Titles matter. I write this a lot in my reviews because the title usually points to a more subtle theme than the main narrative draws you to.
Here we have “Saudade” which Wikipedia tells me is a Portuguese word meaning “missing” but is also used as an idiom referring to “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return”
Do me a favor and keep that in mind for a little reflection at the end.
Every episode has exhibited a unique style and this one has a clever flashback narrative device at play. We start with Marcus facing a uniformed officer examining his ID and mentally sweating through what he needs to hide and know.
Where am I? I should know that. Okay, piece it together. Two eight-balls of coke, Saya wouldn’t shut up about water-skiing, Billy had a bottle of ether… but that wasn’t it. None of that matters. Nothing before the acid matters…Marcus
So much acid. And when Master Lin steps into the office and Marcus notices all the blood on his own hands, it looks like a reckoning is in the works.
The flashback takes us back about a day where, with shades of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Marcus and a cross-section of the King’s Dominion student body — Saya, Maria, Billy, and Willie — head to Vegas. Saya and Maria want to let loose. Willie wants to party. Billy is there to kill his father.
Of course, none of them notice that Chico is tailing them.
Saya pulls into a Grateful Dead hippy market set up around a cheery establishment called “Creepy Daniel’s Hideaway Bar” to score some drugs. Despite her warnings, Marcus blows his cash on some fake acid tabs, getting the “Acid King” no high whatsoever.
Billy runs off to get a blow-job and Saya and Maria come back after getting high on cocaine. Another acid-toting hippy entrepreneur pops up and lays out ten tabs of LCD on the house. The girls each take one and Maria basically forces one into Willie’s mouth.
Marcus, clever boy, thinking that this is another hippy scam, takes the remaining SEVEN hits.
The keen observer will note that this acid-toting hippy entrepreneur is played by Ryan Robbins (Pure) who also played Rory, the nasty hobo Marcus killed to get his family photo back and help Willie out with his homework. He pops up again later. I feel like there’s a reason for this.
Billy returns to the group, happier but sadder for his intimate experience and helps the group talk Marcus out from under the car where he insists the digital mountains are coming for him.
The drive into Vegas is an animated acid trip, quite literally, and they re-emerge into live action in a Big Top, Big Top hotel room adjacent to Billy’s dad’s room.
Having escaped her murderous family (“Mirror People“) and run away to take in a combination of cocaine and acid, Saya shows a much more maternal and nuturing side as she tries to take care of Marcus.
It’s a kindness she rarely shows to anyone besides Maria so we know that she’s letting her defences down. (Again, keep that “Saudade” theme in mind.)
A quick jump back into the room with the uniformed officer and Master Lin. Marcus, still high and confused, ruminates mentally on his own vulnerabilities and fears.
Through a TV screen on the wall, he sees his hotel room situation played out in the style of a 60s anti-drug propaganda ad. Then, reversing the perspective, he sees his interrogation through the hotel room television. It’s an effective wa of displacing and disorienting the viewer.
Billy’s narrative is almost lost in the medley of hallucinations and random plot threads but we should remember that it was both the impetus and (secret) raison d’être for the road trip.
Because, as much as Billy reminds trippin’ Willie of Teddy Ruxpin, he’s determined to get his father out of the lives of his mother and brother before they’re all dragged down by his debts.
I’m only sure of one thing. Life’s about who you love and what you do for them.Billy
With Marcus mostly incapacitated by the septuple acid dose, Billy attempts to take on his father by himself. Pretty sure Miss De Luca would give him a failing mark for the attempt.
Hearing the noise from the fight, Marcus rouses himself and joins in and through a series of fumbling attacks and (one would assume) some inebriation on Billy’s father’s side, the target is finally felled by the corner of an end table.
Billy’s grief in the aftermath is painful to watch and Marcus, through his acid-goggled eyes, relives the death of his own father in the moment, seeing a younger version of himself superimposed over Billy.
This show tempers tragedy with comedy in the most unexpected ways. After the off-screen disposal of the body, Marcus and Billy find themselves on the casino floor, locked out of their hotel room, still in shock from the fight. Marcus is still hallucinating.
That when ICE-T starts talking to him. Not even kidding. Ice-T has his own slot machine and Marcus throws a few tokens in and hits a jackpot. THAT’S when he gains the attention of the security. And THAT’S the office he’s being interrogated in.
Not a police station. Not even real police. He’s freaking out in the office of the casino security and being scrutinized because his fake ID is so badly made. He doesn’t get his jackpot and Master Lin marches him out to the resounding laughter of the guard.
Out in the casino, he has an enigmatic conversation with Master Lin which includes his advice to call his mother to apologize which is a pretty huge clue that Master Lin is a hallucination as well. This is punctuated by another cameo by Ryan Robbins as a leisure suit-wearing slot-sitter.
Marcus gets into the elevator and, just as the doors are closing, someone else gets in. While Marcus is trying to remember what elevator etiquette is, the stranger pulls the emergency stop and turns around, revealing that it’s Chester Wilson, Marcus’ old roommate in the boys’ home.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and state that Chester is real (where Lin was not) even though I have no idea how he followed Marcus’ trail from Shabnam’s house to King’s Dominion to Las Vegas.
He decides killing Marcus needs to be more spectacular than a gutting in an elevator so he leaves him shaken but unharmed with a promise to return with revenge so awesome it’ll land him on Donahue.
Marcus freaks out (again) and runs to Maria’s room where she’s just hanging out in her lingerie. They connect over their painful experience and start to have sex when Chico bursts into the room.
Have you ever loved someone who mistreated you? Someone who used you to aid in their own delusions? Used your flexibility to force you into something horrible, no matter the price to your soul?Maria
This fight (sprinkled liberally with hallucinatory talking brand-name mascots) leads to a confrontation I didn’t expect, honestly. Outnumbered by the road-trippers in an alley, Chico beats on Marcus, stabs Billy, and calls Willie out on his pacifism. (He uses different terminology, of course.)
Ultimately, it ends the only way that was right with Maria slashing his throat with her flamenco fan. With Billy and Marcus needing medical attention, they rush away, leaving Chico’s body to be found by Chester Wilson. I’m sure the follow-through will be appropriately disturbing.
The road-trippers get patched up and head back to King’s Dominion.
But they’re a very, very different crew from the ones who started this adventure and the reason is… saudade. And here’s the reflection I promised you:
- Billy set out to kill his father and he succeeded but he’s filled with memories of the “good guy” inside his dad that would emerge occasionally. Never again.
- Maria set out to get away from Chico and she succeeded but he was her first love and such an overwhelming part of her life. Any dreams that she had of their idyllic life together are gone now.
- Willie set out for a trip without his posse so he could be himself. Unfortunately, Chico saw his true self too and has now exposed him to Saya, Billy, and Maria (Marcus knew already). His days of living carefree off his reputation are behind him now.
- Marcus set out to help a friend out and succeeded but has figured out that he is not the “Acid King” and is also pretty sure that he’s not really a good person anymore. If he had any innocence left after his life in the boys’ home and then the streets, it’s gone now. More importantly, as illustrated by the final voice-over, he misses that innocence.
- And then there’s Saya. She opened up a bit on this trip, showed some tenderness. And now, her best friend has hooked up with the guy she likes. In that tear we spot in the rear-view mirror, she’s longing again for that moment of hope she had when she told Marcus,”I’ll take care of you.”
Deadly Class airs Wednesdays on Syfy at 10/9c
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