When Syfy's 'Deadly Class' premiered January 16, non-comic book readers were oblivious to the action-packed thrills the episode had in store. Those who switched on to the series expecting another teen drama, or to see the sweet 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' alum, Lana Condor, sure changed their minds after witnessing violent death in the pilot itself and seeing the 21-year-old actress in arm tattoos wielding a katana. Also, goodbye homeless murderer - Rory!
The series adapted from the comic book of the same name follows the story of Marcus Lopez Arguello (Benjamin Wadsworth), a homeless orphan who gets enrolled into a school of assassins called King's Dominion.
What is harder than living on the streets is, perhaps, surviving in the school composed of killers. We trust our boy to sail through these four years, but not without challenges and unfortunately, there seems to be many. Now that we have tasted the essence of the series, let's address the driving force behind the show - violence.
Critics and fans alike have pointed it could be as violent as 'Game of Throne,' but since the action takes place in a school setting, it is even more important to understand the extreme nuances of violence used in the show. Abounding in hate, vengeance and an intent to kill, violence, even though in extreme, is constrained on the show.
Master Lin (Benedict Wong), the headmaster of King's Dominion, is pretty clear to establish that only those "who deserve to die," are to be killed. That is why you don't see a full throttle 'Vikings' battle scene on the grounds of the high school, but what you do see are gang fights, martial arts, cold-blooded murder, bullies, and cat-fights. This also means the storyline does not rest or end with violence, it explores the aftermath of it.
When Marcus decides to make Rory the target of his first assignment as a killer, he has a concrete reason why Rory deserves to die. He is a murderer anyway and has threatened Marcus quite a few times. Killing Rory also means sparing the lives of the homeless people, who do not deserve to die. With a lot of drama and revelation, Rory is ruthlessly killed by Marcus, but later Master Lin takes him to his funeral to pay tribute to the person he has murdered.
In one interview, Miles Orion Feldsott, a co-showrunner, points out the reason why violence plays a key role is for artistic purpose, to "examine" the "dark things in our society."
"I don't think we're really interested, necessarily, in, 'Oh, violence is cool and it's edgy.' It's more about, what are the consequences of that?" Feldsott said. He further added King's Dominion is a "metaphor for all of the institutions and systems and the relationship dynamics that push basically good kids towards a darker side or towards an ugliness in the world." Rick Remender, the creator of 'Deadly Class', who is also translating the comic for TV adaptation, said in an interview he was a "victim" of violence growing up and that is reflected in his work.
Remender's art got him disconnected from the reality of it. He further added he got into the "metaphor of it all, where the violence and the awfulness and the horrible people are all representational of things that are universal that we've actually dealt with. Then, of course, in the last five years, the world changes more and more. It continues to get worse."
The series takes place in the Reagen era where funds are cut short and a lot of injustice is prevailing. Marcus, in fact, blames the then President for the death of his parents, who were killed by a schizophrenic lady named Barbara Salinger, right after patients from mental facilities were released. Marcus is bent on his goal to kill "the Gripper," and the opening scene of the pilot spoke about the political assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Serb-Bosnian youth sparking the outbreak of World War I.
However, where the show draws its line with regards to violence is when it comes to the usage of guns in school premises. "We're not gonna ever see a gun in that school for a million reasons. 'Cause we're no longer able ... the Battle Royale of it all has seeped into our actual existence. It's no longer fantasy. It's no longer something that you can look at through a prism. You're now living it," said Remender.
Feldsott also added that the school that is now addressed as the 'Hogwarts for assassins,' will not feature guns in the school premises because the idea of the show is to be a heightened world, disconnected from the reality, and sadly, guns in school are the reality of the country today. "We can explore these themes without making people feel too uncomfortable about the current state of the world.”
'Deadly Class' airs Wednesdays 10/9c on Syfy.