Something deadly is happening in the small town of Pretty Lake and things are already getting out of control.
Let’s bitch it out…
Between is the outsider in Netflix’s “all episodes at once” business model. The show is actually a traditional week-by-week series in Canada, which means that new episodes will debut on Netflix weekly. Still it’s a six episode season, so it’s not exactly a lengthy period for those who decide to wait and binge.
The larger question is whether the series itself is binge-worthy. The logline is compelling: a mysterious malady strikes Pretty Lake, rapidly killing most of the adults in town. There are no symptoms; once you’re sick, you’re already bleeding from the mouth and dead within minutes. It’s dark stuff, especially considering how arbitrary the affliction seems to be in its choice of victims. Some adults die within moments of their introduction, while others are still alive at the end of the first episode. For those over 21 in the cast, it’s a crapshoot – who knows how long they’ll be around?
The lack of consistency (and specific details) about the mysterious illness speaks to the show’s true interest: Between is more concerned with the quarantine and its effect on the town’s residents than the illness. The biggest problem with this creative decision is that we don’t know any of these people, so the brief time that we spend with the fairly large cast paints everyone in broad strokes. In the best case scenario, the result renders them mysterious. In the worst, it turns them into a caricature. There’s still five episodes left to go, so this may not prove to be a problem, but after the pilot, it’s hard to say that we have more than cursory knowledge of anyone.
Part of the challenge of any new series is introducing a host of characters all at once. In Between – like other series set in a town that is as much a character as any of the flesh and blood actors – this means roughly a dozen different people, the majority of whom don’t interact outside of their own limited plot line. The result is often a surface-level introduction of a character, with very little opportunity to provide depth or history. Take the prison standalone, for everyone: inmate Mark (Jack Murray) is being victimized by another inmate and a rule-abiding correctional guard named Ellen (Sarah Podemski) isn’t ready to succumb to chaos despite the deaths and desertion of her colleagues. Do we learn anything substantial about either character? No. Are we meant to? Probably not. Problematically though, I don’t know that I care to, which one imagines is part of the writer’s strategic “leave ’em wanting more” narrative plan. Hell, if IMDb didn’t have pictures attached to most of the characters, I likely wouldn’t even be able to tell you Mark and Ellen’s names!
Considering the plot, this may not be an issue. The situation is already escalating fairly quickly, which suggests that by the end of season one, we could be in a very strange place. With the military keeping the town under quarantine and shooting anyone who comes near, the residents will likely continue to turn inward. This should produce more of the kind of conflict we saw when bad brothers Ronnie (Kyle Mac) and Pat (Jim Watson) stole a truck from the richest man in town, Mr. Lotts (Stephen Bogaert), and nearly got stripped and tarred at gunpoint as a result. One simply has to hope that this isn’t a low budget Canadian take on the ridiculous CBS drama Under The Dome, which featured a similar concept in its solid pilot episode before devolving into one of the stupidest series on television. Or maybe we do hope? As it stands Between is perfectly satisfactory, but it’s hardly memorable, which may just prove to be the greatest sin of all. #PrayForPrettyLake indeed.
- Of all the characters, I think we’re meant to be most interested in Wiley (Jennette McCurdy of Nickelodeon fame). The problem is that Wiley isn’t so much engaging as she is sullen. Watching her pout her way through the premiere before her water breaks makes for a rather dull storyline. Sure the lingering question of the baby’s father’s identity and why she felt compelled to become a surrogate for cash could be intriguing, but like most of the story lines, there simply isn’t enough to go on yet. Why should we care about Wiley’s attitude problems when we don’t know anything about her yet?
- Adam (Jesse Carere), the MIT-accepted genius who fails to escape the parameter and winds up shot, is the other “interesting” character, but I honestly can’t get past his bozo hair. #SorryNotSorry, but cover that shit up if you want me to take you seriously.
- PS: we’re totally headed for a “hot for student” storyline between Adam and young teacher Ms. Symonds (Shailene Garnett), right?
- Gord (Ryan Allen) signs up for the army before the outbreak occurs, but winds up having to look after not just younger sister, Frances (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon), but also Wiley. Are we meant to believe that there is no young pre-med student interning at the hospital?
- Finally, I wish that the social media visuals were more unique or memorable. It seems that these days every depiction looks the same. Between the floating text talk and the sombre colour palette for the series (ie: the depressing Twilight blue filter that makes everything a bit wet and grim) I’m reminded of Jason Reitman’s insufferably alarmist technophobic Men, Women & Children, from last year. This is not a good thing.
- Frances (when Gord reassures her he probably won’t see action in the army): “That’s what all the amputees say.”
- Gord (when Mr. Lotts insists he’s in the right for pulling a gun on Ronnie & Pat): “Last time I checked you’re just a rich guy, not the law”
Your turn: what are your thoughts on the premiere? Did you latch onto any of the characters? Do you have a burning desire to learn more about anyone in particular? Will we learn the reason for the outbreak or is that just the series’ launching point? And how bad will things get by episode six? Sound off below.
Between airs Thursdays at 8pm EST on City TV. New episodes are available on Netflix shortly thereafter