Take a group of interesting characters and dynamics, a story based on real life events, a blend between family, humor, action, crime, and science. There’s no way it could go wrong, or could it?
The TV season ended quite some time ago now but I’m just starting to get over Scorpion. It has been even longer since I enjoyed a whole episode of the show without skipping or forwarding. Truth be told, after the first season the series started to slowly deteriorate, becoming less and less interesting with each season until it got cancelled. The question is why? When the show had everything, it needed to become a smashing hit beyond the first season.
Let’s not jump ahead, though; let’s start at the beginning.
Off to a good start
I have to admit I was hooked on Scorpion right of the bat. Even my mom got hooked on it, and getting my mom to like anything that’s not a polish TV series is quite the achievement. There was just something in the pilot of the show that made me like it. It had just the right amount of humor, action, and character backstory to interest the viewer; it left me wanting more. Engaging me in the plot and the characters’ lives. That continued all the way through season 1 and 2.
Through the run of the show, the characters and relationships between them were developed and went in many different directions. Yet somewhere in season 3, everything started going downhill. Characters suddenly started to act differently from what we would expect from them or what we were used to. This trend continued, ending in the spectacular disaster that was season 4.
The right time
Scorpion premiered in the right time and was original enough to get my attention. There weren’t many shows that combined action, humor, and nerdiness/ science like Scorpion. At the time it premiered, we had shows that were about geeks (Big Bang Theory) and some that were drama/ crime shows (NCIS). Placing Scorpion in a unique spot thanks to it combining these characteristics.
The show was light, fun, but also action packed and dramatic with just enough of a mystery to solve each episode and some heartfelt moments. One of the main reasons the show failed definitely seems to have been the change of airtime. Ever since it was moved to Mondays at 10 p.m., things started to go awry. Even though I enjoyed the show, I wouldn’t wait up until 10 p.m. just to watch it. Moreover, the light, family-oriented tone of the series made the allotted time slot a mistake. It’s like the network was purposefully setting itself up for failure.
An eclectic group of characters
While working on a TV show, the way you create and develop characters makes the biggest difference. The producers on Scorpion had it a little bit easier since the show was inspired by the lives of a real person. Making the show more grounded and rooted in real life, even if what happened to the characters sometimes seemed inexplicable or a bit far-fetched. At the same time, it allowed the producers to take a few basic characteristics from real people but left enough room for an artistic freedom.
One thing’s for sure, there is no shortage of characters on Scorpion. We have eccentric geniuses or billionaires, special agents, directors of agencies, waitresses, parents, kids, and many others. Not all of them are as important as the main characters, but they certainly play a role in moving the plot along, whether it’s helping develop the main characters or giving them a backstory.
What’s even more important the show allows us to explore a particular set of characters. Its main focus are a group of geniuses. There aren’t that many other series that show as many genius characters, without the show being a comedy. Although it can give you a complex, and the regular characters in the show are sometimes regarded as less valuable by the geniuses, though those character do happily prove that perception isn’t correct.
That being said, all of the main characters get an even amount of time as the center of a story. There are specific story lines which pull some characters to the front. The writers did a great job balancing these stories for every character. Walter only gets slightly bigger plot lines and a little bit more screen time, which is understandable since he is the lead character.
Still, all the primary characters have meaningful plot lines that move the story along or help resolve issues in the episode. As an example, there’s the Megan and Sylvester romance story, which helped build Sly’s character and motivated his actions. Paige’s past experiences helped teach Walter when the right time was for emotion and sometimes helped solve cases. The producers did also a great job with making the struggles of each character believable and authentic. Mark and Walter’s relationship, for example, showcases the leading character being torn between the right decision and the friendship he had with the antagonist.
While the main characters stay in the forefront, one cannot forget the supporting characters that often move the story along, helping develop the main characters or create enough drama and problems to show a different side of the main cast. Most of the supporting characters are well developed and really bring something to the story.
