The second season DVD set of CBS’ Scorpion shows it to be something other than a pure procedural – and combine’s its storytelling flexibility with character development in a way that keeps it fresh even after 23 episodes.
Scorpion: Season Two also has a number of solid bonus features and two of the worst commentary tracks I’ve ever heard.
Scorpion is a procedural, but the actual procedural formula – a team of geniuses is presented with a problem and has to solve it – is not the usual. They don’t often have to solve a murder; each week presents a different challenge – stop a terrorist; prevent a long dormant nuclear facility from going critical; figure out how to keep a smart building infected with a computer virus from destroying itself and everyone in it – and the team has to combine their unique gifts to each.
The original team of geniuses includes mechanical prodigy Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong, Being Erica, Debug), behavioral psychologist Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas, How To Make It In America), math wizard Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham, Huge, Con Man) and leader Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel, Game of Thrones, Body of Proof) – a computer wizard who is the Buckaroo Banzai to the others’ Hong Kong Cavaliers.
Also part of the team is kid genius Ralph Dineen (Riley B. Smith) – who became an official part of the team during the first season – and Paige Dineen (Katherine McPhee, Smash), Ralph’s non-genius mother who helps these socially awkward geniuses deal with the real world.
The team is handled by U.S. Homeland Security Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The X-Files), a by-the-book kind of guy who has learned that for this team there is no book.
The show is (very) loosely based on the life of the real Walter O’Brien. Though the show tries to keep things rooted in reality, or at least currently held theory, it does go purely fictional a good deal of the time.
What makes the show work is that it’s well written and the cast is talented and has terrific chemistry – one of the ongoing arcs is that while Paige helps the team understand and function in the real world, the team helps her understand her genius son.
Some of season two’s best episodes play heavily on character development. The unorthodox romance between Toby and Happy plays into White Out, in which the team has to work through a blizzard in Antarctica to save a U.S. special Forces unit; the unlikely friendship that has developed between Gallo and his charges adds to Djibouti Call – in which he is captured during a mission in the African nation and the team has to rescue him.
Probably the season’s most poignant arc is the five-episode arc that features Walter’s sister, Megan (Camille Guaty, Cupid, Happyland), who has cystic fibrosis. The arc, which began in season one, finds Camille and Sylvester falling in love while Walter nearly gives himself a nervous breakdown trying to find a way to upload her mind into a computer so that she can survive when her body quits on her.
As with any show that requires gizmos – Happy gets to play with lots of cool stuff – the show’s props people and CG people are called on to come up with some pretty amazing effects on a TV budget (like Paige and Walter hanging from a weather balloon in White Out; or the core of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor). The results are almost always amazing.
The coolest thing about Scorpion (and season two specifically) is that since there is no specific formula that fits all the challenges the team faces (blizzards, runaway trains, dental floss…), the show never falls into a specific procedural rut – thus, binge-watching is a lot of fun.
Scorpion: Season Two has a number of cool bonus features, but first let me vent a wee tad.
Regular Eclipse readers will know how much I love audio commentaries – I enjoy learning how the piece was done and why it was done that way or, failing that, hearing some good anecdotes from the set.
That said, the commentaries for Files and White Out are two of the lamest I’ve ever heard. In both cases, the majority of time, the commentators are watching and being impressed by their work to the point that most of their comments amount to ‘That was good!’ – without saying anything about how ‘that’ was achieved or, again, why it was done that way.
There’s a brief moment in the commentary track for White Out when someone mentions that the ep was filmed on a soundstage and the snow was made of starch. That’s the sum of actual information for the commentary. (What really stings is that same people provide some great information and insight in other bonus features! WHAT?)
So, for the first time ever, a DVD set loses points for its audio commentaries.
Abysmal commentary tracks aside the bonus features are: Quintus (a look at the Toby/Happy relationship; accessed through the episode Adaptation); Breaking Brilliance (a thirty-minute look at the season finale through all three phases: Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production – accessed through the episode Toby or Not Toby); Unlikely Heroes: Scorpion Season Two – an overview of the season); Creating Reality: Visual Effects; Geeky Gadgets; Scorpion: The Comic Book; Location, Location, Location; Gag Reel.
Grade: Scorpion: Season Two – B+
Grade: Features – B+
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