Oops, teens did another dystopia. YA fans will recognise this story: a bunch of youngsters without adult society must reshape the world to live. Lord of the Flies, The 100, The Woods, and more stories about teenagers facing leadership challenges abound. The Society, Netflix’s new YA drama, blends survival horror, political commentary, and CW-style adolescent drama in its first ten episodes, but if you stay with it, you’ll find potent narrative and surprising depth.
Party of Five co-creator Christopher Keyser and The Amazing Spider-Marc Man’s Webb executive produced (who also directs a number of episodes,) The Society follows West Ham High School upperclassmen on their long-awaited camping trip in rich New England. After saying farewell to their parents, the youngsters board a bus for a lengthy travel, but they end up back home.
Except when they return, all the grownups have vanished, 911 doesn’t function, the internet is down (though kids can still text each other via iMessage), and seemingly endless forestlands suddenly encircle the city bounds, making escape impossible. The city had a strange fragrance before they left, and an unexplained astronomical phenomenon signals something unearthly is going on.
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No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s bad glances,” the youngsters throw themselves into partying, sex, and booze. Until the consequences of their abrupt seclusion hit. An early death sets a precedent that anything can happen, with limited food and electricity, medical terrors including untreatable allergies and pregnancy in a post-doctor society, and their de facto leader has a pacemaker.
Once they realise the potential for terror in their new reality, lines are drawn in the sand. Cliques become contingents, and the privileged “haves” struggle to let go of their excess while the “have-nots” try to make a better life for themselves.
Cassandra (Rachel Keller), the Yale-bound class president, leads. Her know-it-all attitude irritates many, especially the boys, who blame her for their girlfriends’ sudden unified assertion of power (a pointed and intentional storyline in the aftermath of the 2016 election), but Cassandra is the only one with a plan and she adeptly sets up a semi-socialist way of living that allows them to survive.
Her sister Allie (Kathryn Newton) fights to step out of Cassandra’s shadow, while her disillusioned wrong-side-of-the-tracks BFF Will (Jacques Colimon) tries to create a new lifestyle with them.
Campbell (Toby Wallace), a handsome psychopath, disrupts the order and reveals his true (very dark) colours. Campbell is a Depressive Demon Nightmare Boy, the great response to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. He needs a moustache to twirl, but it wouldn’t match his look.
Even though he’s black-and-white, he’s intriguing to cage. Wallace’s lethal charm and teen dream visage are sure to generate an equal number of fanfictions and think pieces, but Campbell’s scenery-chewing villainy is ultimately overshadowed by his girlfriend/captive Elle (Olivia DeJonge).
Elle, a school misfit seeking protection, turns to the wrong place in her moment of need, and DeJonge utilises her survivor’s edge from The Visit and Better Watch Out to turn her abuse victim into a wickedly cunning (and maybe dangerous) force.
Harry (Alex Fitzalon), a football player with peak entitled golden boy entitlement, his equally gorgeous and privileged but much more “greater good” minded girlfriend Kelly (Netflix regular Kristine Froseth), Sam (Sean Berdy), a scene-stealing semi-out gay boy who is also deaf, and his best friend Becca (Gideon Adlon), who is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, are also key characters. The show’s best relationship is complex and honest, giving them honour and maturity rarely seen in YA stories.
That’s a lot and just a taste of the character roster. The abundance of players implies some are sketchier than others. Jocks, cool chicks, and geniuses don’t get anything to do, and the tertiary characters are just broad strokes in a busy landscape.
The crowd of no-names also allows for some surprising contenders to the seat of power as the season wears on, as well as equally surprising dramatic arcs for characters who initially seem one-dimensional, like the religious good girl Helena (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and the quiet jock Grizz (Jack Mulhern), both played by relative unknowns poised to break out, who get two of the show’s most compelling romantic relationships.
The Society mostly praises teens. This is an Ivy League-bound group of hyper-educated kids who drop literary, historical, and biblical references as casually as F-bombs, and yes, they’re all played by twenty-somethings who read on-screen as college students, but The Society doesn’t talk down to its core demographic or create drama “because teenagers!” The Society addresses all the musts of teen TV in 2019—gender roles, queerness, masculinity in crisis, surviving abuse, handicap, teen pregnancy, etc.—but what really sets it apart is a self-seriousness that can be both an asset and a burden, depending on the situation.
The Society is more interested in tragedy and political examination than hot hookups and soapy teen drama, using an over-familiar YA concept to explore what makes a functional society and how humans behave when the structures are suddenly stripped away.
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The Society explores controversial themes like gun ownership, the death sentence, and power abuses with West Ham’s kids. Best of all, you typically understand everyone’s position (except Campbell, who’s nasty), and the programme shows how hard it is to keep order without becoming a police state.
The series sometimes falters in rhythm and structure due to its self-seriousness, which can come out as preachy and self-important.
The first several episodes are boring, but a stunner turns the story around. There’s nothing new here, yet few stories approach these topics and cliches with such honest deliberation, leading to some genuine and poignant moments amongst the delectable melodrama.
Some will be frustrated by the series’ complete lack of interest in answering its many mysteries (seemingly equal parts a ploy to ensure binge-mode and a natural necessity of telling a more thoughtful story), but I absolutely smashed the “play next” button at the end of each episode and genuinely felt bummed out when I burned through them all.
The Society: whining rich kids in a familiar YA setting? Yes. Undoubtedly. But it’s a good one, and the first season’s growing pains only make me curious to see where The Society will take us (Season 2 hasn’t been ordered yet, but with its cast of young stars and hyper-bingeable drama, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a hit for Netflix). As off-putting as it can be, if the series maintains true to its intensity and intense exploration of gender, class, and sexuality, it will remain one of the best YA shows on TV.
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Does It Make Sense to Watch the Society?
The Society is similarly worthy of consideration for its humour and resonance as well as its captivating plots. As the best teen drama now available, it may not be innovative, but it makes a compelling case for beginning over.
What Actually Occurs in Society?
What occurred in the conclusion of Netflix’s “The Society”? In episode 3, after Cassandra is shot, the entire village is thrown into pandemonium. Without her, West Ham cannot function in the same manner as it did when she was in charge. Her sister Allie steps in as her replacement and maintains order for a time.
Where Did Everyone in the Society Disappear?
In the concluding shot of the first season, a plaque informs that roughly 243 students were moved to New Ham. New Ham is a variant of the original name of the city, West Ham. Charlie the dog is the only thing observed that can move between New Ham and West Ham, the original town.