Scorpion: Risky Business Review

Tonight's episode of Scorpion has an algorithm that writes hit pop songs. We are definitely in for this one...

“Pretty risky there, kid.”

Now we’re talking! Here’s an episode about an algorithm that’s able to generate hit songs, an idea that’s so ridiculous, it’s even explored to pretty hilarious length in the brilliant British comedy series, Look Around You. I’ve always been saying that the more absurd and out there that Scorpion is, the better it works, and plots like this are a step in the right direction.

If this crazy plot wasn’t enough, we even get treated to the episode starting with Walter in a macho drag race against a Serbian gang leader where he rattles off statistics and facts as to why it’s impossible for his opponent to beat him, no matter how massive his need for speed might be. This out-of-character behavior in Walter is due to Drew’s re-integration back into Ralph and Paige’s life, and while the reasoning might be pretty forced, it’s still fun and stupid.

I’m a little surprised to see the show incorporating Drew, Ralph’s father and Paige’s ex, from last episode into the show so quickly, but it’s appreciated all the same. Any sort of continuity being built here would service the show well. Keep bringing everyone back, I say, until you see who does or doesn’t stick.

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For an episode titled “Risky Business,” we see much of the cast negotiating in dangerous behavior, whether it’s Walter’s drag race, Toby being held outside a building’s window, threatened of being dropped, or even Ralph precariously playing with a glass of juice (which she is sure to hammer the point home by announcing, “Pretty risky there”). It’s a sturdy enough thematic lampshade to hang on everything here, but it could still be a lot more solid and unified. Toby is worried that Walter is engaging in Freudian displacement where he’s going to continually seek out increasingly high-risk behavior until he’s effectively blocked Paige out of his mind. It’s a pretty forced idea, with the looming threat being, what, that Walter begins drag racing hovercrafts? Jumping out of airplanes?

Team Scorpion’s mission this week is dealing with the death of a music blogger, Reed, who was involved with the aforementioned bonkers algorithm that will solve music. There’s some interesting stuff done here in its setup, like how Walter and company, while geniuses, certainly aren’t the type to be seeing dead bodies all the time, and it affects them accordingly. Not much is done with it, but still seeing these guys balking and flinching while doing things that regular detectives or police would be collected during is a welcome angle to explore.

Walter and the rest of Scorpion track down the author of Hit Wizard, the algorithm, Temple (with Walter getting electrocuted in the process), and work alongside him in order to find out who tried to steal his work as well as murder Reed. Whenever we see Team Scorpion working with a new outsider to help them out, the episode is usually popping a little more and flowing with a better energy. Temple works especially well, as even though he is a genius, he’s pretty against type when it comes to the rest of Scorpion. He’s clearly being set up for an eventual recurring role on the show, and maybe even joining the Scorpion family permanently (just in time to become a love obstacle between Toby and Happy, yay!), but in spite of those heavy-handed scenes, Temple works.

Some of the most entertaining material in the episode sees Toby, “a seeker of truth,” fascinated with which musicians have been getting famous off of lies and mathematics. Paige’s disgust over the simple admission of Toby blaming the music algorithm on Macklemore’s success is a gem of a moment, and we’re really seeing the cast be as affable and unified as they’ve ever been.

Dynamics that would have never been explored before on the show are being serviced now, which is certainly positive. Paige, for instance, turning Freudian displacement back on Toby over his feelings for Happy, is adept stuff. As is the fun setup of Toby and Paige pretending to be lawyers for intimidation purposes (which works, believe it or not), as artists and record companies are seen as the natural suspects in this case.

But then we get a lot of awful, unnecessary Paige-used-to-be-a-singer fodder that really doesn’t need to be there and is just interested in making Katherine McPhee seem increasingly cute. There are still questionable choices and missteps through all of this.

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And speaking of, the scenes with Ralph and Drew pretty much don’t need to be happening at all. It’s appreciated that Ralph is being given some flavor rather than just being a cipher of a child, but they just sink like the heaviest things ever. It feels like padding in an already thin episode. Neither of the actors have much chemistry, and it really just feels a tool to make Walter look better and the Right Choice for the Paige down the road.

Like a lot of Scorpion episodes, this thing feels pretty bloated when it absolutely doesn’t need to. A lot of time is taken to go through not that much story, and while the elements are clicking better by now, this could still be a lot more effective of an episode. The set pieces designed to build suspense and tension merely fizzle and happen rather than keeping you on the edge of your seat, and that includes a scene where Team Scorpion nearly explodes with their vehicle.

There is some excitement to be had with the idea that the suspect of the week is willing to kill whoever gets in his way. The fact that there are some very real consequences here helps give the story a little more weight, but still at no point do you ever feel like any of our cast is in real danger (even after Walter’s repeated electrocutions).

The conclusion of all of this sees Scorpion trying to rescue Temple from Sugar, who’s revealed to be the culprit in a pretty flimsy motive involving multiple clients. It’s a pretty easy resolution to a pretty out there episode, so it’s a little disappointing to see the reveal at the end not being equally incredulous.

But whatever, even if the answer in the end was that ear-less, music-hating aliens from the future were who killed Reed and stole Hit Wizard, all good will would still be erased by the episode going out on Paige singing. Can’t take my eyes off of you, indeed.

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3 out of 5