REVIEW: ‘The Order Season 1’ Is a Disappointing Horror Drama

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The Order Season 1

The Order Season 1 is a young adult fantasy/horror series available on Netflix. The series is created by Dennis Heaton and stars Jake Manley and Sarah Grey, as well as Matt Frewer, Max Martini, and Louriza Tronco. The show centers around Jack Morton, played by Manley. Jack is enrolled in Belgrave University, a college that is run by a clandestine, cult-like group of magic users called The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose (mostly referred to as the Order). Through a series of impossible trials, Jack attempts to become an acolyte of the Order, under the tutelage of his mentor Alyssa Drake, portrayed by Gray. But when werewolves begin to be seen around campus, Jack finds himself stuck in a war between the werewolves and spellcasters. 

The plot is pretty captivating in its initial concept, but I don’t think it’s realized fully in this first season. The structure of the episodes is incredibly slow, feeling like chapters in a book as opposed to individual episodes that feel interesting on their own. A single episode will be devoted to a specific task, like being initiated, or starting to learn magic, but it takes a long time, over half the series, for the momentum to catch up. And, by that time, the audience may have grown weary. 

The second half of the season picks up and becomes more exciting with some twists I did not expect. Episode 6 is the turning point where the series starts showing signs of potential and is the start of the really appealing parts of the show. Not just because it introduces action and intrigue, but it’s the first time we get a scene that is genuinely frightening and devastating. It’s just frustrating that it takes so long to reach this point.

The dialogue throughout each episode is what damages the series most. If it isn’t recycled from other shows, it features jokes that have trouble landing. When there is the opportunity for a great scene to be adorned with fantastic lines, it is often squandered and deflated by one that ruins the tempo of the conversation. There are some moments where the confrontations start to get heated, and some of the funnier lines made me smirk, but they are few and far between.

As an aside, considering how secretive every aspect of this world is supposed to be, everyone is terrible at secret-keeping. Anything classified is immediately discussed inside a busy bar or right outside the main campus building. While a trope and used to create drama, it does start to get grating when it happens several times an episode.

Jack is underwhelming as a protagonist. His dialogue is badly written and it makes it hard for him to establish himself as a character. The parts that do come across, the wisecracks or the bravery, are no more unique than any other character in a young adult series. Manley’s portrayal of the character doesn’t help either as he struggles to make Jack emote for most of the series. When he attempts to be emotional, it falls flat and lacks any impact. Despite the bad dialogue, the punchlines and occasional line of crucial character building need better delivery to actually flourish.

Jack’s love interest is his mentor Alyssa, who does have an interesting plotline of her own. At the start of The Order Season 1, she comes across as a character eager to learn and gain status within the organization. She becomes a mentor and guidance figure for Jack, while also striving for greatness within the Order. Gray plays her with positivity, but like her co-star struggles with the troublesome writing. For much of the first four episodes, Alyssa is seen sporadically, and her character development is done quickly without the audience actually spending much time with her or learning about her.

The chemistry between the two actors is fun to watch, but there are far too many instances where it is awkward and forced. Much of their interactions are built around Heaton attempting to craft them into a couple to “ship,” but it gets in the way of real development of both characters. The weaving of the relationship isn’t spun well and it needs better performers to enact it. 

That doesn’t mean that there are only bad performances; many of the other actors feel like they would be able to present better characters if they were given better dialogue and motivation. Martini is effective as the Grand Magus of the Order, serving as a looming, dangerous figurehead for Jack to be wary of. But his mystique falls flat much of the time by bad speeches and the poor way his character is implemented in the script.

The Order

Jewel Staite plays one of the most complex characters, a pivotal explanation as to why episode 6 is so good. She seems to be having fun in the role and is filled with menace. Tronco deserves a mention for her character too. As a fellow acolyte of the Order, she is written as manipulative and cunning, behind a veil of a ditzy rich girl. She goes from being irritating to terrifying as she learns how to use her magic more. The fun and brilliant characters are weighed down and inhibited by other people within the show who are either obnoxious and boring. And no, they’re not the ones that end up dead.

When a movie or TV series has poor special effects, it can sometimes be charming and actually add some fun. This is not the case with The Order. So much of my initial excitement when going into the series was the potential to see werewolves under a powerful Netflix budget, but they are shockingly poor. They have a level of danger when you see glimpses of them; an ear or a paw. When in full figure, they are fully rendered and realized, but their movements are stiff; they move like they’re statues or created from stop motion. There is no awe or fear that radiates from them, just a deep disappointment. There is a scene where Jack is attacked by a furry creature, and the thing that grabs him looks like a furry rug as opposed to a monstrous beast.

Even the text messages that appear on the screen when characters contact each other look cheap and distracting. However, what is commendable is the use of practical effects. The blood and gore are effective, switching between darkly funny and downright disturbing. 

The first 5 episodes get in the way of the rest of the season, but the writing improves with later episodes. I believe that part of the problem comes from the showrunner’s desire to create a lycanthropic Riverdale, with the rushed attempt to build romantic relationships and uninteresting rivalries within the college. These aspects eclipse the horror, the sorcery, and the real potential the show had to create something great. Sadly, The Order doesn’t transform into that, but maybe it will in Season 2.

The Order Season 1 is a disappointing young adult drama series that finds itself as it progresses. The show has an excellent concept, with beautiful direction and a selection of characters and actors that could be fandom favourites. But it’s marred with boring sets, dreadful dialogue, and some bland performances.

The Order Season 1 is available now on Netflix. 

The Order Season 1
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

The Order Season 1 is a disappointing young adult drama series that finds itself as it progresses. The show has an excellent concept, with beautiful direction and a selection of characters and actors that could be fandom favourites. But it’s marred with boring sets, dreadful dialogue, and some bland performances.