Scorpion Season 1 Review “Pilot”

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The latest crime procedural from CBS, “Scorpion” sets itself apart from the pack via the conceit of having a team of super-geniuses, plus one erstwhile waitress to help smooth away the rough edges of the decidedly quirky and not exactly people-friendly other members of the team. (The waitress also happens to be the mother of a super-genius herself, to boot.)

Inspired by true events, the show revolves around team leader Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel, “Game of Thrones”), an Irish native busted way back when for hacking his way into NASA as a young teenager. Going by the code name of Scorpion- hence the show’s title- he demands extradition and immunity for his crimes, which he gets, and is eventually recruited by agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick, “True Blood”).

We find out later that his schematics for making targeted medical aid drops in war-torn Bagdad was actually used to bomb them, and because his plans were developed for speed not accuracy, he ended up being inadvertently responsible for killing some 2,000 innocent civilians. After that, he understandably stopped working for Gallo, and has been on the outs with him ever since.

When a new crisis arises, involving a hacker getting into the computers of LAX and potentially causing some 56 planes to crash if it isn’t resolved, Gallo seeks him out again, now as an agent of Homeland Security, giving O’Brien the opportunity to save lives to make up for the ones he helped cause the premature ends to.

Helping him out is his team of geniuses, including Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas, of the “American Pie” series), a behavioral psychologist specialist; Sylvester (Ari Stidham, “Huge”), a mathematics wiz; and Happy (Jadyn Wong, “Being Erica”), a mechanical genius. They set up shop in a local restaurant that O’Brien recently installed Wi-Fi in, and Gallo pays off the owner to commandeer the place, leaving employee Paige (former “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee, late of the sketchy NBC show “Smash”) in charge in his stead. Paige has a son with autistic-like qualities, which O’Brien immediately recognizes as being similar to those on his team, and later offers to help her with, in exchange for helping his not-exactly people-person team members as a sort of go-between.

I couldn’t begin to explain all the technological stuff that goes down next, but suffice it to say, O’Brien and his team, each playing to their strengths, manage to thwart the potential catastrophe at hand without anyone losing their lives. Now, was any of what transpires here remotely possible? I’m not entirely sure, but it seemed reasonably logical at the time, though the big finale, with O’Brien racing in a Ferrari down an airport runway as Paige reaches up through the sunroof to grab an extension cord to download something from a low-flying airplane as the co-pilot dangles it from the wheel pit was a bit much, if admittedly pretty rad. Hey, points for originality, if nothing else.

One thing I will say that struck me as odd was CBS doubling-down on the whole computer genius thing with both this and the forthcoming “CSI: Cyber,” which looks to tread similar ground. Lord knows CBS loves them some crime procedurals, as does TV in general, but it seems weird to have two seemingly-so-similar projects launching in the same season. Hey, whatever works, I guess.

For the most part, “Scorpion” does work, at least on this episode, which excels when the action is coming fast and furious, which is to say, most of the time. There is perhaps a bit too much of the tech-speak going on, but I suppose that’s to be expected, given the premise. To that end, it was a smart move recruiting a lay-person to join the team, least of all one as charming and comely as McPhee. I assume she will be the sort of surrogate to those of us in the audience that aren’t as savvy in the tech-speak as the main team is, as a filter to explaining it all. There wasn’t a lot of time for that, given the circumstances and limited time-frame at hand, but I suspect there will be in the future, as not every case can possibly be as insane as this one.

All told, it was a solid enough pilot for the new show, and should fit in just fine with CBS’ current schedule. That is, if they haven’t overplayed their hand with all these crime procedurals. That remains to be seen, but so far, so good. It’s too early to say what we can expect from the show and the characters, but it did come off thus far as a sort of combination of the short-lived “Alphas” and- of course- “CSI.” As a fan of both of those shows, I’m reasonably happy with the results, at least for this episode.

What did you think of “Scorpion”? Were you happy with the premise, or did it feel a bit too same-y for your tastes, in comparison to all the other crime procedurals out there? Did you like any of the characters in particular? How about the cast? Did you enjoy that bonkers finale? How about the main case in general? Sound off below and see you next week!