Turning victims’ fear into a game is nothing new to film and television, though it is in horror films like the Saw franchise and Escape room than in mainstream youth literature. But the new YA series from Amazon panic finds a new twist in the idea. in the panicGraduating from the fictional town of Carp, Texas, high schoolers play in a summer-long tournament called Panic where they face their greatest fears to win $ 50,000. Adapted from the YA book of the same name by show artist Lauren Oliver, panic follows the players of the current year on their way through the game. At the same time, Carp’s Sheriff’s Department is investigating last year’s game in which two players died. panic is a fun show, but it focuses too much on investigating and figuring out who is running the panic games, to the detriment of the teenage main characters and the game itself.
Carp feels like an inevitable trap for its teenagers who want better things, like fame or college and a future, but mostly end up in dead-end jobs and poverty. The panic tournament is both a possible escape route and a distraction. Participants are encouraged to perform death-defying and illegal acts, from cliff jumping to breaking and stepping on. You are asked to take deadly risks or spend time in frightening situations in confined spaces or in haunted houses. The year the show takes place matters both because of the $ 50,000 prize – the largest pot in the game’s history – and because of the death in the previous year. One of the victims was the sheriff’s son, and police are trying to find out who is causing the panic, supposedly to protect the town’s teenagers but mainly to get justice for the dead.
Every panic player has their own drama and secrets. Timid Heather Nill (Olivia Welch) doesn’t plan on playing at first, but participates in the game in a nihilistic onslaught after her mother stole her college money to pay for car repairs. Heather’s best friend Natalie Williams (Jessica Sula) wanted to play from the start and feels betrayed when Heather starts competing. Ray Hall (Ray Nicholson), the fearless villain of the class (and “possibly a psychopath”) is the front runner in victory. Dodge Mason (Mike Faist), the “new kid” who moved to town a year ago, is quickly becoming another front runner, and no one knows his real motives for playing. Along with these four and their families, the show brings in other current panic players, the city police, past panic players, their entire family and employers, and even a tiger. After all, so many names get tossed around it’s hard to keep up with the Who’s Who.
The main attraction of the show is the panic games that play like an adjusted version of the teen dramas in recent Gen Z stories like euphoria and + Generate ion. panic is not graphic about his gender or drug, though there is a little blood. The biggest moments of the show come from panic sessions. While the challenges peel off the adolescent characters’ defenses to reveal their true motivations, it is fascinating to see what scares every gamer and whether he or she hesitates when faced with a challenge, helps or cheats fellow players. In a show with lots of twists and turns, not all of which are necessary, knowing that the next round of the game is on the horizon keeps the show in suspense.
The show’s creator, Lauren Oliver, who wrote each episode and produced the series as executive producer, is making many changes to her own book. Carp moved to Texas from New York State. Some characters have been reinvented as rangers participating in demolition derbies and rodeos. Moving to Texas is a smart change of pace that allows for greater outdoor challenges and great natural lighting, though the novel’s carp claustrophobia is lost between carp on the open lawns and the characters’ speedboat days on the local lake.
Oliver also expands some of the main characters’ motivations, most drastically with Ray Hall, who is a drab, red villain in the book. On the show, he becomes a misunderstood rebel who fulfills Carp’s expectations of him while rejecting the judgment picture they have. Oliver said Interviews that the show’s ray was supposed to be a generic “piece of shit” by the time Nicholson was cast (Promising young woman) had her rework his entire story arc. It’s easy to see why, since Nicholson has the most charisma of the cast and looks the most natural in his role. He also participates in a traditional YA love triangle with Heather and her best friend Bishop (Camron Jones), which is easier to get through thanks to the excellent chemistry between Nicholson and Welch. (The show’s second couple, Natalie and Dodge, never feel particularly convincing, though Sula and Faist do commendable performances.)
In addition to the game, the second act of the show follows Sheriff James Cortez (Enrique Murciano) and his deputies, who investigate the game. Oliver created the police storyline and most of the related characters for the show as the book only contained POVs for teenagers. While the clumsy investigation may seem like an answer to the inevitable question, “How did teenagers get away with panic each year?” As the series progresses, it gets more complicated and attracts several past players and townspeople who are not into the current game. Aside from a bust at the beginning, the cops seem less interested in stopping the games than in learning the identities of the judges and organizers in order to force them to die. The investigation is more of a second plot than a subplot, to the point that it detracts from the main characters and the current year’s game.
In addition to all of the time spent investigating the sheriff’s department, the show also features more scenes from the perspective of the players’ parents. Some of these newly added characters help add to their children’s motivation and backstory, such as Heather’s investigative skills learned from her cop father and Bishop’s shaky relationship with his demanding judge father. Heather’s mother Sherri (God made friends with meRachel Bay Jones) is way more personable than in the book, which makes it more interesting to watch the relationship between her and Heather when it falls apart.
panic is a fun show for thrill seekers who would watch a real version of the game, which makes it a shame that the show doesn’t focus enough on the game itself. They become secondary concerns as the show unfolds, more than afterthoughts but less than the main event. While Panic’s latest game may not be enough to fill a 10 episode show, it is worth wondering what the show would have been if it had delved further into the machinations of the game or the subplots and characterization of the teenagers . After all, Panic is about challenging the kids, not the adults.
All 10 episodes of panic are Stream on Amazon Prime Video now.