TV Review: Scorpion

E: I’m not going to say that I was let down by Scorpion, exactly, but I definitely hoped for better.

M: Honestly, it was about what I expected it to be, and I enjoyed it.

E: So did Mr. E.

M: And Mrs M!

E: I’m not sold, though.

M: Okay, let’s dig in.  What didn’t you like?  Because even though I liked it, I had a lot of quibbles, too.

E: Here’s what I think is off about the show: first, lead Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) spends too much time staring meaningfully at the camera, at the distance, and at Katherine McPhee.

M: Ok, stopping you there. I don’t think that’s him staring meaningfully. I think that’s the character being borderline on the autism spectrum.

E: What, really? See, that’s more of what I expected, but he didn’t seem autistic to me. Granted I don’t know a lot of adults with autism, but isn’t the avoidance of eye contact a key feature of that condition?

M: Well, first and foremost you have to remember that this is a TV portrayal, so it’s not going to be THAT accurate of someone who is actually on the spectrum.

E: If he’s not displaying characteristics of autism, then I don’t see how you can even use the word!

M: However, I think he’s supposed to be more borderline than on, and just have his moments of social awkwardness. I know that you and C scoffed at the concept in our preview, but I thing we run in very different circles. I know lots of hyper-intelligent people, especially in the computer field (which I work in, new readers) who have serious social issues. Not talking, or taking times where they just kind of check out of conversation is definitely one of them.

E: He didn’t remotely strike me as someone with a problem connecting with people – he was warm and approachable and very kind and complimentary.  Which made him likable, but not at all what the awkward, socially unaware person he claimed to be (or what I was expecting).

M: I think for the purposes of the show they are trying to tread a fine line. I think they want to make him seem mostly normal, but I think they want to have him seem slightly off, too. I think they want us to see him as an adult version of McPhee’s son…. if he’s had the right training and the right people around him, but still with a little work to do.

E: And I guess I’m saying that I simply didn’t see that in him, while you did.  Now, my second issue concern the way the action intersects with the skill set of the team of geniuses.

M: I’m not sure what you mean. ‘splain.

E: Well, here’s a specific example. Our intrepid gang of genius heroes must race across town to a small airport. Car chases are all well and good, but when Walter and Paige (McPhee) are speeding off through LA and the team hacks the traffic system so that they have green lights all the way, wouldn’t it have been a little more practical to have the lights change more than a second or two before they arrived at each intersection?  They narrowly escaped getting hit every single time.

M: Yeah, that was a bit ridiculous. I kept expecting the payoff scene where the hackers got ahead of the  car and there was a string of green lights for a mile or so.

E: More than a bit, I’d say.  Let’s be real; at that time differential, the only thing the nominal green light is going to get you is out of a ticket.

M: Which you’re not getting anyway because you’re on emergency federal business.

E: For people who claim to be offended by the idea of sacrificing the few to save the many, they sure are willing to wreck a bunch of cars. Which basically means they’re either totally callous to the people driving those cars, or incompetent hackers.

M: Oh, they’re totally incompetent hackers, but I’ll get to that later.

E: Then, okay, I get the whole “I was too lost in math to pay the bills” thing from math genius Sylvester, but then why was he the guy in charge of paying the bills?  Walter seems more on task than that. The rest of the team seems more on task than that.  Plus, it’s not like it’s 1985.  You can set up an automatic payment schedule so you don’t have to remember to pay your bills.  You don’t even have to be a computer genius to do it.

M: Trusting the compulsive gambler to pick up payment for a job wasn’t a genius move either. However, they were setting up the team as being in desperate financial need, and I was willing to give them some leeway in doing so.

E: I suppose. Honestly, I feel like the more I think about this show, the more annoyed I get.

M: See, that’s the thing, I don’t think it’s going to be that kind of show. Well, at least if the pilot is any indication. You’ll need to just take it at face value, enjoy it, then put it from your mind.

