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TV Review / Scorpion (2014)

For a show whose intro professes to have a "team of geniuses" it sure present a tone deaf "parp" when blowing its own trumpet. Genus is often misused for being exceedingly smart and not what it really is (great leaps of imagination, technological or intellectual progress not founded by the majority of people). If you really like pulp shows that have almost zero necessary thought processes, excessively outrageous situations and continuous 'us v them' mentality then this may be the show for you, and you're welcome. If not, read on...

So the show is loosely based on the claims of "inspiration" and executive producer of the show Walter O'Brien, regarding his childhood IQ of an alleged 197 (he didn't keep the "paperwork" to prove this) and another claim that he hacked NASA's systems when he was 13, subsequently giving advice to NASA on said crappy security. Apparently this too has no proven record. Anyway, that's the backstory for why this was made. Incidentally, it made me think of Gary McKinnon, a computer expert who broke through NASAs systems and said their security was shite and that's why it was so easy. McKinnon also faced an extradition order widely publicised. Also, many conversations could be had about transferring childhood IQ to adults (not the same) and whether IQ (or EQ for that matter) is a real measurement for anything at all. But this is not the place.

So, Walter O'Brien (played by Elyes Gabel, who every Brit may remember as Guppy in Casualty or a Dothraki guy who gets his head chopped off in Game of Thrones) is an alleged genius with a 197 IQ. He broke through NASAs security systems aged 8 so he could use some of their blueprints for his bedroom wall. Sure, acceptable. He has no emotional quotient (EQ) and is allegedly , unapologetically blunt and direct because of his genius. That could be anyone really, but OK, blame being an alleged genius for being a prick.

The problem with this is that the group of alleged geniuses all have personality defects, much like a lot of not-geniuses. They've also all experienced being "different" in their childhoods due to such genius, but again, many people experienced being "different" for a myriad other reasons and don't blame it on being a genius. So, the opening regarding this team of geniuses is already grating as there is currently no evidence for such intellect in the show. Unless being a self-congratulating prick is evidence. Note this is literally only from the first couple of episodes, and to be honest, I'm not surprised Elyes Gabel had issues later on when he heard the live Walter O'Brien's story was yet to be proven in any way, and found it difficult to marry up the discrepancies.

Now, saying this, I actually did enjoy not thinking for the first season, except when my brain went, "no, start thinking, I'm going to shrivel up and die otherwise". I now accept it for it just being a silly outrageous show (though it was meant to be a "dramatic" Big Bang Theory by all accounts). There were some very well-paced thrill-ride episodes, that almost made me forget how ridiculous the plots were, and also some surprisingly good emotional journeys. If you ignore all the mistakes they make that most 'average' people would know as standard, it's a big, silly fun ride of against the clock nonsense that most people would probably enjoy.

I think Sylvester is probably my favourite character, the maths "genius" who's utterly terrified of doing anything outside his comfort zone, and who gradually takes up a huge array of tasks he'd never do before. His sweet romance with Walter's sister, Megan, who is becoming more and more ill with MS was a really nicely rounded story (even though it was actually really quick in a sense, but she was deteriorating, so...). His increasing confidence and standing up to Walter was really well done. The cast in general is pretty good with what they've been given. I watched this because of Elyes Gabel, and he is actually really good as Walter, and being a prick. There is a scene where he quotes some of Romeo and Juliet, and left me wondering why he isn't doing more serious stuff in general. Robert Patrick's former marine/FBI agent and now Homeland Security guy Cabe I enjoyed, because I've been terrified of him since Terminator 2 and so fear disliking anything he's in. Karen Cartwright is perfectly watchable...sorry, I mean Katharine McPhee... She plays a sweet unassuming waitress thrown into a situation she's never been in before... Hold on, that is Karen Cartwright, isn't it? Paige...Paige is her name. Mother of one child genius (really smart child) she doesn't have an extraordinary acting range, but is perfectly good at what she has done. Her voice is also fantastic and so they try and get her singing at any opportunity that can possibly be shoehorned in.

Unfortunately, there are so many places where I felt almost and also actually insulted as a viewer that this self-aggrandising set of twats (and I mean the writers) literally had the characters stood there talking through exactly what was going to happen next, finishing each other's sentences, acting as if they were solving world hunger, when really they were just working out how to open a door and not actually that cleverly. And moments where the writing got so lazy...SO LAZY...that something as huge as having someone deemed unfit to make decisions on their own medical care (who clearly was not unfit to) would result in a magistrate just handing over essentially power of attorney in five minutes BUT NEVER SEEING THIS SCENE HAPPEN. This literally happened, by the way. In one scene Walter was trying to tell his sister she must be intubated in her MS treatment, and she says defiantly no. Next scene, she's intubated and Walter exclaims he got a "court order". What? WHAT?. If deprivation of liberty and power of attorney was so easy why isn't every one just getting all the rich dying folk's POA and reassigning their wills? And Walter being as obnoxious as he can be, how had he managed to convince a magistrate that he isn't just mental himself? What it felt like was the writers not wanting to have to linger on such a huge decision and have it play out over many episodes, and so just pretended it was possible to do this.

There are so many things wrong with this programme if you have expectations too high for the writing team to cope with, and considering this was written about unreasonably highly intelligent characters, there seemed not to be anything that showed this high intellect, and certainly nothing of "genius". There are masses of other shows where characters not shown as "geniuses" are clearly hugely intelligent, capable and not lazy about their own actions. One such show would be "Spooks" on the BBC, when the BBC made proper TV. A show that lasted 10 series and one film (which, Elyes Gabel was actually in, playing an intelligent character who doesn't boast about being clevva because we actually saw his behaviour) and yet managed to keep smart complexity, wit and subversion the entire time.

This might be one show where I agree with the writing maxim: Write what you know. The writers here don't seem to know much at all, which is a shame, because there are plenty of shows with highly intelligent people solving problems outside the scope of the man on the street that don't insult the viewer that they could have gained inspiration from.


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