Deadly Class’s second episode, Noise, Noise, Noise, was just as amazing as its pilot. It lived up to its title, from the noise of the loud house party Marcus and the Rats coerce another student into hosting, to the noise in Willie and Marcus’ heads as they process the murder of Rory the night before. Then there’s the extra loud sound of a gun being fired very close to Maria’s head.
But let’s save that for later. Chico isn’t ready to spoil the surprise yet.
The episode begins with a long, morning-after monologue from Marcus, reflecting on the events of the night before and what it means in the context of the larger world. In the end, it comes down to nihilism and tribalism.
“Sat up all night expecting to feel like a terrible person. Did he deserve it? Does it matter? Morality’s just comfort food. It holds no meaning outside of our minds. Like the Mona Lisa, something a lot of people imagine value in, reading something into that idiot half-smile smear of paint, one big group hallucination, the sort of thing that makes it possible for a place like this to exist. Turbines that suck in the innocent and spit out blood-soaked Wall Street cannibals. Perspective stained by company rationalizations. What are you gonna do? Throughout evolution, without a tribe, you were alone and dead, so you sucked it up. Worked with the *ssh*les. That’s all we are now. Gangs of capitulating *ssh*les. Every border, every nation, every war, every ounce of racism, every religion: tribalism. Spineless politicians hypnotically finger-f**king an ancient instinct to secure alliances. And a great excuse to screw with the new kid.”
During his speech, Marcus makes his way through the school and its cliques, as they bond with each other, square off against each other, posture and pose, until he reaches the Rat’s graveyard hangout on the roof, where Billy and Petra are discussing INXS. Billy can’t understand why Petra would like the band when they’re so different from her usual style. Petra has two words for him: Michael Hutchence.
She makes a good point.
Marcus is looking for a fix of whatever mind altering substance he can get his hands on, but the entire school is out of stock. We soon discover why Marcus wants to short circuit his brain, when he starts seeing visions of Rory, with the world around him tinted blood red.
In Poisons Lab, Mr Denke is lecturing on synthetic poisons and their exciting uses by the US and Soviet governments. Class homework is to make a list of the synthetic poisons being stockpiled by the governments of the world. One classmate suggests that Marcus could kill Reagan by slipping poison into his jelly beans. He means it as a joke, but it would be worth a shot.
In Study Hall, Marcus continues to contemplate how to blend in and look normal in a school for assassins, while freaking out that he’s now a murderer. Saya enigmatically looks over his shoulder for a moment, then walks away. Another student rejects his overture.
Denke joins Marcus outside for a cigarette They discuss Reagan and the damage he’s done to already marginalized populations, especially AIDS victims. Denke has watched too many friends and loved ones die from the disease. Marcus talks about killing Reagan, but Denke says that people like The Gipper never pay for their actions. Marcus says that just being angry is easy. He’s going to do something about it.
Denke looks at Marcus with admiration. “You have the thing this school is supposed to nurture, and they all see it. And that’s why they’ll try and destroy you.”
In AP Black Arts, Willie stands in front of the class, and recounts how he murdered Rory the night before. He tells the story as if he did everything himself, alone. He gives a little triumphant laugh at the end.
Master Lin lectures the rest of the class. He is quietly furious that even with so much riding on this test, only one student could complete the assignment. The rest of the class will be given a new assignment. It probably won’t be as pleasant as the first one. In fact, the stakes are life or death. Survivors get to continue at the school. Failures die and are expelled. He throws them out of the classroom.
Except for Willie. He gets to watch the test with Master Lin, and feel like a fraud the entire time.
Out in the hall, various students complain. Saya completed the assignment, but couldn’t find proof. Victor injured someone, but didn’t murder them. Chico was on a job for his mob boss dad.
Barred gates close off their section of corridor, and Master Lin reads a rhyme aloud. “I’m alive without breath and cold as death. I’m never thirsty, but always drinking. What am I? To pass this quiz and survive the poison gas, you need to make it to the botanical classroom and solve this riddle in 5 minutes.”
Various students either panic or try to force the gates. Marcus takes one of Brandy Lynn’s hairpins and uses it to pick the lock. No one shows any gratitude or respect, but I don’t think Marcus expected any.
