Joe and Anthony Russo have had quite the interesting career. Following several episodes of the comedy cult classic, Community, and the film You, Me, and Dupree, the brothers made a splash with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. Fans have long wondered what the duo’s next move would be after Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, and last year the brothers announced they were producing an adaptation of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class.
Set in 1987 at the height of Regan’s presidency, Deadly Class follows Marcus Lopez Arguello (Benjamin Wadsworth), a homeless youth who is aimless after the horrific death of his parents and wanted by the police after the boys’ home he was living in was burned to the ground. Marcus is approached by Master Lin (Benedict Wong), the head of Kings’ Dominion-a secret school dedicated to the deadly arts of assassination. Here the standard high school cliques are replaced by the Yakuza, white supremacists, and death cults. Instead of science classes, you learn how to poison your targets. Gym class is replaced by self-defense, and so on.
The Russos approach this series with the utmost care, especially considering that they are working alongside the creators. Remender is an executive producer and co-wrote the pilot with Miles Olson Feldsott, while Craig contributed to a flashback sequence in the pilot. The Russos get the look and the feel of the Regan Era just right-down to the mixtapes that the King’s Dominion students slide into their boomboxes.
The violence is handled with care as well. I realize that this sounds like an oxymoron but most of the currently adult-themed TV series tend to use violence as a crutch, a bloody version of jangling car keys in front of a baby. In the hands of director Lee Toland Krieger, the bloodshed in the pilot is measured out and used (especially in Master Lin’s case) to instruct.
The pilot’s success is largely due to its amazing cast. Kudos to Sarah Hailey Finn-another Marvel Studios veteran-for selecting actors who fully embody their roles. Wadsworth, a relative newcomer, endears the audience to Marcus. From his introduction, shivering on the streets, to a moment where he contemplates suicide, to confronting a fellow student, you will be rooting for him. Wong brings a steely composure to the table as Master Lin, and Liam James is bursting with manic, infectious energy as skater kid Billy.
However, the standout is Lana Condor as Saya-the daughter of a high ranking Yakuza official. Saya is, in a word, badass. She has a fight scene early in the pilot against a group of police officers and easily dispatches them without ever having to draw her signature katana. Yet at the same time, she has a soft side-she is the one who convinces Marcus not to commit suicide, and ends up being his sponsor at Kings’ Dominion. Much like Marcus, the audience can’t help but fall for her.
Deadly Class is a standout in the rising tide of comic book adaptations. If you love Harry Potter, The Breakfast Club, or the work of Quentin Tarantino-or all of the above, this is the series for you. Deadly Class premieres on Wednesday, January 16th. The pilot is available to watch on YouTube and I highly recommend you watch it now.
Deadly Class, Episode 1
Deadly Class is a standout in the rising tide of comic book adaptations. If you love Harry Potter, The Breakfast Club, or the work of Quentin Tarantino-or all of the above, this is the series for you.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.