jürgen Denke (Henry Rollins, Z Nation). This is the most seriously awesome and frightening faculty EVER.
In the weirdly-lit and totally unappetizing lunchroom, Billy (Liam James, The Family) gives Marcus the low-down on the school cliques and then takes him to the roof to meet the other Rats, students with no criminal/political legacy.
Marcus carries a reputation as a mass murderer as the papers have reported that he killed the children in the home he ran from. He clears that up when he gets Saya alone. He claims that he hurt guards on his way out but he didn’t kill the kids.
By the end of the premiere, he’s made an alliance with Willie (Luke Tennie, Snowfall), the head of the New World Order gang, by offering to do his homework. In this case, it means pulling the trigger (um, length of pipe) on Rory (Ryan Robbins, Pure) when it turns out big bad Willie is a pacifist.
There’s something fitting about the fact that their first assignment together ends with a literal dumpster fire.
He has a heart-to-heart with Master Lin, learning how vengeance forged his mission. He moves into his room, very obviously a broom closet until recently, and yet, he seems to feel at home and secure.
In perhaps the only scene without Marcus, we see Saya meet with Master Lin and when asked if she has completed her assignment, he places a Chinese chess piece on a picture of Marcus and stares meaningfully at her.
By the closing scene, Marcus has found some footing and enjoys a drinks with the student body in a gathering that seems to be truce territory. He’s come to view King’s Dominion as where he belongs.
It’s a cold, cruel world and you can’t survive without a family … even if they are liars and murderers….Maybe I finally found a reason to live. In a place surrounded by death.— Marcus
Deadly Class premieres (officially) January 16th on Syfy at 10/9c
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