The pitch black humour in this graphic novel adaption sets it apart from other angst-fuelled high school stories – you’d expect nothing less than the sharpest writing in a show about assassins.
In Deadly Class, Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth), a homeless orphaned teen, is recruited into a highly prestigious, very secretive school, Kings Dominion, run by a mysterious Master Lin (Benedict Wong). The school’s mission? To mould young psychopathic minds into finely honed killing machines.
It’s here that Marcus hopes to find a sense of purpose (he’s got nothing to lose, right?), while avoiding the police for a massacre he’s not actually responsible for. This fuels his reputation as a killer among his fellow students – mostly all from legacy crime families.
It’s clear very early on that this isn’t an ordinary school. The rules are more around not killing other students, than the ones you’d be familiar with.
Teen tropes are given a deadly twist
This is a show about high school kids, so expect the typical high school tropes, but with a deadly twist: the jocks are KGB and the cheerleaders are literal Nazis.
Not being from a legacy family, Marcus doesn’t quite fit into any of the killer cliques and finds himself with The Rats, a group of fellow outcasts. With someone from Marcus’s past hunting him down, he’ll need all the help he can get.
Marcus’s journal entries and narrations give us some nihilistic observations that tend to feel a little Catcher in the Rye at times, which is fitting considering its bookish origins.
The show doesn’t let you forget these origins either. It feels very much like a graphic novel – not just in the striking visuals and bold colours, but with the illustrated flashbacks.
These are woven into each episode, giving context and tragic back stories to each character, helping frame their desperate motives. They’re all just trying to survive, no matter what it takes.
Slaying the 80s nostalgia vibe
Yes, Deadly Class goes all-out on the 80s nostalgia (killer 80’s soundtrack included), but don’t expect a Stranger Things-esque plucky-kids-take-down-a-monster theme. There’s so much more going on here. There’s no neat, glossy moral lesson to be gleaned, and it leaves you questioning good vs evil, nature vs nurture. Are these kids all just natural-born psychos? How much of their background made them who they are?
Deadly Class is dark, twisted, graphic, visually striking, and highly addictive. It’s the pure escapism we need in these strange times. The themes of belonging are relatable – especially now, when we’re all feeling a degree of disconnectedness.