They slowly make their way through the darkened corridors, until Marcus steps on a loose floor tile, which releases several monks who are martial arts experts. The students narrowly win the fight, allowing them to enter the botanical room.
Marcus figures out that the antidote is the plant with the fish symbol attached to it, but everyone passes out before they can take it. Maria musters up enough strength to get to the plant. She eats a leaf herself, then puts one in the mouth of each if her classmates. She hesitates when she gets to Chico, but saves him, too.
As they walk back through the common room, they find a dweeby student, named Shabnam, campaigning for class president. Viktor dumps a trash can over his head. Marcus removes it, ensuring that Shabnam will follow him everywhere, like a puppy.
At lunch, Lex looks over the campaign mixtape Shabnam gave Marcus, which includes U2, Bananarama, Def Leppard and Whitesnake, and pronounces it substandard. Marcus asks what happened to the students who didn’t make it to the botanical room. Petra tells him they died, but Billy says, “Nah, gothic oompah-loompah monks revive the losers and whisk them back from whence they came.”
Which I take to mean they are expelled, since they aren’t ruthless enough, smart enough, or tribalistic enough to have made the cut.
Shabnam waves at Marcus from across the room, prompting Petra, Billy and Lex to introduce him to a new clique: The Goop Patrol- bankers’ kids, mafia accountants, NASA… in other words, the geeky, math and computer side of the business. As in all schools, they are at the bottom of the coolness hierarchy, but they will literally own everyone else once they get out in the real world. When Shabnam sits at their table, everyone but Marcus feels their social stock bottom out.
Then he starts talking about Spuds MacKenzie commercials, and something dies inside them. Shabnam wonders if they actually give the dog beer, which makes you wonder how someone so gullible hasn’t been cut from the school or accidentally died yet.
Possibly it’s because he hasn’t met Marcus. Who he now invites over to his house for a parentless computer game party, with a little amaretto on the side if they decide to get crazy. Marcus smells an opportunity, and talks Shabnam into expanding the guest list, since the school doesn’t have any partying opportunities at the moment, and Shabnam needs to find a way to increase his popularity if he wants to win the election.
It’ll be a win-win situation, right?
Saya and Maria hang around in Maria’s room for some girl time and to share secrets. They both confess that they’ve kissed Marcus. Saya says that it was the easiest way to lure him back to the school. Maria wanted to convince him to kill Chico for her. Saya tells Maria that Master Lin has made Marcus her secret pledge, so she’s responsible for everything he does.
Saya doesn’t think they should keep talking about Marcus, because now they need to pass the Bechdel test. So, she asks why Maria hid her medication. Maria points out the irony of Saya, of all people, being upset that someone kept a secret. Maria says that she doesn’t tell Saya everything. Saya thinks this is a pretty big secret and, as her close friend, Maria should have told her. But Saya agrees that they should be careful to hide it from everyone else.
The medication is valproate, used to treat bipolar disorder.
Saya changes the subject again, this time to the party. She thinks they need to have some fun, but she doesn’t want Maria to bring Chico. Maria argues that she has Chico under control, but Saya worries that he knows Maria tried to have him killed.
Chico comes into the room, insisting that he’s taking Maria out on a special date instead of to the party. Saya tries to argue for Maria to have a choice, but Chico shuts her down. Maria goes along with what Chico wants.
Shabnam lives in a huge bourgeois mansion in a suburban development. The party is already out of control by the time Marcus arrives. Dwight Shandy, a guy in his fifties who brought the drugs, is wandering around acting as a stoned Greek chorus. Billy wants tonight to be the night he finally tells Petra how he feels. Saya encourages him to go for it. She tells him he’s a catch.
Marcus is still just looking to get high. Or drunk. Comfortably numb in whatever way comes into his hands first.
Chico takes Maria to a nice restaurant for dinner, where he undercuts and insults her, generally making her feel stupid about everything. But always in a sweet, gentle tone of voice, because he’s only trying to help her. He moves on to reminding her that he loves and owns her, and he won’t allow her to leave him. She’s going to marry him because he wants her, and she’s nothing without him.