With the exception of Florence, she only created unnecessary drama and confusion. Even if I understood why she was brought on—how she was supposed to kind of be a female counter part to Tim, help show Paige’s jealous side, and give us someone who isn’t a genius but rather a person who learned well—she didn’t really convince me. The character felt flat. Her motivations weren’t really justified, and it felt kind of like the producer tried to force her down our throats and make us like her. The actress (Tina Majorino) who played the character did everything she could and always offered a stellar performance, but there was just something unlikeable about the character.
While talking about the acting, I must say that we always got a solid performance from the whole cast. I especially enjoyed Riley B. Smith’s performance. I also appreciated that the producers also included other talents the cast had in the show, like Katharine McPhee’s singing.
The show strongly relies and builds on familial dynamics. It often uses the family bonds, and the characters more than once refer to Scorpion as family. Thus making family one of the most important parts of the show. And rightly so, because this particular dynamic offers an abundance of story lines and complications. It also helps to keep the viewer interested in the happenings of the show.
The producers found several ways to tighten the bonds between the characters. Walter and Sylvester became brothers through Sly’s marriage to Walter’s sister. Happy and Toby married and wanted to start their own family.
The familial relationship isn’t the only one shown on the show. We also see different romantic relationships (Walter and Paige, Happy and Toby, Cabe and Ally, or Sly and Megan). The relationship between a mentor and a student (Walter and Ralph), the rivalry between Tim and Walter, or Team Scorpion and Flo in the beginning provide a completely different dynamic. I love how many different facets there were.
All these feels
Even though the show strongly focused on science and action, it never lacked for heartfelt moments and emotional story lines. Walter said in the pilot, “geniuses have low EQ”. I couldn’t disagree more. Every action has an emotional justification even if it’s often hidden or disguised under rational thinking. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the emotional scenes are hidden or snuck in between all of the action and scientific explanations. Some of the emotional story lines are built over the course of several episodes or even seasons. As an example, we could take Megan’s arc and her story’s impact on the remaining characters. This particular plot built until a sad finale, the ripples of which motivated the characters long after Megan’s death.
One of the main “ingredients” of the series was science, which is quite hard to pull of. Making science entertaining without it being comic-y or to complex is a challenge. Although the show uses a lot of scientific language, it is justified. The main characters are geniuses. The terms aren’t just thrown in there for fun. They serve a purpose. To my mind, the characters use just the right amount of scientific expressions, making it seem natural and believable to the audience without being overwhelming.
Furthermore, the viewer is rarely left without an explanation for what the terms mean. The producers skillfully use the “normal” characters like Paige or Cabe for this. Since they are a part of the team and have to be in on the plan, the geniuses often have to explain their actions to them, and through them they deliver the explanation to the viewer. To my mind, it’s quite effective.
Hanging on a cliff of abandoned plotlines
One of the main drawbacks of the show, and the place where it went downhill, is the vast number of abandoned plotlines, abandoned characters, and all of the shows cliffhangers. While it’s understandable that a show cannot explore every little story or explain even the smallest of decision, Scorpion has a knack for abandoning interesting stories or characters. Sometimes they make the characters disappear gracefully and organically, like Paige’s mother or Tim. Other times the departures are abrupt and completely unjustified. Like Drew’s character and the story behind his relationship with Ralph. It seemed as if the writers grew bored with this plot and simply abandoned it without any real in-universe explanation.
Admittedly, Scorpion does handle most cliffhangers extremely well. Even if the fans don’t always like it, Scorpion’s cliffhangers build tension just right, making the resolutions even more enjoyable and anticipated.
That being said, the final season of the show ended with quite a cliffhanger that stayed unresolved because of the show’s cancellation, leaving a lot of fans with unanswered questions. And while I can understand why the producers took that gamble, it definitely didn’t pay off. Now, we will forever wonder what happens next. Although, some may say that’s the best kind of ending.