What would you do if you were under 22 years of age, everyone older than you was dead and your small town had been quarantined from the rest of the world? That’s the premise of Between, City’s newest—and sometimes frustrating— original series.
Debuting tonight, the sci-fi program created by Michael McGowan (One Week), boasts strong performances by its young cast while being annoyingly rote with some early plotlines and dialogue. Let’s start with the good, shall we? Jeanette McCurdy is just fine as Wiley Day, a whip-smart, sarcastic young lass who has gotten herself into a little bit of trouble. She’s a teen mom, about to give birth, and her life is in disarray thanks to being, among other things, the daughter of Pretty Lake’s minister. Wiley’s best friend, Adam (Jesse Carere), is brilliant, plans to attend MIT next term and leave his small town behind. The two form Between‘s strongest—and to this point most likeable—young characters of the first episode. Justin Kelly (Open Heart) is OK as rich-kid Chuck, but he’s a little one-dimensional at this point and therefore easy to dismiss. That’s also the case with Ronnie (Kyle Mac) and Pat (Jim Watson), two brothers from the poorer side of town who, of course, run afoul of Chuck and his father, Mr. Lotts. (Yes, the most powerful man in Pretty Creek is named Mr. Lotts.)
The idea of having a mysterious virus descend on the picturesque burg and dispatch anyone 22 and older is interesting too. There is no rhyme or reason to who dies and when, other than they suddenly leak thick blood out of their mouths and collapse. There is no cure, no answers and the town is quarantined from the rest of the world while the government supposedly works on a way to save everyone as the body count rises. Between utilizes social media the same way Sherlock and Open Heart has, with messages, texts and hashtags popping up on-screen to aid in the storytelling, an effective move.
But what hooked me was offset by some niggling, worn TV tropes that constantly pulled me out of the story. Despite loved ones dying in front of them, the citizens of Pretty Lake seemed non-plussed. Wiley and her sister are concerned when they discover Dad dead, but don’t call 911. The same goes for Chuck when Mom oozes red goo and expires. If my parent passed away I would be screaming crying and calling for help, but no one does here.
And, as the list of the dead rises steadily from day to day, none of the townsfolk try to leave. It’s not until the military descends to erect an electrified fence on Day 5 that anyone questions escaping and by then it’s too late. Health inspectors, despite having no clue what kind of pathogen they’re combatting, wear no more than a face mask and medical gloves to prod cadavers. I’ve seen enough movies and shows like Helix to know you don full-body suits when an unknown entity is killing folks. The fact one Pretty Lake citizen caught on the outside of the fence and then is ALLOWED TO ENTER the quarantine zone is even more confusing.
The first hour was also packed with overused dialogue that caused me to cringe. A prison guard utters the line, “Is everything OK here?” when she arrives on the scene after a scuffle between inmates; a teacher says “You’re a smart guy,” to the kid headed to MIT; “It’s a pleasure doing business with you,” remarks one lad buying guns from a rough-looking dude; and “Do you know who I am?” asks Mr. Lotts.
The first episode of any new TV show is the roughest. Characters have to be introduced, major plotlines established and relationships established. They’re never the strongest instalment and a series shouldn’t be judged solely on that. I’m intrigued enough to stick around for the good and overlook the bad. For now.
Between airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on City. Each episode is available on shomi every Friday.