TV Review: “Scorpion” – Hacking is Magic

Written by Braden Thournout November 13, 2014


I hope you like the number 197 and what Hollywood believes hacking to be, because the show “Scorpion” is very much about those two things. As a show, “Scorpion” is almost like what you’d get if you crossed “Big Bang Theory” with a procedural crime drama, and it’s about as innovative and fresh as that sounds. With incredibly campy dialogue, magical dues-ex moments, and nonsensical or round-about solutions that flabbergast me, this show leaves quite a lot to be desired in my book.

The premise of “Scorpion” is that it is based on the ‘true story’ of Walter O’Brien, a man with an IQ of 197 (they will make note of this quite a lot of times) that is a super hacker, who in fact hacked into NASA at the age of 13 (ignoring the fact that he was 13 in 1988 and was in rural Ireland at the time). Now, any Hollywood ‘true story’ is to be taken with a grain of salt, so moving past that, the show is about Walter assembling a team of the smartest people on the planet to solve problems for Homeland Security. Alongside their Government handler and their normal-person-translator, this team is called Scorpion, after the company that O’Brien founded as well as his hacker name.

“We’re a million miles from normal.”

Despite my many misgivings about the show and disdain for a good chunk of the writing, I will happily admit that some of the performances are quite good. The team consists of Elyes Gabel as Walter O’Brien, Eddie Kaye Thomas as Toby Curtis (though likely better known as Finch from “American Pie”, the guy who slept with Stifler’s mom), Jadyn Wong as Happy Quinn, Ari Stidham as Sylvester Dodd. The ‘normal person’ on the team is the waitress Paige Dineen played by Katharine McPhee, but my favourite character has to be Homeland Security Agent Cabe Gallo played excellently by Robert Patrick, better known as the T-1000. He’s just incredible as a gruff government man, I must say. While everyone involved is dealing with rather heavy-handed dialogue – like stating how much smarter they are, or how misunderstood they are – the performances on the whole aren’t a weak point for the show, mostly.


Pictured: Hacking

The big problem with “Scorpion”, for me, is the rather heavy-handed manner they go about trying to point out how smart these characters are. They just devolve into caricatures and stereotypes. Sylvester is a neurotic math-wiz who needs to follow his process and is a germaphobe; Happy is cynical and prefers tools because she’s a mechanical genius; Toby reads people well as a behaviourist and so knows everything by just looking at how they are standing for a second; and Walter seemingly knows everything he ever needs to know at the drop of a hat, but has trouble relating to normal people because of how staggeringly high his IQ is. It’s 197, after all. There is an attempt to add depth to this by using Paige’s son Ralph, who is introduced as being challenged, but is proven to be a gifted genius by Walter and friends when the child is seen playing chess incredibly, and from then on just does incredible things in the background of scenes, such as finishing complex math equations offhandedly. All this while only talking to two people and being 9.

“Even with half my IQ I wouldn’t be dumb enough to trust you.”

It’s the usual Hollywood problem of the super genius of someone being able to solve any problem in the strangest way; for example, Walter sees a two-for-one sub shop coupon and suddenly knows how to sneak into a secure building during the day, or assesses Paige’s entire life circumstances by giving her a once over. This is fine with one character in a cast as their unique trait, but with over half the leads having this trait, it gets sort of tired and leaves one to simply wonder what magical solution they have for each problem. However, every problem has a short deadline, be it 5 minutes or 24 hours, it’s never enough, but they do it in just the nick of time each time.


Pictured: Complex problem solving

I know there is suspension of belief, but that image right there is actually something that happens in the first episode. We have a hacker, math prodigy, mechanical engineer, and psychologist, but episodes feature huge action sequences like driving a Ferrari down a runway underneath a plane they have to save. It just all seems so outlandish and over the top. I can’t figure out if “Scorpion” wants to be a high stakes action show or not.

“Einstein’s IQ was 160, mine is 197.”

While “Scorpion” isn’t necessarily the worst show I have ever seen, it really doesn’t do anything new or captivating. It’s the same old thing with a new coat of paint with optical illusions for depth. There are moments where you can really see it is trying, and I do think the cast is doing their best for the most part. Overall, I just can’t get excited about “Scorpion”.

My Rating: 3.5/10



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About Braden Thournout

Braden is a philosophy student with a love for old cartoons. He can probably tell you more about fictional worlds than the real one.

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