At the end of last week’s episode, Billy asked Marcus to join him on a trip to Las Vegas. The plan was to kill Billy’s abusive father before he got deeper in debt to the mob, which would endanger the lives of Billy’s mother and younger brother.
Marcus — who is very selfless for a student at Sociopath School — agreed. But because these are teenagers, they decide to balance out all their murdering with a healthy regimen of partying. And while they’re not a part of the murder plot, Saya, Maria, and Willie tag along for the ride. Because this is an ensemble show.
And so the ill-fated road trip begins. Driving through the desert on the way to Vegas, the gang stops at a little hippie joint called Creepy Daniel’s Hideaway Bar — which, sure, sounds like a place to buy some drugs! But Marcus ends up throwing away all his money on a fake sheet of acid. When a different hippie offers him a free sample, Marcus ends up impulsively taking seven tabs — which, unfortunately, turn out to be real. (The rest of his friends are smart enough to take one tab.)
So yes: This is a drug-trip episode. And I’ll admit: I’ve become a little impatient with these, in principle, because so many TV shows use them to get away with self-indulgent weirdness for weirdness’s sake. And there’s some of that in “Saudade,” which spends nearly half an episode on trippy imagery like a chatty chocolate elephant and a cackling neon clown. Most of this is neither plot nor character. It’s just a series of surreal non sequiturs that end up playing like someone behind the scenes at Deadly Class made a bet on how many nutty images they could squeeze into a single episode.
But even as a skeptic, the episode gradually won me over with the sheer variety of animation styles deployed at the center of Marcus’s big trip. Deadly Class is based on a comic, and the show’s signature animated flashbacks do an admirable job of bringing that comic-book imagery to life. But the show has never even attempted something like this, as the episode shifts — with impressive elasticity — through at least a half-dozen animation styles, as Marcus’s friends fumblingly guide him through his super-trip and into a hotel room on the Las Vegas strip.
And while most of this is just eye-popping visual design, there are poignant little character beats that poke through. At one point, an animated leprechaun tells Marcus that a trip is whatever you bring to it. Unfortunately, Marcus isn’t bringing much good these days. His trip inevitably turns him to thoughts of his dead parents, as he begs his mother not to leave him. Later, when he gets busted by a casino security guard, it’s no surprise that Marcus hallucinates Master Lin in the room next to him — the stern authority figure ready to bring the hammer down whenever Marcus steps out of line.
Unfortunately, Marcus also has a few nasty, surreal experiences that are not hallucinations. In the midst of the trip, Marcus and Billy complete the task that brought them to Las Vegas in the first place by breaking into Billy’s dad’s room and murdering him. (At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what happens. The blood ends up disappearing from Marcus’ hands, à la Lady Macbeth, so it’s all a little subjective.)
But there’s another horrific encounter that definitely actually happens. After a few episodes of buildup, Marcus is finally confronted by his burn-scarred, bestiality-loving ex-roommate, who has stalked him to Las Vegas. The dude still plans to kill Marcus, but has decided to delay it until he can do it in a more spectacular, P.T. Barnum–esque way — the kind of thing that will score him a spot on Phil Donahue.
So that’s another can Deadly Class chooses to kick down the road. But just when it looks like this might turn out to be a midseason filler episode, the stakes of this road trip get suddenly, violently higher. Marcus stumbles into Maria’s room, and the two begin to hook up. But before long, Chico bursts into the room, initiating a live-or-die conflict that’s been brewing since the pilot, when Maria tried to manipulate Marcus into killing Chico.
And this time, Maria gets what she wants. Despite the strict rules at King’s Dominion against students killing each other, a Deadly Class fight finally turns deadly. Marcus and Chico’s fight spills into the streets of Las Vegas and climaxes with Chico gaining the upper hand just as Saya, Billy, Willie, and Maria find them. Billy tries to calm Chico down and gets stabbed. Willie aims a gun at Chico but can’t bring himself to fire. In the end, it’s Maria who strikes the decisive blow, using her blade-fan to slit Chico’s throat. Looks like closure to me.
As the drug trip ends, so does the Vegas trip: grimly, and with serious consequences for all involved. The gang leaves Chico’s corpse in the alley and drives home in silence (though Marcus and Maria share a kiss, to the apparent jealousy — or, I don’t know, something else? — of Saya). Halfway through the season, the Deadly Class freshmen have gotten troublingly good at killing. The real question is whether the body of their dead classmate will come back to haunt them.
• The title of this episode, “Saudade,” is a Galician-Portuguese word, translated by one writer as a kind of nostalgia that’s “a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.”
• The Big Top Big Top Hotel & Casino is a dead ringer for the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, which you can find on the actual Las Vegas strip.
• During her trip, Saya says she saw a vision of the future in which Petra is married to Billy, who has taken a job as a “Frankenstein window washer.” Your guess is as good as mine.
• Willie spreads at least one (clearly false) rumor about the mysterious Saya: that Master Lin is actually her father, and that he plans to kill her if she doesn’t make valedictorian.
• This episode’s annoying Marcus–ism: interacting with people is just a “manipulation dance,” anyone who gets popular is just better at lying.
• ’80s cuts this episode include Depeche Mode’s “To Have and to Hold” and the Cult’s “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon.”
• Other ’80s references during the drug trip: Willie hallucinates that Billy is ’80s toy mainstay Teddy Ruxpin; Marcus hallucinates that Billy is Slimer from 1984’s Ghostbusters, which is briefly glimpsed on a TV in the hotel room; Marcus hits the jackpot on an Ice-T–themed slot machine after he’s taunted by the Ice-T image on the marquee (which is actually voiced by Ice-T).
• And one last possible ’80s reference: Marcus’s fake ID says he lives on Ravenwood Drive — which could be a reference to the Indiana Jones character with the same surname.
• Remember when Marcus’s whole thing was wanting to assassinate Ronald Reagan? Are we ever going to get back to that?