Netflix’s ‘The Order’ fails to get its house in order

Netflix is quite famous for churning out more content than one can watch. Their key strategy is that the customer should never run out of options and never leave their platform.

So, when one logs into Netflix, the biggest decision one has to make is what to watch next. Amid the same dilemma, I happened to chance upon ‘The Order.’ After watching the trailer, I decided to give the series a chance.

And boy, was I disappointed. Because the one feeling I had after binging on this series was: I was tired. And I don’t think that that is the feeling Netflix wants audiences to have when they finish watching a series.

At the very outset, there is a familiarity in the setting of the series. And the premise. And the characters. There is a sense of comfort that envelops you when you begin watching the series. And that is a good thing.

But halfway through the first episode, you get a strong sense of deja vu if you are a fantasy fiction fan. If you have watched even one episode of the Syfy series, The Magicians, this story feels lived in. And if you have followed the series, you can pretty much figure out the plot without putting in too much effort.

Three episodes in, you realize that this series is a few years late to the Young Adult show hype. And that is where you want to leave it because barring a strong comedic undertone and chemistry between the leads, and there is nothing much this series has to offer.

By the end, you are only watching to figure out if the series will end the way you predicted it to. That and to see if the leads get their happily ever after.

What went wrong

The show tries hard to come off as an original show while emulating The Magicians at every turn. They do have differing plotlines in both, but both revolve around an education institution. That and the leads Jack (Jake Manley) and Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey) look just like the leads of The Magicians. Even Manley’s hairstyle resembles that of Jason Ralph from The Magicians.

The first two episodes also ring familiar with sci-fi drama Fringe — the one with Secret City alum Anna Torv and The Affair’s Joshua Jackson. A mysterious creature is on the hunt in a college campus. Sound familiar yet?

The show feels like someone put all the popular fantasy fiction and sci-fi shows in a juicer and blended them. The creatures in the show are all too familiar though the writers have tried to breathe fresh air into their characteristics. But given that we have already seen them in other series like Grimm and Shadow Hunters, their representation feels very shallow.

The fact that the script had the potential to be so much better is just so heartbreaking. It was quite apparent that the writers were explicitly told to follow the lead of the other shows. Other things like cinematography and the background score were just there. Their presence made no difference to the feel of the series if and when compared with other similar shows.

It’s set in a college seems more like a trope to fit into the script rather than something essential for the narrative.

Also, the script oscillates between wanting to share information and being rescued by the cast when it hits the TMI level. The actors, and not the writing, bear the burden of carrying the show on their shoulders, a feat that is apparent in their fractured performances.

What was right

Even though quite a lot is wrong for the show, there are a few good things about it too. Like the names of their secret societies. They sound like they have a root in reality: Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose and Knights of Saint Christopher.

The remaining cast of the show ably supports the lead pair. They make sure that there is never a dull moment on the screen. They rescue the show with their sarcasm laden quips every time the script deviates from the central narrative. But their characters are not fleshed out on paper, which translates to unsatisfactory performances on screen.

The three things that work out perfectly for the show are: It’s a comedic undertone, the chemistry of the lead pair and its woke-ness.

It seems like the show knows that it needs comedy to balance the scales with all the severe happenings. And that is the saving grace of the show when it encounters head-spinning leaps from belief. Given that it is a fantasy-fiction show, it has quite a few of those.

The best part of the show is the central love story of the two lead characters. Even though you have a feeling that they will end up together, you want to see more of them on-screen. There is an organic magnetism between them that makes you want to stay with them, at that moment. Though there is nothing new in either their storyline or personal characteristics, it is just a tale as old as time.

The last thing that works in favor of the show is that it is woke. Given the circumstances of its timely release or the patented Netflix charm, it just speaks to the times. That and it has a well-rounded cast for most roles.

Final Take

All in all, it is a skippable show as it is not essential viewing. Maybe if you are tired of the Twilight saga or want a change from The Magicians, then it will do. Or if you miss Fringe, give this a go. It may not be sci-fi, but it surely is engaging at times.

My two cents will be: don’t binge this series at all. Not only will it make you want to throw in the towel after the first few episodes, but it will also make your head feel heavy.

Rating: C+

Cast: Jake Manley, Sarah Grey, Matt Frewer, Sam Trammell, and Max Martini.