CBS’s new drama SCORPION is labeled as ‘inspired by a true story.’ It tells the tale of Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel, Game of Thrones), a genius who was recruited by the government at a young age because of his superior hacking skills, then felt burned when they misused what he developed for them. Now, as an adult leading a group of social outcasts like himself, though each has their unique strengths, Walter is sucked back into the agency he abandoned.
SCORPION’s pilot is extremely entertaining, to say the least. The pacing is fast, the stakes are higher, and action sequences pump up the adrenaline. The characters are all fun and likeable, with a dynamic that is enticing and contains many amusing quirks. Lives are at stake, but as one might expect, the heroes will surely win the day. I would dare anyone to watch this initial hour and not enjoy it.
That being said, the pilot is riddled with holes. How many times can characters stop to talk as the clock ticks down? There are action pauses that don’t make sense, too. Why is Walter the only one who can fix LAX’s computer system when they surely have an IT staff? Why does it take someone with an IQ pushing 200 to think of rolling back a software update that doesn’t work? That’s troubleshooting 101! And don’t even get me started about the big airplane scene.
Which makes this basically summer, popcorn-style fluff. But it’s not airing during the summer; it’s attempting to be a regular-season weekly show that will pump out twenty-some episodes a year. With the current formula, that will get old pretty quick.
The acting is decent. SCORPION has put together a capable cast, a feat dozens of other crime shows have done, too, though this group may be just a bit better. This includes: Robert Patrick (True Blood) as Agent Gallo, the law enforcement representative who shares a past with Walter; Katharine McPhee (Smash) as the hot waitress, Paige, with the genius son who makes a connection with the usually anti-social Walter; Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie) as charmer Toby; Ari Stidham (Huge) as anal-retentive Sylvester; and Jadyn Wong (Being Erica) as Happy, who considers herself the ‘normal’ one of the group. I assume Paige’s son, who isn’t listed among the principal cast, isn’t important, though he should be if the series wants character development.
The ‘hook’ about the intelligence level of most of the characters is simply a gimmick. Without that, this is pretty much the same series as Bones, NCIS,, and plenty of others, lacking anything original. What this means is talent is being wasted on a repetitive procedural, though that seems to be CBS’s favorite kind of show, perhaps because of the large ratings the lucky ones garner, a phenomena I do not understand when so much higher-quality fare is readily available.
Now, SCORPION could be very good. I still watch Bones as my one allowed example of this type of series because the cast is so damn delightful that I can’t resist them. SCORPION actually has the potential to replace Bones for me when it goes off the air, presumably soon, if it fixes its writing. I like the characters, the tone, and the pacing. I just hope it allows itself to evolve and build upon its best parts. Even better would be if it goes serial, ditching the case-of-the-week stuff, but I think that’s probably too much to hope for.
Despite its flaws, I like SCORPION, which is not something I can say about all of its peers. Given time, it may grow into something worth watching, though it will never be the cream of the crop. It’s just not very watchable yet.
SCORPION airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.