Marcus has finally gotten drunk and puts on his headphones to listen to his music in relative peace. Willie has been telling and retelling the story of how he killed Rory, all day long. He notices Marcus, and pulls off his headphones to see what Marcus is listening to. It’s the Smiths, who Marcus find brave, honest and fearless about sadness. Most people hide their sadness like it’s a weakness, acting tough instead, but not the Smiths.
Willie thinks it’s wack. When you have a rep to maintain, if people think you’re weak, they’ll come at you. Marcus is fine with that. He wants to know which snakes are the ones who bite. Willie saves him some time- at King’s Dominion, they all bite.
Billy spots Petra sitting on a couch and gets ready to make his confession, but Lex interrupts. Marcus notices what happened and gets angry with Lex, but he stomps into the bathroom, rather than start a fistfight. Saya follows him. She gets philosophical about the facial scars he got in the boys home, then wants to make out.
Marcus gets distracted before they kiss even once. Willie is telling the story of his great murder adventure, again. Marcus rushes out into the room, shoves Willie and tells him to shut up, then heads out to the porch to brood. Willie follows.
Willie asks if Marcus wants to talk about it. Marcus says no, but he’s still having blood red flashes of Rory. He grabs Willie’s cup, but realizes that it just has fruit punch in it. Marcus confronts Willie about the lie he lives, posing as a hard-core gangster on the outside, when he’s actually sober, peaceful and cautious on the inside.
Willie shares his history. When he was younger, his parents got in trouble with the wrong people. He was in the kitchen with his dad one day when a gang busted in, ready to kill them. His dad’s gun was within Willie’s reach on the kitchen table, but out of reach for his dad. His dad told Willie to use it, so he did, and he killed the whole gang. But the gun was powerful, and he didn’t have control of it. He accidentally killed his dad, too.
His mother told everyone that he killed the gang to get revenge for them killing his father. That’s how he got his reputation. She knows the truth. After that, Willie swore he’d never hurt anyone again. Marcus understands that Willie was just a kid in a bad situation.
Willie tells Marcus not to ever call him out like that again. If he ever loses his rep, or they ever find out the truth about what happened, he’s dead. Marcus survives his way, and he needs to let Willie survive in the way that’s working for him.
Billy is having an existential crisis, leading him to search the kitchen cupboards for a box of Quaker Oats, his personal symbol of God. When he was little, he noticed that every house had Quaker Oats, with the picture of the benevolent old white man on the front, and he became certain that it was actually God watching over everyone. He needs God now, but Shabnam’s house doesn’t have any Quaker Oats.
Shabnam’s parents must be secret Satanists. Also, you could do worse than the Quaker God, with oatmeal as your sacrament.
Marcus, who is a true friend and prophet, knows that Billy is just nervous about talking to Petra, so he shoves Billy toward where she’s eating by the kitchen island. Billy goes a bit overboard, telling her she’s smart and funny, and he thinks he loves her. The “I love you” maybe should have waited until they’d tried hanging out as a couple a few times.
Petra is taken aback and doesn’t know what to say. Billy senses that she needs a minute, and goes to get her a glass of water. While he’s gone, Petra makes a quick escape with Viktor. It looks like it was preplanned, but I’m not 100% certain. Billy is crushed.
Petra has zero taste in men. But then, she’s the emo girl who’s self-destructive, so of course she won’t go for the decent guy who really likes her and will be good to her. But do we need both Maria and Petra, two of the three women who speak regularly, to be self-loathing women who go for awful men? Or is that just the fantasy woman of the writers? Even Saya is submissive after she’s spoken her mind.
Billy watches Petra lead Viktor upstairs, then moodily drowns his sorrows. Lex makes bad jokes, which only makes things worse. Afterward, Viktor comes downstairs naked, and tries to turn the party into a naked party. Nobody goes for it.
Chico and Maria have settled into enjoying their dinner when Emilio, an acquaintance from the cartel, stops by their table to say hello. Chico asks him to join them for a drink. Maria is annoyed, since she skipped out on her own friends at Chico’s insistence.
Marcus has successfully gotten drunk, but alcohol is actually depressant, so it’s made his depression worse and now he’s spiraling.
