The Pied Piper meets Lord of the Flies in Season 1 of Netflix’s The Society.
Following the success of other darker, teen-focused original series such as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Stranger Things, Netflix have come out with The Society. It’s a mystery drama that centres around a group of high school students who are abruptly bussed back to their small New England town of West Ham after their school camping trip is cut short.
The trip was actually orchestrated by the town’s parents as a means to get the high school students out of town while they dealt with a mysterious smell that had been plaguing West Ham for some time. The teens return to find their town empty and completely cut off from the rest of the world. While they still have power and phone service, the internet is gone and so are their families.
Despite the teens being obviously spooked, they seemingly divide off into two factions: those who just want to party, and the [smaller] group who are trying to figure out what has happened and what to do. After the initial thrill of having no parents in town wears off, the students are forced to face the reality of their situation and learn how to survive – just like in William Golding’s 1954 classic Lord of the Flies.
Fans have drawn comparisons between The Society and Golding’s Darwinian novel about a group of schoolboys stranded on an island. Like those in Lord of the Flies, the teens of West Ham struggle and make countless poor decisions as they are forced to grow up and assume positions of leadership.
But Lord of the Flies isn’t the only story that the creators of The Society seem to be referencing. It wasn’t immediately obvious, but there is a (very) possible Pied Piper-esque reason behind what has happened to the teens of West Ham (which they re-name New Ham).
One of the mysterious bus drivers – who are largely forgotten about until later in the season – is caught in the background of a photo taken on board the bus during the first episode. While this explains the earlier random shots of Becca (who viewers will remember as Sam’s BFF and the pregnant girl) swiping through photographs of Cassandra, the man’s face also rings familiar to reformed popular girl Kelly.
The bus driver is revealed to be named Pfeiffer, which my intermediate-German level brain remembered translates to Piper… as in the Pied Piper (FYI: the characters have not yet made this possible connection). And clearly there are more similarities between the two than just a name.
West Ham, like the town of Hamelin in The Pied Piper, had a problem they needed to get rid of. While Hamelin had a rat infestation, West Ham had a mysterious smell. Some of the teen’s parents were involved in getting the smell removed and arranging payment to the contractor.
This brings us back to the second episode where Sam finds a letter from a man named Pfeiffer demanding $1.5 million for the removal of the smell. In a letter dated the day before the teens disappeared, we see that the town refused to pay the fee. The town of Hamelin also refused to pay the Piper for getting rid of the rats.
So, what did the Piper do? He whisked the children of the town away from their parents. Whether they were led to a lake or a cave, the children are never seen again. Only time will tell how closely the show’s writers will follow that potential storyline, but things aren’t looking great for these teens.
While it wasn’t clear whether the town the teens ended up in was the same town they used to call home, the final scene of the season moves to a shot of Allie and Cassandra’s mother heading into a library where a large plaque says, “WE WILL REMEMBER THEM”. It lists the names of the teens who are possibly in some parallel universe… Or missing? Or maybe dead?
The large ensemble cast – perhaps too large, as it was often difficult to remember them all – is comprised of many fresh faces that come together with great chemistry. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Aussie actors who portray Harry, Campbell, Helena and Elle!
A second season hasn’t been confirmed but it appears likely given the support the show has had on social media. Hopefully it will answer some of the many questions viewers have about what is actually going on with New Ham. Will the spineless, douchey Harry get a redemption arc? Will Elle finally stick it to the abusive Campbell? Who is the real father of Becca’s baby? And what will they do to Allie and Will?
The Society is an alternative coming-of-age series about power, democracy, and learning to grow up in a world without adults. Less predictable than you’d expect, the show leads the viewer to a state of reflection over the choices you would make in a similar situation.
Watch ‘The Society’ now on Netflix.
Freya is a Journalism/International Studies student with an interest in environmental issues. Her guilty pleasures are HGTV-style house-flipping shows and experimental pasta making. Follow her on Instagram.