Take a look at the pic above. Not the most inspiring, is it? If I had judged The Order by its promo, I could easily have skipped one of the best bits of television I’ve seen in my life.
Yes, The Order is that good.
Netflix is nothing if not fecund. Its womb overflows with series, some original, some not, some hasty re-badgings of other networks’ net works.
I think it’s fair to say that most of us, knowing that Netflix values quantity over quality, have consequently adjusted our televisual expectations downwards. If a major network like the BBC was to field an entirely new supernatural series, that would be news. Netflix does that with every breath sooo… ehhh… What’s this one? Teenage vamps? Werewolves? Zombies? Genre telly is pushing no boundaries, it is almost entirely comfort viewing. The same well-worn tropes told in exactly the same thin, YA way.
That’s why I was so surprised by The Order. I just wanted to put some telly on while I scoffed my tea, nothing heavy, nothing brain-disrupting, some light escapism would do. Hell, even YA since everything is cursed with YA nowadays. Might as well go with that ridiculously emotionally unrealistic flow.
But from the very opening scenes… I sit up and take notice. There’s a distinct Buffy vibe going on between what I assume are two principal witches. And the relationship between the central character, Jack (Jake Manley) and his Pops (Matt ‘MAX HEADROOM’ Frewer) isn’t the pure, gloopy corn syrup we’ve come to expect; it’s complex and we’re given strong hints that it’s broken in profound ways.
Sheesh… that’s the first ten minutes.
The premise is this: Jack and his Pops have an axe to grind with a blokey that has something to do with a secret society based at Belgrave University. For reasons we don’t yet know, they blame him for Jack’s Mum’s death. Oh, and said blokey happens to be… duh duh DUHHHH! JACK’S DAD! Lovely!
So Jack goes to Belgrave and on his first day meets… Alyssa!
She is supremely irritated by Jack and so, of course, following teenage lust rules SUPER ATTRACTED TO HIM (yeah, me neither).
He also meets this dude:
Initially, he’s his dorm guide but the two hit it off and we warm to Randall as he has some funny lines. Like, no, really, they are funny. You will at least snort if not literally LOL. “I’m Wikipedia smart!” is one I plan to plagiarise often. And the Oprah one.
Bear in mind, we’re now twenty minutes in and not much SUPERNATURAL has happened yet… at all. So, why have I kept watching? Because it’s a long time since I heard dialogue this funny and well-paced, particularly in genre telly which more often tends to the clunkily portentous. You know what I mean… “LO, WITCH, FORFEIT THE DAGGER OF SHNNGTHHHTTHH OR FEEL THE UNLEASHED FURY OF THE HOUNDS OF GLAKNKRISHP!”
So, The Order is snappy, it moves along without any of the detours, longueurs or outright Netflixitis that’s doomed many a fresh-faced show. Just because you can show me a tap dripping for two minutes doesn’t mean you should. (Hey, The OA!)
Then, when the supernatural bits do start kicking in, it’s all done similarly smartly. There’s a lot of emphasis on make-up, practical effects and grounding the fantastic in the mundane rather than the over-reliance on shonky CGI that yer average Netflix ghosty show wallows in. Thus, we never get the spooky drama ruined by low-polygon FX, everything is done without over-stepping budget believability. And I do love a good mask:
And then, right at the end of ep one… WE HAVE OUR FIRST HUUUGE MONSTER. And, wow, they are sooo cuddly. And bitey.
Over the following nine eps of series one, I became totally hooked on The Order. I didn’t even mind the romance subplot and usually they annoy the shit out of me. The writers on The Order know how to pitch a love story so it’s real, it’s not cloyingly sweet or pure, clothes-shredding, perfect-sex fantasy… it’s a bit awkward and a lot frustrating. C’mon, that’s what those first relationships are actually like!
And when the monster threat in ep one is dealt within in ep two, we don’t feel let down or in any way cheated by the resolution. In fact, I actually kicked myself for not for figuring it all out earlier, there were actual glaring clues, it wasn’t a Murder She Wrote impossibility.
So that’s what I think shines in The Order: the writing, the characters, the acting, the plots AND the romance, the mise en scene, the cinematography. And, yes, even the CGI is tasteful and enhances the whole show. Now, how often can you say that?
Give The Order a go. Give it one ep and I promise… you’ll be hooked!