The Society Review: A Modern-Day Lord of the Flies Delivers Drama and Mystery

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Young-adult fiction often poses the question of what would happen if kids found themselves without the guiding hands of adults.

Do they emulate what they have seen before or do things crumble down around them?

The Society is the latest such piece of young-adult entertainment that ponders all of those questions, and it manages to do it quite nicely.

A School Trip

The Society's creator is Christopher Keyser who co-created another show that explored similar themes, Party of Five.

While Party of Five featured a close-knit group pulled together when the parents of five children get killed, The Society features a larger group who also seem to have lost their parents -- and everyone else who lived in their town and perhaps the world.

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An occurrence in their town results in all high-school-age kids getting shuffled off to an impromptu school camping excursion. Inclement weather sends their convoy of busses right back to where they started.

And it's then that the seemingly impossible had happened while they were gone -- everyone left or disappeared.

When the Cat Is Away

There is a lot more to the story, but there isn't enough to provide any answers about how long the group may be on their own or why they can't seem to reach anyone even by telephone.

It's then that chaos erupts.

When the cat's away, the mouse will play, so the saying goes. And at first, it seems like a pretty good time to be under their own auspices without getting told what to do or how to do it.

But as it always does, reality sets in and the longer they find themselves alone, the more the kids realize they're going to have to rise to the challenge set before them.

Siblings Rise Up

It's when the group is tasked with creating a working society to ensure everyone is safe and fed that the story becomes the most compelling.

In similar scenarios, there is always a faction interested in upholding civility and others who want to do what they want when they want.

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Natural leaders rise to take control of a very confusing situation, while others question authority even when or because it's at the hands of their peers.

Two sisters, Cassandra and Allie (Legion's Rachel Teller and Big Little Lies; Kathryn Newton) are at the center of the story as it begins because they are a microcosm of the event at large.

A Girl's Team

Allie always felt that she was in the shadow of her sister, Cassandra, even though at times she was just as much a caregiver for her older sister as Cassandra becomes for the group.

It offers the larger story a short off-Broadway style run as the two girls find their footing with each other in their new circumstances before the rest of the players will also become similarly engaged.

Their performances are the strongest of the cast, with Newton's Allie getting the most significant arc. Thankfully, Newton is up for the task.

When having fun and ransacking the town starts to lose its flavor and with the lack of information and inability to contact their families, the group sends scouts to see if the rest of the world is similarly afflicted.

Nowhere to Go

A quick jaunt proves things are unexpectedly more dire than they anticipated as there is no discernable way to leave, and all roads are grown over.

A more direct excursion into the woods to try to find a way out, more food, or communication only solidifies their fate -- they are all alone without anybody to guide them or provide for them.

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Discovering there are consequences to their actions for which they have no precedent in handling on their own finally sets up the group to begin taking things more seriously and planning for a future that may not prove any different than their current circumstances.

Actions Have Consequences

It's not entirely clear what kind of show The Society is outside of its retelling of Lord of the Flies. There is a mystery that would need solving before returning to the way things were, but the first season isn't about that.

Instead, it's focused almost solely on the creation of a working society manned by, essentially, children.

The group has a little bit of everything to add to the civilization, though. 

Cassandra and Allie have two cousins, Sam (Sean Berdy) and Campbell (Toby Wallace) who share no great love between them. Sam is extremely kind and deaf, while Campbell serves as the bad boy and town pariah.

There Is Always One

Clark, Luke, and Grizz (Spencer House, Alex MacNicoll, and Jack Mulhern) are football stars which form an unofficial security detail, while Harry (Alex Fitzalan) is the perfectly petulant rich kid who has all the best parties and who the younger crowd admires or envies.

Will (Jacques Colimon) attends school in town but lives elsewhere leaving him not only from the other side of the tracks but essentially homeless.

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He and Gordie (José Julián) not only have crushes on Allie and Cassandra respectively but also provide some minority representation in an otherwise severely white-bread town.

Other females on the cast include outsider Elle (Olivia DeJonge), the very religious Helena (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), Harry's erstwhile girlfriend, Kelly (Kristine Froseth), and Sam's best friend, Becca (Gideon Adlon).

Fending For Themselves

With Cassandra's help at Allie's urging, a shaky foundation is laid that gives everyone peace of mind, at least temporarily. But what The Society soon reveals is that finding your place in a fledgling community might be the easiest part.

It's ensuring that everyone remains together and on the same page that is the hard part, and to that end, The Society has its work cut out for it.

As with all successful Netflix series, The Society lurches forward in its ten episodes leaving a cliffhanger at the end of each hour propelling you onward.

While the mystery itself is interesting, what we learn about ourselves while watching the group struggle for survival that is most revealing.

A Watchful Gaze

It's no easier being in a position of authority than it is finding yourself responsible for some of the less prestigious pursuits such as janitorial work or feeding the masses.

But every person in what remains of the town has to hold up their end of the deal for the society to work. The ails of the population at large are exacerbated when on a smaller scale, and ensuing drama is riveting.

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There are some situations so rife with tension you might need to step back a little bit to get some clarity on what's happening. 

Because while there is a sense of unease due solely to their circumstances, there is also an impressive reflection back to the real world in all of the agonizing choices characters take and their motivations for making them.

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It was the first Netflix series in many months that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Tearing through the first six episodes leaves you breathless and often near tears.

You'll wonder what role you would play in their little world, and your heart will ache for what the group suffers and how crucial it is to them to get so much of it just right.

The Society is a compelling look at democracy and capitalism and socialism and a lot of other isms. If you've ever wondered what might happen if your little piece of the world were to break away from it all, you'll get some of the answers through The Society.

It won't always be pretty, and some of the stories will feel a little too concocted, but by the time The Society Season 1 ends, you'll be ready for more.


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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