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Scorpion on CBS started off not as a huge sting in the tail but with a pretty impressive plot for its first show. The cast, which is mostly made up of younger actors, has Robert Patrick to represent the old guard and Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones, Body of Proof) plays real life character Walter O’Brien. The 197 IQ genius is touted on the show as being the fourth smartest man in the world. The series is based upon O’Brien’s true exploits starting with the show’s opening scene where the 12 year-old Walter is caught after hacking the NASA computer system.
English actor Gabel resembles Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Tusk) and when speaking with an American accent sounds quite amazingly like the other actor as well. It is a bit disconcerting especially as Long used to play socially awkward characters at the beginning of his career. Despite this resemblance Gabel sells himself as the socially inept genius who recognises a prodigy when he sees one in Paige’s son Ralph.
Paige is played by Katharine McPhee. This is her second shot as a regular on a television series, the first being Smash. McPhee plays the responsible adult of the newly formed group and she is a good fit for Gabel’s character.
Eddie Kaye Thomas is another actor like Gabel who has a long list of accomplishments under his acting belt, including his work on the American Pie films. He plays the psychiatric expert with the pork pie hat who can read body language and is the least optimistic member of the group.
Scorpion in its pilot episode does not have a huge sting in its tail but it delivers with a great stunt towards the end of the show that involves a passenger jet flying eight feet above a speeding car. The plot dealt with a bug being uploaded at the LAX flight control tower and O’Brien’s team being the only ones who can save the day.
The show’s characters share certain traits common with aspergers and autism which is an inability to connect with other people despite their genius level IQs. All of the actors do a very good job of displaying this behaviour and even though someone on Robert Patrick’s federal agent’s team makes a reference to “Rain Man” not one of the performers felt like they were trying to make that connection.
Despite this socially inept exterior none of the characters are hard to empathise with. Although O’Brien is, perhaps, the easiest to relate to. It could be that his history with Patrick’s Agent Gallo helps, at one point when it looks like people are going to die, Walter says that he knows how that feels. He explains that a guidance system he developed for the military when he was a kid was not used to send aid to impoverished people but was attached to a missile system that caused a lot of innocent people to die. The genius has some residual resentment toward Gallo as he was involved with that program.
Obviously the focus on Scorpion is the newer younger actors and the one sting in the tail for the show is that Robert Patrick does not have enough time in the opening episode. His name and presence has lent a sort of gravitas to the show but the producers need to make the most of his experience and talent in the show to support the younger performers. The first show, dealing with a potential catastrophe in the sky, managed to set up the program for upcoming episodes of the series quickly if not a little implausibly. Guest star Ernie Hudson showed just how it is done as the air traffic controller boss Brooks. Scorpion airs Mondays on CBS.
By Michael Smith