Based on the graphic novel by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, Deadly Class premiered this past Wednesday, January 16 on the SyFy Channel.
San Francisco, 1987. Marcus Lopez Arguello (Benjamin Wadsworth) is an orphan. His parents were killed in front of him as a child when a mentally ill woman jumped from the top of Coit Tower and landed on his parents. After fleeing an abusive boy’s home that mysteriously burned to the ground, Marcus has been living on the streets and on the run ever since.
Following a mugging and being threatened by Rory, a homeless murderer, in his camp, Marcus picks a joint up off the street that is laced with angel dust and stumbles into a ‘Day of the Dead’ street party. While hallucinating, he sees Maria (María Gabriela de Faría) in full sugar skull makeup, who then uses her decorative -and deadly- fans to fight the cops that have tracked Marcus to the party. Willie (Luke Tennie) appears behind Marcus and tells him to run. Fleeing the party, Marcus runs into a parking garage. While he is catching his breath, Saya (Lana Condor) pulls up on her motorcycle, sword on her hip, and tells him to hop on. Instead, he freezes, and cop cars pull in behind her, sirens blazing. She backflips off the bike and in a series of impressive kung fu moves, distracts the cops as Willie and Maria pull Marcus to safety and immediately put a bag over his head.
When they pull the bag off, he is tied to a chair in a meat locker. Master Lin (Benedict Wong) enters and presents him with a surprising opportunity: to join King’s Dominion, a secret school dedicated to training assassins. Extremely mistrustful, Marcus makes several smart aleck remarks and leaves. He returns to his camp where the cops have arrived and seized all of his meager possessions.
In an animated flashback, he describes how when Ronald Reagan cut the funding to state mental hospitals, it released thousands of mentally ill people back on to the streets, one of whom inadvertently killed his parents. These animated flashbacks (in the style of the comic on which the show is based) continues throughout the show to provide the backstory for each of the students that we meet.
Back in the present, Marcus is on top of Coit Tower poised to jump when Saya stops him. Luring him in with a kiss, Saya convinces him to go to King’s Dominion. She explains the basic rules of the school: first and foremost, never reveal the school’s location or he will be killed. The other rules are: no murdering your fellow students, no disobedience, no drugs, and no sex. Willie, Maria, and Billy (Liam James) are there to greet him back in the meat locker. They lead him through the back where the hidden, ancient looking, buildings of the school are located. A hooded monk takes over and leads him inside to Master Lin’s chambers. Inside, Lin explains the purpose and foundation of the school.
His ancestor came to the United States following the ‘American Dream’ but what he found was a lifetime of indentured servitude and abuse. So he taught himself how to kill in order to free himself from his oppressors. He decided to dedicate his life to freeing oppressed peoples, and that this school was founded “to give peasants the skills to dethrone their corrupt masters.” Marcus decides “f—- it” and picks up the school uniform Lin has presented him with, and joins the school.
Marcus quickly learns, though, that this school even with its unique purpose, is just like every other high school. “It doesn’t matter where they’re from, kids are all the same: assholes.” He is immediately targeted and threatened by Chico (Michel Duval), leader of the Soto Vatos gang for being friendly with Maria. In ‘AP Black Arts’ Master Lin hands out their first assignment (also worth half of their grade for the semester) – find a person who deserves to die, and kill them. He immediately thinks of Rory, the murderous homeless man from his camp. Later in ‘One on One Combat Class’, Maria partners with him to flirt and interrogate him about his past. Later at lunch, Billy takes him under his mohawked wing and explains the school hierarchy and cliques. There are the Soto Vatos (the most powerful gang in the school, the equivalent of jocks at a normal school), the Preps (rich children of CIA and FBI agents), the Dixie Mob (nazi rednecks), the Hessians (stoners and nerds), the Final World Order (led by Willie, they are the children of the leaders of the Bloods and Crips), the Kuroki Syndicate (led by Saya, they are the children of the Yakuza), and finally Billy, and now Marcus’ clique – “the rats.” The rats are all of the outcasts and loners, the kids that don’t have a family legacy or gang affiliation.
Billy takes Marcus onto the rooftop, aka ‘the graveyard’, where the other rats (Petra and Lex) hang out during lunch. They casually discuss their ‘hit lists’ and Marcus admits that the number one person that he wants to kill is Ronald Reagan. He blames Reagan, indirectly, for the death of his parents. Later, Saya and Marcus discuss his impending fight with Chico. Marcus confesses that despite what the cops and press say, he is not responsible for the fire that killed everyone at the boys school. He hurt some guards escaping, but the fire happened after he left. He is not the mass murderer all of the students think he is. Later, he runs into Maria in the hallway, she is crying and sporting a black eye. This enrages Marcus, who confronts Chico in the yard and punches him in the face. Fed up, Marcus quits the school and heads back to the streets of San Francisco.
Skulking in the rain, he is stopped by Willie, who pulls a gun on him and demands Marcus help him finish their homework assignment together. They head to the homeless camp where Willie aims his gun at Rory, but is ultimately unable to pull the trigger. He confesses that he was pushed into this school by his mom –“she’s the real OG”- but he has never killed anyone and is actually a pacifist. Rory catches them and in the ensuing scuffle Marcus picks up a crowbar and murders Rory. They dispose of the body and Marcus agrees to return to King’s Dominion.
Back at the school, Lin meets with Saya hinting that whatever her next assignment is, it has to do with Marcus. Marcus runs into Maria who no longer has a black eye. She confesses that she faked it in order to trick Marcus into disposing of Chico for her. She kisses him and invites him to ‘the graveyard’ for a party. Marcus comes to the realization that “everyone needs family. Even if they are all liars and murders.” and joins her in the rooftop revelry.
Deadly Class airs Wednesdays at 10pm on the SyFy Channel.