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How CBS’s Scorpion May Rock the Gifted World

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I don’t usually do this.

But after watching the Pilot episode of the new CBS series Scorpion, I feel compelled to address the show on my website and write my version of a review.

Assuming most of my readers haven’t seen it yet, I’ll give a quick summary. Scorpion deals with a team of adult genius misfits whose ringleader has a 197 IQ, which is clearly an outlier on the edges of the range of profound giftedness. Based on some semblance of a true story, the hero Walter starts a company of “government-funded problem solvers” and will likely embark on a journey of crime fighting and life-saving.

So basically, it’s an action show (not usually my favorite genre).

Yet it promises to be so much more than an action show. While giftedness involves a difference in brain wiring, most of the dialogue and interactions in this show explore the lived experience of those with these significant differences. And in many ways, it feels very real-to-life.

I hope Scorpion continues and thrives, with perhaps improved coherence of action scenes. But even if all we had was the Pilot, this show is a great support to families of gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) kids (not to mention the healing impacts it can have on other gifted adults).

Scorpion makes fun of and celebrates, in a perfect combination of humble acceptance and exuberant delight, so much of what the gifted/2e experience can feel like.

Whereas I can laugh at the characters in The Big Bang Theory, Scorpion actually has more therapeutic benefit. In large part, this is because a group of adults, at various stages of their developmental path that is impacted by genius, encounter a kiddo of their same ilk. Without giving away too much, this kid has a loving parent, but still needs further advocacy and understanding. The same team that is working to save the day for a crisis manages to keep their eye on this kid’s best interest.

And as someone who advocates and works with these types of children, it is incredibly moving.

If this show is to fulfill its potential, it will demonstrate further interactions of the kid blossoming with a network of peers, without the insulting magical thinking of some other shows (I cringed at the one episode of Touch I saw). Popular culture needs realistic depictions of what is technically rare but more common than acknowledged.

Sometimes it takes one gifted/2e individual to know another. And it is certainly beneficial for kids to have a network of caring peers (at least a few of which would have adult privilege) who can help decode them, and Scorpion seems to promise more of that.

I have long counseled families on the importance of peers for their kids with similar intensity of passion, if not the exact same passions. Still, every time an adult honestly and vulnerably shares how their mind works, it adds data points to a young person’s understanding. They may be outliers, but they don’t have to be alone. I know the moment when a kid has a sense of being known and understood; it begins a healing path of more joyful development.

I am grateful to all of the shows that extend the empathy space of what an experience of profound giftedness can feel like.

In fact, Scorpion can serve as a wonderful conversation starter for families:

“How do you think the character coped with their specific preferences?”

“How would you balance flexible thinking and assertive communication in a similar crisis moment?”

“Which character do you relate the most to?”

“Did any behaviors puzzle you?”

There are also career implications:

“Would you rather work alone or on a team?”

“What impact would you like to have on the world from your daily efforts?”

What I know is that I cried multiple times while watching Scorpion, and as far as I can trace in my self-reflection, the tears were about the chance for a young person to be known and understood.

The caring adults who love these gifted/2e kids can receive encouragement that some possible challenges in social relatedness — perseveration on a process, deeply driven desires for a better world, or a constellation of other peculiarities — can be only one part of an exquisite whole.

And while I don’t have the abilities of Team Scorpion, I do love helping families communicate and understand each other better. Hit me up for a free 17-minute consultation by signing up for my mailing list.

So, have you watched it yet? Have your kids seen it? I’d love to hear what it brought up for you. Let me know in the comments below.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Paula Prober September 27, 2014, 1:07 am

    Thanks for the review, Bob. I’m eager to watch the show now.

  • Wendi September 27, 2014, 3:49 am

    My husband and I watched the on demand show a few nights ago and I was touched by how they recognized and treated the kid in the show. That’s what will keep me watching this show…hope it continues. Thanks for your review!

    • byamtich September 27, 2014, 2:42 pm

      That was definitely the highlight for me too!

  • Margaret September 27, 2014, 1:12 pm

    I watched it and saw my boy. 😉 I knew immediately that he was playing chess with whatever he could find in the diner. I enjoyed the show immensely because I felt unusually connected to him and his mother. Thanks for your review.

    • byamtich September 27, 2014, 2:47 pm

      It’s cool how the chess game opened up so much interaction between the kid and the team. I hope they show more of the mother-son connection.

  • Dianne September 28, 2014, 6:25 pm

    I watched the pilot-great show! I teach gifted education I the public schools. I think the show has the potential to increase the awareness of how important the gifted population is to our country. In public ed the gifted program is often the first program to be cut due to school finances. There is such misunderstanding of giftedness and I worry a bit that the public will think all gifted kids are like this. The adults and child depicted in the show are definitely outliers.

    • byamtich September 28, 2014, 8:35 pm

      Hi Dianne,

      I agree that these characters are definitely outliers in the profoundly gifted range. I would like more efforts for gifted education in schools to be funded, but some kids really need self-guided project-based learning that could be hard to accommodate in a school setting. Each level of giftedness brings with it different needs. I turned to Dr. Silverman’s book “Giftedness 101” and want to highlight how she wrote “Ask the child” as a starting point to work for shared understanding.

  • Erin P. November 5, 2014, 8:35 pm

    I have a PG 6 year old. My husband and I just happened to watch the pilot and sat there laughing and nodding our heads. I even got emotional at one point, so thankfully that someone is shedding light on this misunderstood population. I am surprised that more in the gifted community aren’t talking about this. Thanks for highlighting this show.

    • byamtich November 6, 2014, 2:56 am

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad you liked it! Even if it isn’t a perfect match, I want families to have many available depictions of characteristics of giftedness, often influenced by levels of giftedness, as conversation starters.

  • Rosemary December 18, 2014, 12:10 am

    I loved this show and have seen all the episodes. I would add some autistic people, and I find this show fascinating.

    • byamtich December 18, 2014, 3:56 am

      It’s always great to have a variety of autistic role models! Particularly for kids; I hope we see more realistic autistic or twice-exceptional characters in TV and movies soon. I want more sharing of information between the gifted community and the autism community.

  • DavidB April 22, 2015, 12:50 pm

    This is a great series. Like Big Bang Theory, the science is fantastical, but the relationships are less cartoonish that BBT. If fact, if you throw out the fantastical computer science, the interactions are much like those I have experienced for many years in technology/IT over the years. (Sometimes I think that having asperger’s is a requirement for being a successful computer scientist!) I’m still coming to grips with this whole autism thing (I’m 65), but it’s refreshing to have a TV series reflect the way that I and my coworkers actually approach problem solving in the real world (we solve problems but we don’t carry guns and have the FBI on call! So boring…)

    • byamtich June 5, 2015, 12:56 pm

      Let me know if you end up getting a top secret call.

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