“He was a member of the team. It didn’t work out.”
With an episode with a title as outlandish as “Plutonium is Forever,” you’d hope that this might be Scorpion’s most fun episode yet, with this either veering into Bond-ish territory or just some dangerously radioactive fun, both of which would have potential.
Rather, the episode starts with what looks like this random derelict, Mark Collins, may be about to stumble upon Frank Winters and those incorrigible nuclear scamps from Manhattan, but the prospect of this being a bizarre crossover event is quickly quelled when the man demands that he wants to speak to Walter O’Brien, right after he’s surrounded by military.
Not long after Walter reveals that Collins used to be apart of Team Scorpion (he was the human radio, a role that sorely is not being filled currently, but maybe Paige’s son can eventually step up to the plate after he’s traded away his youth and normalcy) and hey, it looks like we’ve got the makings of a story here.
Honestly, the prospect of a former Team Scorpion member that has kind of lost his marbles and is on shaky ground has a lot of promise. The show has briefly hinted at the idea of these geniuses being used up and “wrecked” in a normal life, and Mark Collins is the first piece of proof that that may be true. When you add to this the information that Mark is inferring that Walter is unstable and selfish, or at least used to be (another element that’s flashed by us before), it all gets even more interesting.
Thinking of any of our current team members like Sylvester or Toby getting chewed up and abandoned in the name of the greater genius seems extremely unlikely, but Mark’s presence at least suggests some fruitful possibilities down the road. It actually feels like a story of this weight, with this degree of backstory hanging off of it is coming in too early, with our characters and relationships not fleshed out enough yet. The stakes aren’t appropriately high enough.
While throwing this story into the fray in the fifth episode still does work, thinking about what could have been done with this in the second half of a twenty-two episode season (which Scorpion seems like a lock to get), where actual fractures in the foundation of the team mean something, is a missed opportunity to a degree. Then again, perhaps this isn’t the last time we’ve seen Mark Collins. Perhaps he’s in the midst of forming a bizarro Team Scorpion (Team Millipede?), full of rejected geniuses eager to prove themselves, almost like some League of Supervillains determined to prove their value. We’re almost certainly not heading down that direction, but, for just a moment, it’s nice to imagine this show having that level of serialization and plotting to it.
Walter and the team find themselves searching through Mark Collins’ own private carcosa of a house, looking for recordings that implicate his innocence and what he was doing at the Montero Nuclear Reactor in the first place.
Throughout this escapade Collins’ importance is highlighted to us by Sylvester telling us how good he is at chess and that Gallo needs to say Walter’s name four times before he can pull his attention from Collins’ notes. He’s treated like the group’s Hannibal Lecter, as everyone is afraid to make face time with him, or even worse, have to talk to him, yet he’s void of any of the intimidation or personality that makes Lecter so fascinating. These are basically convenient, underdeveloped ways to show us that this guy is capital-I Important, and the point continues to get hammered on the head until the nail is basically hidden in the wood. And just to add a little more urgency on all of this, there’s the threat that a nuclear reactor might explode (we’re told that we could be dealing with the next Fukushima), dooming us all.
This episode also sends a bunch of time talking about “going down the rabbit hole,” where you kind of ignore everything else, like food or people, as you’re singularly focused/obsessed on your task at hand. This idea is underlined repeatedly with a highlighter as we’re told the negative effect that Collins has on Walter, leading to a “savant dissociative state” which basically means a numbers coma for our protagonist, so to speak.
It’s a welcome change of pace to have the team bouncing off an outsider for once, let alone one they don’t fully trust, and having a new dynamic to everything (in spite of it still being a little early for that). That being said, it doesn’t play that differently than what we’ve got from the rest of the episodes. Collins staffs out tasks and babbles tech jargon just like everyone else and in spite of the new coat of paint on this, things quickly shift into familiar territory.
As group dynamics get brought up, we see Paige saying that Ralph, her child, is the happiest that she’s ever seen him, as he hangs out with misfit geniuses rather than friends his own age.
Collins’ integrity constantly flip-flops all episode in order to build suspense as the story sees fit. As things progress, of course we see that Collins can be trusted more than everyone (excluding Walter) thinks he can, with our Team making the bulk of the errors and Mark and Walter picking up the slack. Things get even more obstacle-y when Gallo finds himself trapped between a rock and an explosive place, as he’s locked in the reactor, depending on the Team to get him out alive, or at the least, not contaminated.
Gallo still isn’t amounting to much other than a force that yells at Walter every so often and strings the initial story beats together as our team gets their briefing of the week. Incidents like this are at least attempting to bring out his character a little more though.
Moments here like Gallo telling the photo of his dead daughter that he might be seeing her soon feel a little melodramatic as at no point do we ever really think that Gallo is going to die. That being said, seeing Gallo magically walk out of the ocean, ogling bikini-clad women on his way out kind of makes up for this. On the other hand, the fourth time it’s contemplated that Collins may have double-crossed the team, it hardly has the impact that the show wants it to, and it’s not the best set piece to focus the final act around. Having this entire nuclear scare merely being a ruse Collins has orchestrated to prove that he’s still needed on Team Scorpion works a little better, but it’s still pretty telegraphed right from the jump of the episode.
This is far from a perfect episode of Scorpion, something which has yet to happen, and may not even be possible with the building blocks they’ve designated to themselves so far. There’s a lot of slapdash plotting here, and beyond easy resolutions to problems, but there’s at least a hint of better things to come. The show emphasizing more of the broken aspects of this team, particularly Walter, is the right direction to be taking, and if we keep getting more of a rogues gallery for Team Scorpion, I’ll be even further pleased. We’ll just have to determine what Scorpion’s priorities are.
Oh, like how maybe Happy is growing a crush towards Toby and wouldn’t they make just the cuuuuutest couple togeth–it doesn’t matter.
See you all down the rabbit hole.