This Deadly Class review contains spoilers.
Deadly Class Season 1 Episode 5
Deadly Class took one of the pivotal road trips from the original comic and masterfully transformed it into a trippy, cinematic triumph that emphasized the careless overconfidence of youth during an authentically botched adventure that ended with a roiling confusion of emotions. The 80s nostalgia was thick in “Saudade,” but the fact that the story is now moving forward with the scarfaced antagonist we now know as Chester gives the series more cohesion than it has enjoyed recently. With the problems building for our group, an escape seems less and less likely, which appears to be exactly where the show wants its audience: in a fog of punk exuberance and hopelessness clinging to any island of connection we can find.
We have to remind ourselves that there’s a certain logic to Deadly Class when it places members of different gangs in situations together, and this week’s road trip allows for the unspoken friendships to exist outside of the school’s rigid social structure. Marcus in his voiceover, which contains babbling as often as profound philosophy, spoke truth in saying, “Human interaction is just a manipulation dance,” which is especially true at King’s Dominion, but Billy’s statement resonates more: “Life’s about who you love and what you do for them.” Saya may need an escape from her family, and Willie may anticipate a hookup that never comes with Saya, but Truly it’s about Marcus helping Billy punish his abusive father.
So why make the stop at the deadhead caravan for drugs? Because they’re kids in the 80s, that’s why. Forget the fact that Marcus and Billy need clear heads to carry out the planned assassination. They may talk about the Grateful Dead groupies as people following a horrible band dedicated to an empty cause, but what are they? Assassins in training attending a dysfunctional school dedicated to a flawed cause. But of course, Billy’s blowjob aside, the pit stop was all about starting the acid trip that dominated the episode.
And what a trip it was! Starting with another amazing Wes Craig animated sequence, Deadly Class took us on an extremely realistic LSD journey that included everything from a talking neon clown to a disproportionately large cop with a teeny-tiny fake ID. Marcus admits he was just trying to impress his friends but is really just terrified of being alone, but admirably, all of his friends sympathize with his having taken a larger dose, seeing as even one dose has Willie talking to flagpoles. Marcus’ goofy smile on the main strip, the glimpse of a Hunter S. Thompson character, and the cameo from Slimer of Ghostbusters fame were all delightful side effects of Marcus’ crucial mistake.
Yet even in his stupor, Marcus still manages to help Billy, even though the old man’s death was more of a fortunate accident than a true assassination. The emotion that comes pouring out of Billy (another expert performance from Liam James) while his father bleeds out on the floor tells us what we already know at this point: these kids are damaged, but they still crave love and belonging to a family. Billy’s dad may have been a degenerate cop and a terrible father for putting his son in indentured servitude to the mob, but he was still the Rat’s father. A heartbreaking scene, even in triumph.
It’s the same with Maria. As much as we may wish to see her free of her abusive relationship with Chico, when she’s finally able to kill him, just as he’s about to dispatch Marcus and all of the witnesses to his crime, it brings little comfort. There’s something about the seduction of Marcus that doesn’t seem right and spoils her moment of triumph. She seduced him, a virgin, during a vulnerable time, and she must be aware of the growing affection between Marcus and Saya. But Marcus admitted, “The only way I can identify with anyone is through a similar painful experience,” and the connection was made even if he didn’t really want it. The glare Saya gives the couple as they kiss in the back seat on the way home is quite worrisome.
But then again, so is the fact that Chester knows exactly what transpired in Vegas and is certain to use it to his advantage. He’s determined to kill Marcus “with pizzazz, P.T. Barnum style” for deforming his face during whatever really transpired at the boys’ home, and he seems to have the patience and intelligence to come up with something truly terrifying. He presents much more of a problem than whatever Master Lin has in store, especially since his appearance at Marcus’ side after he won the slot machine seems to have been mostly illusory.
The truth remains: Chico is dead having killed a store owner and stabbed Billy. That can’t go unnoticed, and that’s why this episode of Deadly Class brought such promise. The stakes have been raised in almost every area of the show. The students’ accountability for their actions, their relationships romantic and otherwise, and the enemies that they’re making are all reaching a breaking point. Combined with the fact that this episode was filmed with such artistic flair make this a pivotal episode for the first season’s success. Let’s hope this momentum is maintained.
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.