Premiering on March 10, 2009 on Spike TV (Canada and USA), Deadliest Warrior strives to answer the big questions that have bedeviled Western society for lo these many years; namely, if Shaka Zulu were to encounter William Wallace in the woods, and fought, who would win? Or for that matter, what if a Maori warrior sailed to China on an outrigger canoe, hiked to Shaolin, and decided to kick some Kung Fu ass in the process; who would win then? You may rest easy now, gentle reader, for thanks to Deadliest Warrior, these irksome questions have been SOLVED.

Deadliest Warrior is the kind of TV show, like Trailer Park Boys, that you can see having been conceived by someone who was baked at the time. The basic premise is, they compare two legendary warrior types from history, examine their weaponry, training, battle tactics etc., and then "Computer Whiz Max Geiger" inputs all the data into a combat program written by Slytherin Studios and, I guess, presses enter. The program is run 1,000 times, to establish a stastistic baseline, and whoever wins more is judged the winner at the end of the show; the final scene is usually a dramatic re-enactment of the hypothetical battle.

Format and Comparison

Most of the show is filmed in a studio/weapons armoury; each side has two weapons specialists, who are normally people who have extensive experience/academic research with the weaponry of their side; for example, in the Ninja vs. Spartan episode, the ninja experts were skilled in ninjitsu and the use of ninja stars and Japanese blades, whereas the Spartan side had extensive experience fashioning and combatting (mock combat, I suppose) bronze spears and shields. One of the pleasures of Deadliest Warrior is listening to the weapons experts, who are heavily invested in the success of their warrior, trash talking each other. Each side is given four traditional weapons, which are then broken down in four groups and compared head to head. Normally speaking, each expert will demonstrate their use on ballistic gel dummies or other targets. They are:

  • Range Weapons: It could be an apache bow and arrow, a Spetznaz ballistic knife, or a Spartan throwing spear; whichever weapon for each combatant specializes in range attacks, is compared head-to-head on such factors as speed of delivery, lethality, and overall gruesomeness; the weapon that removes a chunk of your adversary's head, as opposed to a surgical puncture of the jugular, is often given higher marks. The showmanship aspect, I suppose.
  • Bladed Weapons: As the name suggests - the primary cutting implement of each given warrior. The efficacy of bladed weapons is normally tested by using pig carcassi or ballistics gel heads, to see how many human heads/torsos each weapon could realistically cut through. The winner so far? William Wallace's Scottish claymore, which cut off three gel heads in one swoop like they were so much warm butter.
  • Special Weapons: The X factor, if you will, for each combatant. My personal favourite so far has been Shaka Zulu's poison spit tincture; other favourites include ninja stars, blunderbusses (blunderbussi?) and clay grenades, to name a few.
  • Blunt Weapons: Weapons that are neither sharp nor crafty; made, essentialy, to cave enemy skulls in. The main testing of these types of weapons involve the weapons expert using the said blunt weapon on a human/bovine skull; maximum smashage carries the day.
In cases where two groups of modern-weaponry warriors engage (such as Green Beret/Spetsnaz and Mafia/Yakuza), the weapons categories will be altered slightly to compare things like shotguns and explosives. But the underlying format is still the same - each warrior can bring four traditional weapons to the table, compare them, and compete for ultimate warrior glory.

Characters

Even though the competing warriors change with each episode, the show has some recurring "experts" who give running commentary on each weapon based on their individual field of study:

  • Max Geiger, Computer Whiz: First of all, this has to be a made-up name. He is a "21-year old computer genius", which I suppose imparts an air of legitimacy to the proceedings, who imputs data from each weapons test into the combat program created by Slytherin Studios (which the show never fails to mention). Max often has the final say for which weapon "won" their respective category. He often wears a graphic t-shirt with a sport coat overtop, House-style; I suppose this indicates that, deep down, he is a wild free spirit; but on the outside, all business. If he truly is the one person who controlls the inputs to the battle simulation program, then this TV show is fatally flawed.
  • Geoff Desmoulin: Billed on the show as a biomedical engineer, whatever the hell that is. He has larger-than-normal biceps, and is frequently cited as a "karate black belt", so I suppose this guy is an expert of sorts of the kind of physical exertion needed to relieve a skull from its annoying torso. He has become a kind of co-expert along with Max, in the sense that they often have disputes over which weapon should win their respective category; and frequently resort to an ad-hoc game of Rock Paper Scissors to decide the winner (just kidding. But it does seem that way some times).
  • Dr. Armand Dorian: Clearly meant to be the unwitting comic relief of the show. Dr. Dorian has his training as a UFC medic, so as you can surmise, he is quite skilled in setting broken bones and dislocated shoulders. However, on this program, his primary use is to determine how lethal each weapon is, once used on a ballistics gel dummy. Since virtually everything is lethal, this leads to some classic lines:
    A Viking Battle axe has just sprayed brains all over the floor: "Yes, as you can see, bits of encephalic matter have been scattered here, here, and here. This is definitely a lethal blow"
Or:
    After a Gladiator has speared clean through a torso with his trident: "In Trident vs. body, Trident Wins. Every time."
It certainly helps that Armand Dorian is the only character who insists on wearing a lab coat at all times; perhaps it imparts to him an air of authority that he wouldn't otherwise have, pointing to a decapitated skull and saying "he's having a bad day!". Either way, Dr. Armand Dorian is the embodiment of a Ph.D who proclaims the obvious, and passes it off as the end result of years of education.

