A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Deadly Class is about a school that trains teens to be murderers, super-villain style. The levels of violence, language, drug use, and sex are mature, particularly the violence. Characters, even "good" ones, commit murders that are painted as justice -- i.e., they're killing "bad" people. We see on-screen hand-to-hand combat, stabbings, martial arts, and shootings, with blood but no gore. Some violence has a gendered and/or sexual edge: A female character is abused by a male one, a boy tells another about a violent sexual fantasy he masturbated to. There are also references to pedophilia and molestation, like when a boy implies a teacher will want sexual payback for a favor. Students are forbidden to have sex at their school, but they do anyway, and we see characters having sex nude from the side, with private parts obscured, as well as teens kissing and flirting. Teens also routinely smoke pot and drink, and smoke cigarettes. The show's whole viewpoint is dark: "The world respects those who can protect themselves," says an authority figure. Language includes all the four-letter words ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) as well as "bitch," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and the like. Language can also be insulting and racist: "loser," "wetback."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
At the mysterious Kings Dominion school for teens, murder and mayhem are the only syllabus for each DEADLY CLASS. Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) is your typical average just-set-fire-to-an-orphanage-and-killed-12-people teen living on the streets in 1987 San Francisco when he gets a strange visitor: "You don't have to be alone," says Saya (Lana Condor), as she takes him to his new school/home/family, under the direction of brutal Master Lin (Benedict Wong). The kids there study dark arts, hand-to-hand combat, and poison, not English and physics. And with life's deck stacked against him, Marcus feels like this is where he belongs, this is where he can make his greatest dream come true: to assassinate Ronald Reagan.
Is it any good?
Violent and visually beautiful, this melding of Harry Potter, Suicide Squad, and X-Men comes off as less than a sum of its parts because its dramatic beats are too familiar, its point of view too basic. At this point, the idea of a school for super-powered misfits, even violent killers from criminal families, is a narrative cliché; only truly creative writing could lift it out of its been-there-done-that status. But unfortunately, that's not on offer here. The problems are crystallized in the first episode of Deadly Class, with Marcus landing himself in hot water with one of the school's violent gangs when he tries to protect a female classmate he believes to be abused by her violent boyfriend.
There's a concept in comic book fandom known as "fridging," in which female characters are abused, raped, and/or killed merely as a convenient reason for their male love interests to fight villains. Fridging turns female characters into objects, and male ones into verbs; neither are given humanity. So why start what's advertised as something cool and new with something old and tired? Surely in a school for murderers, a deadly female character could protect herself. And male characters shouldn't need a trumped-up reason to look or act heroic. With these kinds of tiresome and regressive ideas anchoring the action, no amount of thick black eyeliner, teens ultra-violencing each other, or alterna-'80s songs on the soundtrack can make this show look fresh and cool. Instead it mainly feels like a waste of good actors and art direction. P.S.: You really had to call one class the "Dark Arts"? Really? You didn't think about maybe picking another name? No one in the writers' room said, "Hey, wasn't that what Snape wanted to teach?" Shrug. Well, OK.
Talk to your kids about ...
What does the word "antihero" mean? Why are antiheroes appealing? What sets them apart from "regular" heroes?
Are any of the Deadly Class students role models? Why or why not?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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