This article features spoilers and discussions of violence, misogyny and ableism.
Lost changed TV forever. There have been few shows like it. Every week, it gave us mystery after mystery, while also challenging us on ideas around identities, faith and destiny. Its format was radical for its time. It’s why there have been persistent rumours about a season 7 script or whether the famous title would join in following other long dead shows with a reboot.
Lost’s legacy can still be seen throughout TV. The Leftovers (with Damon Lindelof’s as the driving force, who was also behind Lost) and The 100 have both tried to follow in the footsteps of Lost. The former becoming known for its intrigue and thematic explorations, while The 100 became a show about survival and community (with the odd twist thrown in). The Society though has managed to tick a lot of the boxes: it is a show about society and building a community from almost nothing, but there’s the intrigue of just how they all ended up sealed inside a town. Instead of being surrounded by ocean, this group is surrounded by forest.
The Society does do some things better than Lost as it reflects its more progressive era. There is a deaf character and many of the other abled characters sign (hopefully this will raise awareness and encourage a greater push to make schools teach sign languages). There are queer relationships. There is even a plan for two people who love each other platonically to raise a child together. Additionally, while the breakdown of law and ensuing violence was depicted in Lost, The Society explores this more thoroughly. There are questions about whether laws actually will stop violence – and most importantly, a whole episode is dedicated toward addressing how violent men exploit the lack of order to target and harass women. Violence by men is something which is looked at across the series, including when laws are put in place. For instance, it seems that this new society is as unable to tackle misogyny as the one that has vanished. Despite fears that Campbell is violent, without evidence against him, the young people are unwilling to condemn him or section him away from society – and so he goes home, where he is violent to his girlfriend. Bad laws and bad systems can’t protect people better than anarchy. They often result in marginalisation as laws can be stacked against certain populations. The Society does not provide binary political arguments but tries to explore the different realities each choice can bring.
However, while The Society does try to tackle topics in a refreshing and critical way (such as having characters ask permission before they kiss which is an awesome inclusion), there are some flaws. Campbell is depicted as an ableist trope. He’s given the label of ‘psychopath’, despite more and more mental health and psychiatric experts criticising this label. It also risks minimising the violent misogyny which drives Campbell. Instead of holding him to account, people blame it on a condition that doesn’t have much credibility outside of fiction. It’s just a typical trope used to drive drama – and that’s infinitely frustrating, because the show has proven that it can do so much better than that.
The Society also takes more risks than Lost. There was a lot of debate in season one of Lost about whether to kill off the lead character, Jack. Eventually, it was decided that this would be too much for the audience. The Society though doesn’t have a problem with killing off the new leader. It is a surprise, and one that is handled well. But this is not a bloody gore-fest. This is not The 100. There are not deaths every episode. Don’t watch the show expecting to see names getting crossed off a notebook. In an episode where everyone is poisoned, they all come through it. The show is completely focused upon the narrative of exploring the society they are forging. It’s fascinating, it’s gripping and it’s a different type of entertainment than we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, what with shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
Admittedly, The Society doesn’t do the best job at keeping up the mystery. It sort of crops up now and again, particularly toward the end of the first season, but overall its focused upon looking at this community and how they are adapting – and it is a sacrifice that just about works. The characters are interesting enough and the show looks at the issues they face in a more compelling and nuanced way than a lot of the survival shows that have come before it. There is intrigue but it’s easy to just get sucked up into this community and care about their struggles rather than spend time wondering about the bigger questions. The answers will reveal themselves in time. The Society is definitely worth a watch, despite its flaws. It’s not a Lost reboot, but it might just be good enough to keep fans wanting to see what happens next.