“Actually, we’re a team too, and a pretty smart one…”
Well, we still don’t have a robotic sidekick in the form of Proton Arnold to work alongside Team Scorpion and make sure these geniuses are safe, which is not an encouraging sign, but let’s not try to hold that against the show too much now.
Because what we do get is a full-out slow motion sequence of the Scorpion gang walking into battle in military garb, goofing it up (time is taken for that fedora to be put on) and reminding us that these are not your parents’ typical good guys!
It’s very stupid and cliché, but it’s addressing the outlandish nature of this show in the first place. Not long after we see the gang taking very real gunfire in Bosnia and fearing for their lives as this silly earlier image is undercut completely. Scorpion is still beyond preposterous and probably doesn’t need to exist, but if it needs to exist, “Talismans” is a good example of how to do it decently.
We also see the gang gambling with Sylvester’s “genius” to get out of doing work is exactly the sort of ridiculous, fun attitude this show should be having. For this show to take itself too seriously, is death, and this is the best episode they’ve done in a long time, even if that still means it’s a very vapid, paint-by-numbers procedural. Plus, Toby’s fedora gets called out. All of these are steps in the right direction.
We’ve got Walter’s MS-plagued sister, Meaghan, into the mix, wasting no time by having him bailing her out of prison in the episode’s opening minutes. She’s looking to rebel and basically ignore her treatment so she can enjoy the time she’s got left before she’s crippled completely and eventually dead. Walter dodges the topic and tries to ignore it, in what’s not exactly unexpected behavior from him, even if it’s the least interesting way to respond here. Inevitably she’s left hanging out in the Scorpion HQ for the episode, ultimately spending time with Sylvester for the duration.
This is again a smarter decision than say, having Meaghan along on the mission as a liability, for no reason at all. We also get golden exchanges like, “What do you expect from a girl whose nerve endings are slowly deteriorating?” “That’s a terrible thing to say…” There’s a romantic relationship being forced onto us here almost as strong as Walter and Paige’s, but this one is actually sweet and has a sardonic bitterness to it. I can’t believe I actually care, but I’d like to see more of these two together.
On the topic here, we also get some of the most natural character development the show’s done here, getting backstories on Toby’s mom and Sylvester’s past in a way that’s actually kind of enlightening and different rather than pedestrian.
The case the crew is staffed with this time is an aircraft going down and the tech it’s containing needing to be recovered before the enemy gets it. As Walter points out himself, this is a pretty run of the mill sort of thing, until they’re insured that their genius is needed to retrieve the information.
This also leads to Team Scorpion being grouped together with some military personnel that are pretty dickish from the jump. Walter acts spectrum-y accordingly, and we have a pretty instant conflict that we know is going to blow up in the middle of things (and, it does) when it’s the least appropriate time. It also leads to some brilliantly stiff dialogue between Walter and the military’s leader, James, like:
“Hey, you’re pretty smart, I’m going to start calling you Professor.”
“I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
“It is one.”
Yeah they don’t exactly mesh well.
Paige points out that she doesn’t really want to go to Bosnia and undertake gunfire when she has a child that needs her at home. An entirely reasonable request until Agent Gallo reminds her that, “You’re the glue, kid,” surely what’s written on her character’s page in the show’s bible, and she’s stuck with the crew.
This all escalates appropriately when everyone not only figures out that the aircraft’s software has already been stolen, but a pilot is missing too. On top of that, the plane didn’t just go down, but it was hacked, something that seems to usually be the cause of things on this show.
Things move in sort of the typical Scorpion fashion, but the action set pieces this time around are at least some of the most suspenseful and clever the show’s done. Like a sequence where everyone is stuck in a landmine field, and determine that the only safe places to walk are the ones where the flowers are growing because the land is not dead. Or when Toby and Happy encounter a random cabin that is full of decades old American pop culture that almost feels reminiscent of The Hills Have Eyes. There’s some weird stuff going on here, like where the duo is held up by the cabin’s owner, Igor, with a shotgun, until he learns they’re Americans and completely falls in love with them.
I mean, this is also the most we’ve seen these people operating as superheroes as things like Walter disarming a set off mine, breaking up a torture ring, and Sylvester MacGyvering the team to safety also going down here. It’s all completely implausible, and Sylvester’s perspective of lying to avoid going to Bosnia being the only realistic thing we’re getting here, but they sell it all well enough. The tone is there.
Things come together without a hitch in the end, James and Walter leave embracing each other, and everything is back at status quo. Walter’s also given a challenge coin for the work he’s done, something that might seem like an emblematic gesture, but we all know the truth.
Once Walter has collected five challenge coins from his various missions, Proton Arnold will finally come to life.