Review: The Society
I do not own any of these images - via IMDB.com
The Society released on Netflix May 10th 2019 Starring Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Sean Berdy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jacques Colimon, Olivia DeJonge, Toby Wallace, Alex Fitzalan, Kristine Froseth Created by Christopher Keyser
When everyone else mysteriously vanishes from their wealthy town, the teen residents of West Ham must forge their own society to survive.
On paper, The Society appears to be just another melodramatic YA show following students in a wealthy town, navigating relationships, friendships and angst - with an added dose of mystery and sci-fi. A modern day Lord Of The Flies, comparable to a number of other tv shows and films currently airing. While it does include a few tropes often found in such shows, The Society is quick to establish itself as a more mature and thought-provoking story about community, morality and power (rated 15+). The characters in The Society are forced to grow-up too fast as they are the only people left in town after everyone else mysteriously disappeared. The show’s main focus is on the community aspect: the mystery element becomes more of an after-thought as the characters attempt to find a way of running the town, keeping each-other safe and ensuring that they do not descend into chaos and anarchy.
The first two episodes find the characters enjoying an adult-free, lawless world: they can drink, they can party, they can steal. These initial reactions are predictable and the audience may find it a little frustrating (after all, the premise of the show isn’t anything new) but it isn’t long before the characters are confronted with some hard truths: they need order. When a serious crime is committed, they are forced to lay down strict rules and punishments.
Watching a bunch of teenagers pretending to be adults can be cringey and unconvincing - but the episode Putting On The Clothes, a direct quote by Kathryn Newton’s Allie who takes on a leadership role, purposefully highlights this. It isn’t long before they stop pretending as they carry out serious punishments for serious crimes: they execute someone. This is the moment where The Society sets itself apart from the rest and distinguishes itself as a dark toned mature show that isn’t here to fool around.
This is a story about teenagers but it is absolutely not a lighthearted, predictable, cringey-music-with-teenagers-kissing type of show. It’s a somewhat realistic story about survival. These young adults must quickly learn how to navigate their way through a life they were not prepared for. How do teenagers react to having new responsibilities thrust upon them? We see both ends of the spectrum: the ego-driven battle for power and the realisation that they can’t simply do nothing. Other adult themes of the show include drug use, domestic violence, abuse of power, anarchy, revenge and justice.
Many of the issues that arise in New Ham, the sub-urban town where The Society takes place, stem from male entitlement and privilege: whether it be the jocks who feel underappreciated, abusive boyfriends or misogynistic peeps who are threatened by a woman in a position of leadership - it isn’t long before utopic views clash and the community begins to fall apart. It’s worth mentioning that this is undoubtedly a feminist tv show.
We can’t complete this review without highlighting the performances. The Society has a strong, solid cast lead by the powerhouse that is Kathryn Newton (Supernatural, Big Little Lies, Lady Bird, Blockers). The nature of the show implies that characters have to make difficult choices that will seriously impact their mental and psychological well-being, these well-written scenes showcase this fresh-faced cast’s talent. Expect well-rounded arcs for each and everyone of the characters. The Society is also one of the few shows who has a main character who is deaf - with sign language used in every single episode.
We can only hope that season 2 is confirmed soon, we have such a strong foundation to build on now and it would be a shame not to do so!
Holly & Summer