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TV Series Review

There are field trips, and then there are field trips.

The high schoolers of West Ham had a pretty big one on their collective calendar already: a week-long traipse through the Great Smoky Mountains. (The timing couldn’t be better, either, given the weird, inescapable odor plaguing the town.)

No one thought it’d be a trip from reality itself.

Toto, We’re Not in West Ham Anymore

Those high schoolers never make it to the Great Smokies. An, ahem, “rock slide” forces the busses to turn around and head back home. But when they get there, the teens find that the entire hamlet of Ham is empty. No parents. No teachers. No one to take their orders at McDonald’s. And while the teens can call and text to each other with abandon (phew!), every call to a parent ends with voice mail, every frantic dial to 911 winds up dropped.

No problem, right? West Ham doesn’t seem like it’s hurting for cash. Not only do most of these teens have driver’s licenses, but they have ready access to a Beemer or two as well. They’ll just hop in a car, drive to the next town and …

Oh, wait. Every road out of town runs smack-dab in the middle of a forest that looks as if it’s been there for a century or two. Teens who decide to hike out find the woods extend for what seems like an eternity. It’s like someone, or something, just picked up West Ham and plopped it right in the middle of the forest primeval.

These teens, they’re on their own. And goods from the pillaged grocery store in town are only going to stretch so far.

The Lord and the Lies

At first glance, Netflix’s The Society might look like any number of teen-centric, telegenic fantasy yarns, from The 100 on down. And sure, the show’s ingredient list fits that template. The characters are impossibly pretty or ruggedly handsome. We see much batting of eyes and throbbing of hearts. If we flip it on and watch for a few minutes, we might dismiss it as just another adolescent dystopian soap.

But The Society has higher aspirations than that. It feels far more like ABC’s landmark sci-fi mystery Lost, only with a cast of characters too young to drink (though most do so anyway).

Dig past the show’s soapy elements, and you find a rumination on society and civilization—with its collection of teens toying with democracies, police states and Lord of the Flies-like anarchy. One character hordes his parents’ gold bars. Another seizes a semblance of power with a handgun. Others champion a kinder, gentler, fledgling society—even as they’re pushed down harsher, more retributive, paths.

But The Society also explores the very concept of meaning. Why are we here? Is it all just happenstance, or can we find design behind it all?

“The world doesn’t just turn upside down without a reason,” says Cassandra, one-time class president. “We’re not in some play within a play, OK? … There is a point to everything. There are answers.”

Later, a deaf teen signs to a friend, “You’re looking for answers. There are none. Doesn’t this prove that?”

The show is achingly spiritual at times. Before the teens ever hop on their field-trip busses, a few come across some graffiti scrawled across the church’s brick wall: “Mene mene tekel upharsin,” it says, an allusion from the biblical book of Daniel. Even the name of the town, Ham, may reference the biblical son of Noah, who was cursed for seeing his father’s nakedness.

But The Society doesn’t stop at the Good Book when it comes to such classical references. It also alludes to everything from literature to old movies to nursery rhymes (a mysterious character named Pfeiffer may point to the child-stealing Pied Piper of Hamelin). It all makes for a provocative, thoughtful mystery.

Too bad about all the swearing.

Left Behind

For all its lofty ambitions, The Society gets mired in some pretty problematic territory. The f-word is perhaps the most used bit of vocabulary in the whole show, and we hear plenty of other choice obscenities and profanities as well. And remember, these are teens—many of them randy, ill-behaved teens—operating in a world without any sort of supervision or moral constraint at all. Some of the bad behavior seems to come with its own cautionary message, but not all. References to sexual acts are not infrequent.

The Society gives us a bevy of teens left to build civilization anew, using whatever lessons they’ve learned in their 16-to-18 years of life. The results are predictably mixed and, ironically, not fit for most teens.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

May 9, 2019: "What Happened"



Readability Age Range



Kathryn Newton as Allie Pressman; Rachel Keller as Cassandra Pressman; Gideon Adlon as Becca Gelb; Sean Berdy as Sam Eliot; Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Helena; Jacques Colimon as Will LeClair; Olivia DeJonge as Elle Tomkins; Alex Fitzalan as Harry Bingham; Kristine Froseth as Kelly Aldrich; José Julián as Gordie; Alex MacNicoll as Luke; Toby Wallace as Campbell Eliot; Jack Mulhern as Grizz; Spencer House as Clark; Emilio Garcia-Sanchez as Jason; Salena Qureshi as Bean; Olivia Nikkanen as Gwen; Kiara Pichardo as Madison Russo; Grace Victoria Cox as Lexie; Naomi Oliver as Olivia






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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