Liam Waddington reviews the first episode of Deadly Class…
Deadly Class is very difficult to critique solely based on its first episode. The premiere, titled ‘Reagan Youth’, kicks Deadly Class off to a rocky and sluggish start with characters consumed by their apparent stereotypes and a story that never truly reveals itself.
Based on the Rick Remender-Wesley Craig comic book of the same name, Deadly Class is created by a plethora of producers and writers – including Avengers: Endgame’s own Anthony and Joe Russo. Starring Benjamin Wadsworth as a homeless teenager and Benedict Wong as the motivated, yet violent headmaster, Master Lin, the central plot focuses on Reagan’s America in the late-1980’s during his revoking of the Mental Health Systems Act – causing a rippling effect that leaves Marcus orphaned at an abusive boy’s home. Once the shelter burns down, Marcus is picked up by a group of teenage assassins who escort him to the King’s Dominion, an elite academy for prospective killers or in other words, Hogwarts for assassins.
The school, like in Mean Girls (or any American school for that matter), is segregated into divisions between jocks, nerds, outcasts, and other American-associated stereotypes, only in this case people take the system of Cartel members, Yakuza affiliates, associates of the First World Order, and other various syndicates. Whilst this is an intriguing take, the King’s Dominion never feels alive or charming compared to the houses at Hogwarts – instead portraying the academy as organised chaos. The King’s Dominion is portrayed as an abusive free-for-all headed by a vicious headmaster. Even the assignments border the outlandish – finding and murdering someone who “deserves to die” – with no context or reasoning.
Whilst I understand the pilot episode must be more concerned with establishing each character’s personality traits and their role within the academy, the premiere heavily concentrates on the over-exaggerated stereotypes and lack of character development – resulting in some characters feeling lifeless and offering no attachment for the audiences. Marcus, for example, is the prime culprit of this. He is constantly transition between passiveness and forced into violence by his peers by manipulating his current state of mental health, but never quite coming out as his own character, instead leaving Marcus as a puzzle waiting to be solved.
However, Luke Tennie’s Willie is a breath of fresh air. Offering the perfect blend of comedic relief, relatable vulnerabilities and conflictions, and easily the most likeable character so far. Even the revelation that he is a pacifist in a world of assassin’s is the single most intriguing factor to occur during the show’s first hour.
Based solely on it’s premiere, Deadly Class is a paint-by-numbers pilot episode featuring a story that never quite plays its hand. The plot concerns itself with school ground squabbles resulting in a teen drama with characters that feel empty and lifeless thus far. However, despite the lack of character development for certain main characters, they each perform splendidly with the material given. The again, this is only the first episode. Obviously, the show could massively change in future episodes with storylines that focus more on Marcus and the rest of the supporting cast to make people want to root for these characters. Deadly Class, so far, is more confusing than complex with more style than substance.