Netflix UK TV review: Between (Episode 1)
Ivan Radford | On 20, May 2015
“Don’t you think it’s only a matter of time?”
That’s the question asked by the young residents of Pretty Lake, when a mysterious plague begins to break out, killing everyone over the age of 21. It’s a neat enough premise for a sci-fi thriller – but Between, Netflix’s new original series, has got a lot of competition.
Ever since Lost – and, further back, since Twin Peaks – our television screens have been full of shows hoping to draw us into their weird enigmas and supernatural secrets. Only last week, Wayward Pines premiered simultaneously around the world on FOX. Netflix, meanwhile, recently released Residue, an indie British series that follows the similar premise of a town under quarantine.
What sets Between out from the crowd? For starters, it isn’t very good, judging by the first episode.
The introduction gives us a glimpse of the town before the disease strikes, as a host of young people argue and talk amiably with the adults around them. Then, suddenly, they’re on their own, unsupervised and unaware of what’s going down.
It’s a revelation that spells interesting consequences for our teens: in a Lord of the Flies-style society, what will happen? Who will rise to the top? The rich guy, angry at the boys stealing one of his cars? The prisoners in jail, who have their own grudges with each other? The daughter of the local preacher, with a bun in the oven? The quietly intelligent hacker, who can find out the truth?
The sad fact is that it’s hard to care about any of them, as the script hops between them without making them more than stock types. Duff dialogue does nothing to ignite your interest. “I’ve been deep inside the government computers,” intones Jesse Carere’s Adam, overly seriously, as he discovers that all the deceased are aged 22 and up. Could anyone younger die in the future? “No,” he declares immediately, with no detailed explanation.
“Dad’s dead!” cries one girl in another scene, with a surprising lack of emotional weight.
iCarly star Jennette McCurdy is the biggest name in the uneven cast and even her pregnant teen, Wiley, is lumbered with cheesy lines.
Brushes with the military, who erect a large wall around the town, emphasise the potentially intriguing power imbalance that will inevitably arise; not unlike Under the Dome, there’s only so many places someone can go when they’ve crossed someone else. But Between’s lower budget is obvious, even when compared to something like the Leeds-based Residue (funded by Screen Yorkshire), with a palpable lack of atmosphere to the location; a crucial failing for a programme that will rely on small-town claustrophobia for tension.
Of course, it’s always tough to judge a show on its opening hour: serialised storytelling means that things can sometimes take a while to click. In an age of binge-watching, where two episodes or more are often consumed back-to-back, that kind of problem can be easily overcome by eager audiences. The exclusive rights for Between, though, belong to Canada’s City network, which means each instalment can only be added to Netflix weekly following their initial broadcast.
Writer Michael McGowan has just six episodes to wrap up his story, which suggests a swift and concise tale, rather than a frustrating, Lost-style lack of answers. But will people keep coming back to Between for six weeks? With a lot of superior competition, both sci-fi and otherwise, you suspect it will only be a matter of time until they stop.
Between is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.