Episodes

So far, there has only been one, glorious season to watch, consisting of nine episodes; luckily, a second season of fourteen episodes has been announced, though the matchups have been kept majorly secret. Season one is comprised of:

    Gladiator vs. Apache: One of the best episodes so far. The Gladiator side is represented by one Chuck Liddell; notice, at this point in his career, the difficulty he has in stringing together even a single coherent sentence without use of grunts. Apaches are represented in part by one Snake Blocker. Yes. That is his name, Snake Blocker, and he is a US Army special forces instructor in the use of knives. He shows, over the course of the episode, why you do not fuck with Snake Blocker. Ever.
    Pirate vs. Knight: Features the devastating morningstar; watch as it removes 1/3 of a person's head in less than 0.223 seconds! Also, the pirate experts seem like two guys who think pirates, and their attendant raping and plundering, are really cool. Fucking losers. Anyways...,
    Yakuza vs. Mafia,: The first modern-weaponry episode attempted. Part of the problem is that, when you're dealing with guns, you render Dr. Armand Dorian utterly useless - basically everything is a killshot. As a result, the simulation was very close, and really brings home the point that when you're using firearms, it truly equalizes the playing field.
    Green Beret vs. Spetznaz: Easily the most frightening episode of them all. The weapons experts were both former Green Berets or Spetznaz, and the Spetznaz guys in particular freaked me right the fuck out. The steely glint in their eyes suggested they had killed many an enemy in close quarters combat, probably with nothing more than a pair of pliers. The doe-in-the-headlights Americans were simply no match.
    Shaolin Monk vs. Maori: One of the finest examples of finesse vs. brute force to be found in this program. The Maoris stick their tongues out at you and want to impale you on their shark tooth paddles; can the Shaolin monks counter? Yes, yes they can. Sorry to ruin it but, come on. Shaolin monks kick ass.
    William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu: The only episode thus far which deals with individual warriors, rather than their generic counterparts. IMHO this is the best episode...will stone-age African tech triumph over provincial Scottish arms? Whose freedom, so to speak, will be taken? Find out here...
    IRA vs. Taliban: Another modern-weapons episode which tends to blur the lines of combat. Guys with Irish accents facing off against guys with Arabic ones; oh I wonder, who will win? Well in terrorism, nobody wins. The more you know...

That is the episode list for now. There are a few problems with the show, naturally; first, the emphasis is almost entirely on weaponry. For example, in the pirate vs. knight episode, no consideration at all was even given to the fact that the knight was mounted on a horse. None. You would think that would tip the scales a little bit, but no. Training methods are also given short shrift in this show...they tend to look at the lethality of each weapon exclusively, without giving thought to the sort of training the man behind the weapon might have had. Though I suppose in a way lethality is all that matters...still...One thing I have noticed about this show is that, finesse and accuracy often win over brute force; maybe decades of martial arts training really would win out over the Viking warrior-farmer template; who knows...

If you see nothing else during the show, the dramatized battle at the end is worth it. It's as though two completely isolated warriors, separated by cultures and sometimes continents, suddenly came upon each other in the woods and decided, hey, one of us should die. Naturally, the one who was victorious in the computer simulation wins the dramatized battle, but not without a lot of suspense, drama, and staggered endings. Sometimes, it's clearly bullshit; like when the knight struck the pirate with a morningstar, and he brushed it off like it was a cattail. But during the course of the re-enactment, each combatant uses all four of their weapons in the ways they were intended, and it makes for a visually gripping, dare I say beautiful entertainment experience. I highly recommend this show.

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