Scorpion: Pilot (1×01)

Synopsis: The pilot establishes the team of geniuses that will tackle on the complex problems of the world. Their first encounter deals with the communications at the LAX air control tower being knocked out due to a software update. The team needs to figure out how to reload an uncorrupted version of the software to reestablish communications before 56 planes run out of fuel and crash.

Rating: ★★½☆☆☆

</scorpion> (stylized as in the title sequence) is a new American television drama about a team of geniuses that solve complex modern world problems. There are plenty of dramas out there with a single genius (Mentalist, Bones, Lie to Me, Numb3rs, etc), but this time there are four. There is one other show that comes to mind with multiple geniuses, The Big Bang Theory, but it’s not really the same genre.

Scorpion is an interesting new show that started off with a lot of action and fast-pacing. The ending scene was like something you’d see out of a movie, not a network television series. I feel like it might have burned too bright too quickly, because with a pilot like this, I don’t know how the rest of the episodes are going to compare.

Look at little Walter holding his extradition papers.
Look at little Walter holding his extradition papers.

The show opens with military helicopters descending upon a small country house in Ireland. Big men with guns kick open a door to find a kid, Walter O’Brien, who hacked into NASA. Fast forward and you see adult O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) in a diner breaking up with his girlfriend via a decision matrix (while working on the diner’s wi-fi, because he’s efficient). He sees a lonely kid in the diner playing with sugar packets, jams, and other condiments. Walter knows a genius when he sees one and tells the mother, Paige Dineen (Katharine Hope McPhee) that he’ll need help.

He goes back to his warehouse where he sees his friends Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham), calculating how much electricity they’ll be able to siphon before being found out, and Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong), hardwiring the electricity. Apparently Sylvester’s too busy calculating numbers to pay the bills. They said that their friend Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas) was taking care of it, but he bursts into the warehouse moments later being chased by two thugs.

Now you have the rag-tag group of geniuses: Happy, the mechanical genius; Sylvester, the human calculator; Toby, a world-class shrink; and Walter, who’s one of the five smartest people in the world. Walter freaks out saying that they need to do something better than fixing routers. They don’t do the normal people stuff well. Lo and behold, Homeland Security comes a knockin’.

He has an epiphany.
He has an epiphany.

Special Agent Cabe Gallo (Michael Patrick King, Jr.) finds Walter and says he needs his help. Walter and Gallo go way back because Gallo was the one that arrested young Walter. They have a strained history together which is revealed at the end of the episode.

The problem that Gallo comes to them with is about 56 planes near LAX that can’t land because the communications has been knocked out. This knockout was due to a software update that recently happened. If they help then they each get $50,000. They agree after Happy talks to Walter saying they’ll save lives and to put the past aside for the moment.

They can’t go to the LAX tower because of a gridlock so they go to the diner where Walter earlier fixed the wi-fi. Everyone whips out their computers and performs magic. When you blatantly break the limits of technology, it becomes insulting for the people watching that know how it works.

Within seconds, Walter has hacked into the surveillance system of the LAX air traffic control center. He says they need to reboot with the original software before the update. They don’t have the bootup disc because the software is 15 years old (typical because the government loves using outdated software…hell, I use a system at work that’s over 30 years old).

The system is periodically backed up every 12 hours which means they only have 20 minutes before the data wipe happens in their backup servers. Happy and Toby race over to the data center to try and retrieve the hard drive with the old software. They cause a brown-out to reset the center’s doors. Once they enter they see hundreds of servers and don’t know where the right hard drive is at. Toby grabs a picture off a desk and starts using deductive reasoning. He pulls a hard drive out with less than a minute to go.

Look at all those hard drives...
Look at all those hard drives…

The hard drive is taken back to Walter who’s been talking with Paige. He tells Paige that her son Ralph is a genius because the sugar packets he was playing with was his chessboard. Ralph played chess with Sylvester (a grandmaster) and won in 8 moves. The hard drive that’s taken back has been corrupted because Toby put it in the car door, next to a speaker that demagnetized it. Walter has another freakout and Paige talks him down because she knows how to get through to Ralph when he’s frustrated.

The only way to get a bug-free version of the software is to contact a plane that still has it in their system. Walter and Paige race to another air tower after Happy hacks into the traffic system to give all green lights (see how hacking is so easy? it’s not…but it’s TV hacking, so who cares).

Toby is tasked with finding someone he can call on the plane and finds an analog flip phone. They tell the plane to fly close to the tower so they can tap into the plane’s wi-fi and download the software. I’m sorry…do you know how slow wi-fi on a plane is? The plane does a fly by but the speed differential is too great for the download to happen. What to do now?

I give up.
I give up.

Walter sees a Ferrari and says we’ll go 200 MPH while the plane flies a couple of feet above us. While the plane is doing that, we’ll hardwire in and download the software. This actually happened. This was a great scene and the action was wonderfully executed probably because Justin Lin did the scene (director of Fast and Furious 6). Anyway, a long ass ethernet cable is dropped down from the plane and plugged into the computer where the software successfully downloads, simultaneously uploading to the LAX traffic control tower, and reestablishing communications. Everyone is happy.

The fast-paced action is what Scorpion has going for it. I felt like I watched an action movie on fast-forward. There was little character development and just so much go, go, go. Maybe they just wanted to hook us in with this episode, but I don’t know if it can be kept up.

The pacing was insane and it was undoubtedly fun. I enjoyed the episode, if you were to just focus on the action. I really want to see the relationship between Walter, Ralph, and Paige develop. The show is a new kid on the block, so hopefully they’ll find their rhythm in the coming episodes.

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