‘Between’ Season 1 Premiere Recap: “School’s Out”

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Between is a peculiar series on Netflix’s roster, most notably because it’s being released weekly — a new episode every Thursday night at 11:30 — instead of Netflix’s usual binge-release format. Maybe this change is because Between, especially in comparison to its Netflix peers, is marketed more to the young adult market: It stars Jennette McCurdy who found fame on iCarly and it focuses on a weird, dystopian, closed-in world where everyone over the age of 21 dies. The set day and time is surely an attempt to get the teens livetweeting together, but based on the pilot episode, they might not return next week.

But let’s start at the beginning: Between plunges viewers in immediately, setting up the creepy virus-or-not-virus and showing plenty of low-budget deaths (adults gurgling blood, mostly) and throwing a handful of characters at us without really detailing any specifics of those characters — aside from a couple of quick expositional descriptions via dialogue, like when we learn Adam is going to M.I.T. There is a young girl Frances and the guy (Gord) who wants to be a soldier, two rebellious brothers who clash with one too-cool rich teen Chuck and his father, prison guards and inmates, and so on.

At the center of it is all Wiley (McCurdy), the “minister’s fallen daughter.” Wiley is a pregnant high schooler but refuses to reveal who the father of her unborn child is, though we do later learn that she’s being paid off and that she signed a contract saying she’ll never tell anyone. It is, honestly, more intriguing than the actual virus that’s going around but I suspect it’ll take far too long to get any specifics out of her, just a lot of roundabout mumblings (the dialogue is, without a doubt, the worst part about this show.) She’s part of a religious family but her parents both die quickly in the pilot, leaving her alone with her sister. That’s the majority of the first episode: Parents dying suddenly and leaving their children around to fend for themselves.

As the episode progresses, so does the disease. By day 10, nearly 3,000 of the town’s 8,000+ residents are dead and Pretty Lake (yes, that’s the actual name) has a fence erected around it to keep the town in quarantine, clearly upsetting the townspeople. No one is sure what’s happening. It looks like it’s a virus but viruses don’t kill immediately and no one who died showed any previous symptoms of illness. Teen Genius Adam does a little digging and notices that no one under the age of 22 is dying, but what does it mean? Who knows! Between puts a mystery front and center but in such a poor way that the audience cranes its neck to try and see anything else that’s happening.

When Adam tries to convince his mother to go, she laughs off his “conspiracy theories” and coldly tells him that he reminds her of his father. Of course, viewers have no idea what his father was like or what happened to him but we know he must have been something of an asshole because 1) Adam takes immediate offense to this statement and 2) Before his mother can elaborate, she also begins spitting up fake-looking blood and dies in front of him. Adam decides that it’s time to get the hell out of dodge.

Which is harder than planned because the whole town is locked up and armed guards are keeping everyone in (and also attempting to keep people out, as evidenced by an earlier scene where one of the Badass Brothers (seriously, I don’t think they ever say anyone’s names?) has a tough time getting back to his home from the outside world). As he formulates a plan, the rest of the town runs around doing ridiculous things. A prison guard quits his job — most of the other guards/inmates have already quit or died — and tosses his keys to a violent inmate who grants himself an early release and spies a gun. He stupidly decides to take revenge on a fellow inmate who he clashed with earlier, only to get caught by the one guard who refuses to give up her post — and shoots him. Maybe this will all come together at the end but right now, that storyline is a big ol’ mess.

The brothers go on a joy ride in a stolen car (“The world’s gone to shit, we’re just having some fun!”), only to be caught by Chuck and his father who points a gun at them and orders them to lay naked on the ground so he can cover them in tar, I guess? It’s a lawless town! It’s also an incredibly dumb plot. But moral Gord breaks them up and he’s warned that he’s messing with the most powerful family in town … because they own a car dealership? Sure!

Back to Adam. He tries and fails and tries and fails to get Wiley to come with him when he breaks out. (It’s obvious that he’s in love with her because if you have two misfit teen best friends who aren’t dating, it’s a rule that one has to be in love with the other.) It looks like she might be coming around but then — of course! — her water breaks! Wiley and her sister have to figure out a home birth despite having no idea what they’re doing (seriously, Wiley? You’re a pregnant teen with access to the Internet and you haven’t once curiously looked up what the hell happens during labor?) but Gord, once again, arrives to save the day and deliver a healthy baby, leaving them all to wonder how long she’ll stay alive (Adam has yet to share his age theory with everyone).

Finally, Adam just decides to make a break for it himself and gets caught at the town’s border when alarms start blaring and cops start firing, shooting him in the back as he tumbles down. Fade to black! Cliffhanger! What’s sad is that I don’t want to return next week to learn about Adam’s fate or get more details on the virus, I just want to watch the writers continue to flail around with this narrative, unsure of where to go.