I’m apparently on a streak of watching Netflix teen-angsty shows right now. The Society is another one of these shows that asks: What if X happened, but instead of it happening to everyone, it only happened to teenagers?
In this case, a New England small town’s entire teenage population finds themselves in an “alternate” version of their town in which they are the only people living there, and possibly the only people anywhere. So, it’s up to the teenagers to figure out how to cope with being in a world without parents, or laws, or internet. They have to try to rebuild a society (roll credits!) of their own in order to survive long enough to figure out how they got there and if or how they could get back home.
Basically, it’s like a lite version of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, but filled with teenage angst instead of adult drama. It doesn’t go as dark as King’s version, and there are certain elements that the kids don’t have to deal with at all, but it’s very similar.
The show takes place late in the school year (likely May), and the town has a strange smell permeating the area. Apparently, it had appeared before recently, and the town leadership hired someone to “clear the air”, but, now, it’s back.
For reasons, the town decides that they’re going to pack up all of the high school kids and ship them off to a nearby camp for 10 days, while everyone else stays behind (adults, all the little kids, pets, etc) to deal with the smell. I know. I know.
Anyway, the kids load up on the buses in the evening, and while they’re driving around that night, there’s a big storm. Then, the buses stop, announce that there was a mudslide blocking the road to the camp, so the buses have brought them back home.
It’s the middle of the night, and nobody is there to greet them. Parents are also not answering their cells. The kids simply shrug this off and head home for the night. When they get home, they can’t find anyone there either.
The next morning, the kids regroup to try figure out what’s going on. Nobody can find their families, they can’t reach anyone on their cell phones besides each other, and there’s no internet!!! Someone gets smart and hops into a car, figuring they’ll just drive over to the next town and see what’s going on. They get to the town’s border to find that the road is gone and blocked by a massive forest. The check the other end of town and find the same thing. In fact, it appears there’s a forest surrounding the entire town (there’s a dramatic pan out to show a nearby bridge with train tracks crossing underneath, and we’re shown that the tracks now end in forest).
Oh, man, what on Earth are a bunch of teenagers alone in a town with absolutely no adult supervision going to do???
(Throw a HUGE party, of course)
After a few days of partying, one of the main characters, Cassandra, who is quasi-popular but also the student body president, decides that they should probably start thinking more about how they are going to survive long term. She starts setting up work assignments, consolidating the housing (which the rich kids hate sharing their mansions), etc. They assign a group of kids to start investigating what happened and why they’re where they are.
They’re worried about the food supply and kind of worry about the water and electricity. Although they do guard the local grocery store, nobody seems to follow up on how they’re getting water or electricity and what they might need to do to keep all of that running. They pick up trash, but there’s no discussion of where it goes (I figured the town landfill was likely outside the town, and they wouldn’t have access to it)
Two kids do find out that there was a deal between the town and a man who was to be paid $1.5 million to get rid of the smell. For whatever reason, once he did his job, the town leaders (some of the kids parents) decided not to pay the guy. Some other details are revealed, but the show doesn’t follow up on them at all until the last episode.
To help the kids adjust, Cassandra and her friends, who have basically become the leadership, decide to have prom, and it’s a good night for most of the kids. Then, someone decides to murder their leader, Cassandra. What are they going to do now?
So, yeah, there are some interesting bits to the show, as the kids decide how to try to organize some type of society and a set of rules to live by. Most of the drama, though, spends a lot of time on who’s trying to hook up with whom. Sometimes, the decisions don’t make sense.
For example, for reasons, they decide to put Cassandra’s little sister, Allie, in charge. Why her? Was there not a student-body vice-president or another senior that could have taken over? Or, simply, nobody wanted the responsibility.
So anyway, on top of trying to deal with all of this responsibility dumped on her head, Allie’s also presented with a possible suspect in her sister’s murder. She now has to figure out how to arrest the suspect, detain him, set up a trial for the accused, and then, figure out what the convicted killer’s sentence should be.
In other places, the situations fall flat. One night, a storm causes a blackout, and suddenly, some of the teenagers decide to loot the local hardware store for all of its flashlights. Other teens show up to stop them, and a major fight breaks out. Only… this is supposed to be kind of a rural small town, so blackouts from thunderstorms, and equally likely, snowstorms, would be a thing. Most homes in the area probably have plenty of flashlights, and lanterns, and a few may even have generators. The point was to illustrate what would happen if chaos took over the town, but it just felt like a really weak example.
Although Allie has a pretty good character arc, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional, and it’s a shame that they couldn’t have at least played with creating some before and after situations. Like, for instance, one of the guys is revealed to be an actual diagnosed psychopath. Why not give him a redemption arc in this new world? Instead, he’s stays true to type.
Daybreak, another teenagers in a impossible scenario series, at least manages that. All of the major characters in that show have a pre- and post-apocalypse life, and sometimes, it creates tension between the characters.
The series ends with the town getting ready to have elections for a new mayor and, for the first time, a town council, and looking for some land to farm because they’re realizing they’re going to run out of food. There’s a huge twist though.
There’s also a mysterious ending that will have viewers wondering what is really happening – even possibly wondering if the kids are all dead? We won’t know until season two.
It’s not a bad show. Allie is great to watch, and a few of the other characters are interesting. Campbell, the town psychopath, oozes menace in every scene he’s in, and Elle, who enters into a relationship with Campbell (and everyone forgot to mention to her that he’s crazy), is fascinating to watch as she struggles with being stuck in this situation with Campbell. But, most of the characters are pretty basic. Most of the guys are all brainless or douchebags. Harry is a rich asshole. The football players are all dumb jocks, except for one, who has a BIG secret (and I bet you can’t guess what it is!) Even Will, who is supposed to be the “poor kid with a heart of gold” – the resident “nice guy” – spends a lot of time trying to get laid.
Most of these characters are what I would consider to be “upper middle class” who have likely never worked a day in their life. So, there’s some fun in watching them trying to figure out how to do certain things, and begin to understand that there’s a lot of stuff that happens that they simply never appreciated. A couple of the characters realize that someone needs to learn to be a doctor/nurse to all of these kids. Next season, they’re going to have to figure out how to farm, and it’s not clear if the town contained a tractor supply or anything that might have farm equipment for them to use. They’ll likely have to go “old school” on farming.
The only other disappointment about the show is that it really loses focus on anyone looking into where they are and/or why they’re there. They tried to explore the woods in the first episode, but unfortunately, a girl is bitten by a snake and has an allergic reaction to the poison and dies. So, for that reason, they simply abandon investigating their surroundings until the last episodes, when, over five months later, a small team goes looking for farmland outside of the town limits. The mystery of how they got there in the first place doesn’t really come up again until the last couple of episodes.
But, overall, it is a pretty decent show. I think the show could have been a lot better if they had focused more on the kids actually dealing with their situation instead of just the usual teenage drama. The five month time jump between episodes six and seven is pretty jarring. The show is certainly setting up that things will be harder for the kids in season two, so maybe the show runners will find more things for the kids to do and and find some personalities for the other characters.