So Walter O’Brien is one of the five smartest people alive. Who are the other four?
RTE's new drama ‘Scorpion’, based on a 'real-life' Irish computer whiz Walter O’Brien, is not actualy about a magic crime-fighting robot-wizard
Scorpion is inspired by a true story about eccentric genius Walter O'Brien (Elyes Gabel)and his team. Pictured left to right: Jadyn Wong as Happy Quinn, Ari Stidham as Sylvester Dodd, Elyes Gabel as Walter O'Brien, Katharine McPhee as Paige Dineen and Eddie Kaye Thomas as Toby Curtis. Photograph: Getty Images
In the opening scenes of Scorpion (Thursday, RTÉ 2), child hacker Walter O’Brien is arrested by Robert Patrick from Terminator and extradited to America, from what I assumed, based on his accent, was a Scottish-speaking region of Latvia. It was actually Kilkenny.
Walter O’Brien is based on a real-life Irish computer whiz who solves computer crime for the US government.
In the world of modern television drama you can write about anything as long as it’s crime. Many TV pitches are simply: “a [random professional] solves crime.”
There have been crime-fighting mathematicians, doctors, writers, psychologists and archaeologists. Many young people have been lured into staid careers in the belief that there would be sexy explosions.
Well, Walter becomes a computer science person who solves crime.
Yeah, he computer sciences the hell out of crime. He is so goddamn computer sciencey. If you were to give Walter any computer he could science it.
We meet hunky, grown-up, American-accented Walter (Elyes Gabel) as he installs a broadband router in a diner while simultaneously breaking up with his girlfriend for whom he has made an “emotional spreadsheet”.
Then he deftly patronises the sexy waitress mother of an autistic child.
At this point, we’re meant to think: “Oh, Walter, you can decode any computer and yet you cannot decode the most complex programme of all, your own heart. How ironic!”
Walter takes his confounding love-organ back to the failing business he runs with fellow “super-geniuses” – a “human calculator” who utters statistics like a malfunctioning Satnav (“we’re down to a 17 per cent chance of success!”), a “world-class shrink” in a fedora (physician heal thyself), and a no-nonsense “mechanical prodigy” who likes sitting in an informal manner and whose dramatic arc will certainly lead to her straddling a chair backwards like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds.
The business is called Scorpion presumably because Walter is a predatory arthropod with a mineral-based exoskeleton (editor’s note: you’re confusing him with the species “scorpion”).
Then agent Robert Patrick from Terminator, with whom Walter has quarrelled, arrives to ask him to stop a computer virus that’s causing planes to crash.
Oh no! They rush to the diner with the sexy waitress/child combo because it’s the only broadband connection Walter trusts, including, inexplicably, the one in his office.
Also, he wants to be rude to Paige the waitress some more. Luckily there’s also sexual tension between them, seemingly because of Walter’s implied similarities to Paige’s son.
Stop it. It’s not weird. It’s lovely. Stop it.
Walter is very clever. We know this because he repeatedly says so.
When told by Robert Patrick to “move on”, for example, he tantrums: “Moving on is not an option for people with photographic memories.”
Earlier for no good reason he says: “Einstein had a 160 IQ. Mine is 197.”
Of course, Einstein, the fool, squandered his talent on the Theory of Relativity and never once used his book-smarts to fight crime or engage in an exciting car chase.
Walter’s friends actually encourage his monstrous boasting.
“Walter O’Brien is one of the five smartest people alive,” says Robert Patrick, when someone questions Walter’s credentials (the other four? At a guess: Carol Vorderman, Stephen Fry, Kanye and Bunson from The Muppets).
The main problem with Scorpion, apart from the writers’ belief that anyone clever is a magic robot-wizard, is that coding is a boringly stationary activity.
Presumably Walter will eventually dispense with it entirely and start using his laptop to hit baddies while shouting “Science!” but in the meantime the writers must fabricate reasons for action.
Walter and Paige go on a death-defying car chase, purely, it seems, to get a better broadband connection.
And later Walter drives a convertible down a runway, while a passenger plane, which can’t land because it can’t contact air traffic control, flies directly overhead and lowers a DSL cable to his laptop.
No one says: “sure, while you’re 10 feet from the runway, you might as well land” or “for f***s sake”.
While this all may sound a bit loopy, I’ve been told by an Irish Times IT person that programmers do this sort of thing all the time.
Anyway, I must go. He’s just abseiled past my window firing a machine-gun. My laptop must be ready.