Netflix recently streamed the season finale of freshman post-apocalyptic drama Between, which answered a few of our burning questions: What caused the virus? Is there a cure? And what about the outside world? The finale also posed an important new question: What happens next to Pretty Lake’s youngest residents? Small town Pretty Lake suffers from a mysterious virus that kills anyone over the age of 21, causing the government to build fences around the town as a quarantine protocol. It’s a promising premise, which was probably why Netflix wanted to forgo its binge-style viewing to try it out as a weekly release.
Unfortunately, Between doesn’t live up to what it could’ve have been.
The potential in this series lies in the Under The Dome-like story, but Under The Dome (which premiered its third season the same night Between streamed the finale) is the better show. What brings the new series down are the so-bland-it-hurts characters and stiff dialogue—a double whammy that would hurt any show, no matter how fascinating the plotlines.
Now that Netflix has decided to continue with Between, it needs to look at what went wrong with the debut season. Here are 5 areas where Netlix can begin with the improvements.
There are two ways Netflix can fix its character problem—let them die from the virus, or better yet, give viewers reasons to root for them. You have Chuck (Justin Kelly), the rich high school jock, who employed himself as Pretty Lake’s sheriff with his teammates as his gun-wielding officers. Chuck wanted to keep everyone safe, but he lost sympathy when he started making up his own punishments, and his rash decisions to ambush the more experienced Creekers never panned out well. Then there’s the lead woman, Wiley (played by Jennette McCurdy)—the rebellious daughter of a preacher, who was pregnant at the start of the series. McCurdy is one of the few better actors on the roster and she had moments worth rooting for, but her character’s stubbornness and unwillingness to cooperate with her older sister Melissa (Brooke Palsson)—who wasn’t any better—can get grating. Yes, they are high school kids surviving in an adult-less world, but it’s hard to want them to survive or be saved when they are so annoying.
The main draw of Between was McCurdy (best known for Nickelodeon shows iCarly and Sam & Cat), but some of her fellow actresses weren’t given much with their characterizations and stories. When Samantha (Abigail Winter) came into the picture, she seemed bright and sensible; yet, she ultimately ended up as Chuck’s new love interest and follower. Then there was Stacy (Samantha Munro), Chuck’s ex-girlfriend, who wasn’t seen again after betraying Ronnie (Kyle Mac) and Chuck, and getting played by Mark (Jack Murray). If you’re a female character in Pretty Lake, there’s a good chance you’ll only serve as a plot point to further develop male characters. Otherwise, you’re strangely written off once you’re no longer needed. Attention to characterization needs to be well-balanced between the male and female characters.
Between writers took the easy way out by revealing that the government made its decision because of population control. It was a measly excuse for the virus, and the writers will have to make up for it by establishing bad guys who you want to see go down for this act. Minister Miller seems a likely candidate, as there has to be more to her than her political exterior. This is also a chance for Between to bring in new villains to create more tension amongst Pretty Lake’s survivors.
In the beginning of the outbreak, Pretty Lake was connected with the outside world through television news and social media. They even showed Gord’s little sister receiving a phone call from her worried Aunt. The government cut off Pretty Lake from the others and will stop anyone from getting in or getting out to prevent the virus from spreading. But the series can still show glimpses of what people away from Pretty Lake are doing after the outbreak. After all, there are kids roaming around in Pretty Lake, shouldn’t there be other family members concerned, or a group of mercenaries wanting to go against the government to save these kids?
Would that be too much to ask? There was a scene in the penultimate episode when the smart, introverted Adam (Jesse Carere) got hit on the head by an actual cop and kept the same blank expression he’d had throughout the entire show. It was so badly performed, you almost wanted to quit the show right there (and maybe some of you did). Many of the characters are suffering both from the virus and bad acting. Between’s compelling premise can only carry the show so far, and it needs support from its actors. A few lessons for some of these actors will go a long way—and it’ll make some of the clumsy writing easy to swallow.