Marcus: “You lie to yourself, tell yourself you’re a hero, and it feels so good. Fight Chico for Maria. Start s**t with Lex. Pull Shabnam out of the trash. Do Willie’s assignment. In a place full of people so focussed on self-interest, you’re the dipshit putting yourself on the line for strangers? And what does it get you?”
Brandy Lynn tells a loud, racist joke. It’s just the excuse Marcus has been looking for. He throws his drink in her face and hurls an insult at her. She jumps up, ready to take him on, but Saya drags him away, telling Brandy that he’s drunk, so she’ll take care of it. She’s figured out that he was the one who killed Rory, but he won’t talk about it.
Marcus ends up on the living room couch with Dwight Shandy, drug dealer and philosopher. He gives Marcus a joint and explains that alcohol fuels discontent, so young people should do more weed. Marcus points out how much drunk people accomplish, compared to stoned people, and Shandy gives up on him. He leaves Marcus with the joint, though.
The party starts to disintegrate, what with Victor naked, Lex wearing Shabnam’s mother’s underwear and beating people with a giant dildo, Saya using a blade to cut the dildo down to size, and Shabnam generally having a meltdown. Then the cops arrive. Marcus tries to leave, but seeing cops triggers horrible visions of Rory.
Chico invites Emilio to continue to party with them after dinner. They all get into a car, then Chico turns and shoots Emilio in the head. Emilio was sitting next to Maria. His blood spatters her face. Chico tells the driver, who is one of his gang from school, to get rid of the body and tell his father it’s done.
He gets in the back seat with Maria, who is crying, and tells her that he loves her, but she needed a reminder. He knows she tried to have Marcus kill him. She’s his fiance, and she’ll be his wife and raise his children. But if she ever does anything like that again, she’ll wish he’d killed her.
In the morning, Master Lin wakes Marcus up and has him put on a suit, then takes him to Rory’s funeral. Master Lin says that he thought Marcus might have known Rory. He encourages Marcus to speak at the funeral. Marcus can’t think of a single good thing to say about Rory, so he tells the truth about what a terrible person Rory was during the time Marcus knew him, and says that Rory chose to be the terrible person he was. Rory’s daughter spits on him as he walks away, but a large part of Marcus’ burden has been lifted from him.
Marcus asks why Master Lin brought him to the funeral. Lin says it’s important they face their victims. He shows Marcus Rory’s police record. Rory was wanted for 6 murders. Lin says that Marcus probably prevented many more.
There are also all of the murders that will never be reported.
Master Lin reiterates his idea that it’s up to people like him and Marcus, who have the instinct and the fortitude for it, to protect everyone else. The opinions of the rest of the world are noise (noise, noise).
Master Lin: “Erasing that human stain doesn’t mean you absorb it. You made the world better. Over time you’ll see it. I, for one, am very proud of you.”
He pats Marcus on the shoulder. Marcus has waited a long time to have a father again, and to have that father approve of him, just as he is, darkness and all. His face shows how much Master Lin’s words mean to him. He’s hooked.
Master Lin shows Marcus to his new permanent room assignment. His roommate is Shabnam, who is badly bruised. Perhaps Mommy and Daddy didn’t take the news of the party well?
Both boys eye each other warily. They both need friends and people they can trust. Shabnam seems like the loyal, grounded type, which Marcus could use, and we’ve already seen that Shabnam can benefit from Marcus’ protection and street smarts. But first, they have to get past whatever resentment Shabnam might have about the party. Or did the epic party make him a living legend at the school?
Saya reports to Master Lin to discuss Marcus. She was the one who tipped him off that Marcus killed Rory. He tells her, “The deeds of your pledge are yours to share.”
That’s great when Marcus does well. Not so great when he screws up. She’s his secret mother.
Master Lin asks her to list Marcus’ weaknesses. Without hesitation, Saya reels off that he’s a liability with the cops, a substance abuser, and a liar. His greatest weakness is his need for friends and family.
Master Lin senses that there’s something she’s not telling him. Saya confesses that Marcus didn’t kill the 12 kids at the boys home. This gives Lin pause. If Marcus didn’t kill them, who did?
