Culture Film & TV

TV review: Topical teen thriller ‘The Society’ makes for bloated viewing ★★★☆☆

The latest Netflix original is gripping at times, but has the potential to be so much more.

Would the person you elected Head Girl in high school be the ideal individual to lead your town during a humanitarian crisis? After a school trip turns sour, the teenage residents of West Ham, New England, find themselves trapped in a replica of their hometown, with no parents, no laws and no contact with the outside world.

The first series of the latest Netflix teen drama explores topical themes in America, from women in power to gun control. When class president Cassandra (Rachel Keller, Legion) takes command, her attempt to restore order and push her collectivist agenda is not met with open arms by all.

An eye for an eye? Difficult decisions have to be made.
Credit: unificationfrance.com

After an unexpected murder, fear takes over the town. Forced to share resources and live in a socialist state, tensions begin to rise and a change of leadership shakes things up. Meanwhile, Cassandra’s psychopathic cousin Campbell (Toby Wallace, Neighbours) tries to play the strings and pit some of the town’s residents against each other. Although his ultimate goal is unclear, his controlling and erratic personality proves terrifying at times.

Although the ten-episode series is gripping at parts, you find yourself losing patience at times; the episodes could be shorter and still effective. Also, the characterisation in this young-adult drama leaves a lot to be desired. If the series zoned in more on the fascinating issue of living in a lawless society, and focused less on the teen angst and the somewhat irrelevant romantic relationships between the couples, it would make for a more exhilarating watch.

Furthermore, most of the characters fall into the stereotypical food-chain system that we have come to expect from American dramas in school settings. You have the jocks, the rejects, the clique of popular but bitchy girls, the rich, handsome bad-boy, and the Christian good-girl, who just so happens to be a virgin.

Having said that, there are a number of redeeming qualities. One theme that works particularly well is the constant battle between working to achieve the common good, and the natural selfishness of the human race. It is a thought provoking series, and highlights the idea that, when it comes down to it, humans should all be equal. When wealth and social status no longer matters, and the only objective is to stay alive, many of the characters struggle while others use it to their advantage.

All in all, The Society, in its dramatic American glory, is intense, and you find yourself wanting more at the end of the series. The final episode comes to an end in the form of a climactic cliffhanger, leaving viewers dangling over the edge in anticipation for what is to come.

Feature image credit: irishtimes.com

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