E: You mean, the kind of show where things make sense?  It’s all so patronizing, somehow. These lonely geniuses need a mom to help them think inside the box! And obviously, to hand them the right kind of chalk, because chalk options can be so confusing.

M: You’re clearly both not OCD, and far removed from the world of socially awkward smart people (like many computer programmers). I could see several people I know in the situations you’re mocking.

E: I suppose it is a big step up from my teenage years that you no longer count me as a socially awkward smart person.

M: Oh no, I still do. Being far removed from that world also means you can’t see it in yourself. 😉

E: The thing about it, right, is that neither “mechanical genius” Happy Quinn nor psychology expert  Toby Curtis seem like they need any help talking to people.

M: Which doesn’t mean they’re not socially awkward.

E: And for all his talk about how he can’t understand folks, O’Brien seems pretty intuitive and emotional to me.  But maybe they’re just not willing to say that what they need, and find in McPhee, is a really excellent brainstormer?

M: They need, basically, a boss. Someone to organize them and keep them in check. Someone who can pick up on things like the things you mentioned above and put the right people on the right jobs. Oh, and to reel them in when they are being socially awkward.

E: True.  Too bad they’re not calling her their boss, though.

M: Maybe they will. Now, I’ll get to my big gripe. First, I feel like I need to say that I really did enjoy the show. The real problem I had with it was the problem they had to solve, and specifically how they solved it. The short version of it was: LAX’s computer system got a bug, putting about 50 planes in danger. Genius team is brought in and they …. get a back up copy of the software, loaded it, and save the day. I work in the computer industry. Not only would LAX have an IT department that would have an understanding of how to do that, they would have done it within minutes of the problem surfacing. The off-site data center where the back up was stored would not have been abandoned in the middle of the day… or ever. I could go on, but won’t.

E: Heh.  I’ve heard that this show is based on a real roving team of geniuses, but you can’t prove it by this plot at all; the episode did a lot more telling about its characters brains than showing them off.

M: Like I said, ultimately I enjoyed the show. The interaction with McPhee’s son was enjoyable.

E: Now that bit – especially when they play chess with him using the condiments on the diner counter – I liked too.

M: The members of the team were enjoyable, especially Stiffler and Jadyn Wong’s Quinn. Overall it was just fun.

E: I’m thinking it’s not going to be fun for me – I just have too many problems with it.  This is probably a dumb critique, by the way, but Elyes Gabel doesn’t look Irish, even though we literally see him dragged off a farm in Ireland and away from his very Irish looking family for hacking into NASA as a 9 year old.

M: No, that’s not a dumb critique at all! Mrs M and I watched separately, but in discussing the show that was one of the first things we talked about!

E: I got kind of excited that they might be going with a lead of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent, so it just seems like a wasted opportunity to do something different.

M: The worst part was that his family looked soooo stereo-typically Irish, then this Middle Eastern looking kid comes out of the house. Just wrong.

E: YES!  Exactly!  And if he’s from Ireland, why does he not have an accent?

M: I can see that, actually. If he came here when he was 9, he’d be a prime candidate to lose it. I have friends that moved here from non-English speaking countries in their teen years and lost accents pretty completely.

E: Sure, but did they really take him at 9 and never return him?  That seems unlikely.

M: That was the impression I got, unlikely or not.

E: Perhaps, because either way his accent is definitely American. Also, wow, when did the T1000 get wrinkles?  I didn’t even know who I was looking at when Robert Patrick’s Agent Gallo showed up with a project for O’Brien – and eventually a dream job for his unit (now including McPhee’s Paige) which presumably includes someone else as an office manager.

M: Seriously? I can’t NOT recognize him.

E: I honestly thought he was Jon Voight.

M: Ok, well, I suppose I can see that. And I did know he was in it. But still, whether it was in his stint on The X-Files or on this, Patrick’s always the T1000 to me.

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This entry was posted in TV.

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