The cops are called to the Mother Goose Fun Time Petting Zoo because a pervert is abusing the goats. The delinquent has set a trap for the officer who answers the call. He has severe burn scars, and he wants the cop to help him find his “old pal” Marcus, who he blames for burning down the boys home.
The animal abuse was completely unnecessary.
Marcus, Saya and Chico actually completed the AP Black Arts assignment, but none got credit, for various reasons. Willie, Maria and Juan were accessories and should get partial credit. We were shown Marcus and Chico’s murders. Saya slipped in her confession in the chaos just before the hallway was gassed. She is an immaculate figure, so she completes assignments perfectly, but we aren’t shown the dirty, messy details.
Marcus does the easy thing to rescue Shabnam from Victor, and says he won’t watch someone get bullied. But then he turns around and exploits Shabnam for his own personal gain. He trust issues have a tendency to turn into loyalty issues.
Marcus taught Shabnam a valuable lesson about wolves in sheep’s clothing. What will Shabnam’s lesson for Marcus be? Lin put them together for a reason. It could be to develop a friendship, but it could be to develop an understanding of natural consequences. Shabnam seemed sweet, but he’s in a school for assassins. Presumably he has another side to him.
Willie’s flashback is told using animation in the style of the comics, making it a cool tie in for comics fans, and adding another texture to the show’s artistic style. He’s become one of the most fleshed out characters, with a sympathetic backstory and intriguing possibilities for the future. He’s also the ultimate tragic-popular teenager, hiding his heartbreaking backstory in order to survive and maintaining his reputation only because he needs it.
Saya sees and knows everything that happens in the school. Marcus is nearly as good at figuring people out as she is. It won’t take him long to figure out the lay of the land at King’s Dominion. Eventually, the two of them could run the school from behind the scenes, while letting the “popular” kids think they’re in charge.
I love Master Lin’s lessons with Marcus. I hope we get a sense of how many students he takes under his wing for personal attention. Is it just Marcus? Saya also seems to be someone Lin knows very well, but her potential is now being devoted to developing Marcus’ potential instead.
It continues to make me uncomfortable that Master Lin insists that Marcus has not just the right, but the duty, to determine who should die, and to kill them. As long as we can all remember that this is metaphorical, it’s okay. But I still have a hard time with telling teenage boys that it’s okay for them to decide to go kill people they disagree with.
What About the Girls?
I want to hope that someone knows about Maria’s situation and can eventually help her, but she’s in deep with more than just Chico. If something happens to him, his family will come after her. While Master Lin has been proactive in helping Marcus, Maria’s abusive situation appears to be beneath his notice.
Lin has noticed Saya’s talents, but rather than cultivating her skills for her own sake, she’s been pushed into taking care of Marcus. The writers have made her the pure, untouchable virgin on a pedestal, a stifling position that makes it difficult to live life as a normal person. On top of that, she’s a wise mother figure to the school, providing the best advice to everyone, while never engaging in relationships herself.
This all calls into question Master Lin’s level of commitment to training the girls.
Brandy-Lynn continues to be my favorite female character, while Petra falls flat for me. I love both Maria and Saya, and the actresses who play them, but they revolve around the boys. Brandy-Lynn is the only girl who is independent of the male characters, free to be completely herself and not a victim. She is, of course, a villain, because this show is not even remotely equal or progressive in its treatment of women. I’m tolerating that because there’s so much else to love about it, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Putting on a pretty veneer of cool makeup and costumes and allowing the girls to fight doesn’t take away from the gendered stereotypes they’re living out, or the fact that there are far fewer female characters than male. Taking 2 minutes per episode to make sure you pass the Bechdel test doesn’t make up for the lack of storylines devoted to the female characters’ lives, desires, traumas or histories as themselves, rather than as a girlfriend (Maria) or a surrogate daughter and assigned caretaker (Saya).
Then there’s Petra, who does almost nothing but posture and be fought over by boys. Lex, Billy and Victor all have more lines and reveal more about themselves through their actions, while Petra sits, still and quiet.
Which is why I’m hungry for every glimpse of Brandy-Lynn I can find, since even as a background character, she’s full of life and personality.
Images courtesy of SYFY.