One episode was provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
Between is the most un-Netflix show that the streaming service has ever aired, and it seems to want audiences to know that. Instead of following the company’s traditional model of releasing every episode at once, this Canadian import (airing there on City and Shomi) is rolling out one episode a week, in a strategy that’s sure to infuriate subscribers of all ages who have grown accustomed to binge-watching. Upon watching the pilot (the only episode made available for review), however, it becomes clear why Netflix is diverging from its attention-getting tactics for this series – the streaming service is hoping to sweep it under the rug as quietly as possible.
Aimed squarely at the teen demographic responsible for keeping The 100 and Teen Wolf on the air, Between feels much more like the kind of show that would be at home on ABC Family or Syfy. Dully acted and poorly scripted, the series pins its hopes and dreams on audiences biting down on the central mystery – a killer plague leaves everyone over the age of 21 dead in the small, picturesque town of Pretty Lake. The government isn’t telling anyone anything, a quarantine leaves survivors battling to fill the power vacuum, and it’s all very moody and sinister.
Unfortunately, Between isn’t half as intriguing as it thinks it is. Lord of the Flies, Under the Dome and Michael Grant’s Gone series (the eventual adaptation of which I pray is much, much better cast than this) have already played in the same post-apocalyptic sandbox, and the sparse breadcrumbs scattered by creator Michael McGowan don’t make sitting through the remaining five hours of Between a particularly appetizing proposition. This is one scenario in which the Netflix model could have really helped – it’s hard to imagine viewers making space on their calendar to watch an hour of television as slow and tiresome as the pilot week after week.
The biggest problem has got to be the scripting, which is soapier and sillier than anything Netflix has put out to date (yes, even including Hemlock Grove). Between is a show where every line is delivered with a melodramatic flourish, precocious kids rattle off encyclopedia-style explanations of random topics and there’s rarely a convincing word out of anyone’s mouth. Amateur screenwriting errors abound, from countless exposition dumps to grammatically dubious declarations, with the effect being that the series lurches dangerously close to self-parody.
The resolutely weak and wooden performances are yet another barrier to enjoying Between. iCarly‘s Jennette McCurdy is better than the rest, attempting to bring some dignity to the thinly written role of Wiley, a cynic teen pregnant by some unknown guy, but she stumbles over the unwieldy dialogue as well. And as mild-mannered hacker Adam, Jesse Carere seems to believe that feigning catatonia is the best way to impart sullen teenage angst. Meanwhile, Ryan Allen doesn’t leave much of an impression as heart-of-gold farmer Gord, who becomes an unlikely champion for law and order.
It should be noted that Between, like its aforementioned thematic predecessors, does raise some interesting questions. How would you spend your last days? Would you abandon order or stick to it? In the darkest times imaginable, would you prioritize others or yourself? The people of Pretty Lake cope with the end of days in a variety of ways – by praying, sulking, breaking bad or holding tightly onto their values. There are rumblings of a class war, with Stephen Bogaert’s snide, sadistic one-percenter (one of the only adults inexplicably alive at the end of the first episode) preparing to carry out his own brand of justice (aka kill all the poor, non-white undesirables) across Pretty Lake. Elsewhere, a young thug is locked in the local jail, menaced both by fellow inmates and the conflicted guards meant to protect him.
What’s frustrating is that none of the characters in McGowan’s series are unique or well-formed enough to have anything of worth to really contribute to the cultural discussion about end-times and human nature that The Walking Dead and even The 100 are framing. The pilot is heavy on plodding misery and low on actual reflection.
By the time the first episode winds down, with one of the characters in possibly mortal danger, the main issue with Between is that it hasn’t spent nearly enough time with any of them to warrant viewers’ concern. The series brutally wipes out almost every adult in Pretty Lake within the first half hour and then asks us to care about the survival of blandly acted townspeople who’ve been around for just as short a time. It just doesn’t work that way, as Netflix is sure to find out when it judges the viewership for the second episode against that of the first. Especially with programming like Daredevil and Orange is the New Black at viewers’ fingertips, there’s a very slim chance of Between connecting with more than a handful of particularly undemanding subscribers.
Lifelessly acted and carelessly scripted, Between is a regrettable step down from Netflix's other original programming.