Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Society

Go To
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
Henry David Thoreau, "Walden, Life in the Woods"

The Society is a mystery fantasy teen drama on Netflix.

The show begins in the small, affluent, and peaceful town of West Ham, which has been having issues with a strange and foul smell floating around. Pending a solution, the town’s high school sends its students on an overnight field trip. However, the trip is abruptly cut short, and the returning students find the entire town deserted. Even stranger, all communication with the outside world is gone— the internet is disconnected, phones only have local service, the buses that returned them seem to have disappeared, and a seemingly endless forest has surrounded the town to prevent anyone from leaving physically.

Trapped together and alone, the teens have to form their own society in order to survive the elements and each other, all while trying to find a way home. Think of a modern, teen, and more paranormal Lord of the Flies.


The series premiered May 10, 2019. A second season had been announced to premiere some time in 2020, but in August 2020 Netflix reversed their decision and cancelled the show due to concerns about the cost of filming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has nothing to do with the Body Horror 80s cult film Society.

The Society contains examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: The whole relationship between Elle and Campbell is this. Campbell both physically and mentally abuses her and keeps her from having any kind of social life outside of being with him, not even with pets. It's clear she doesn't love him or want to be with him, but is afraid of what he might do if she tries to leave him.
  • Ax-Crazy: It's implied throughout Season 1 that Campbell is a textbook psychopath and he does nothing to make people think any different, and even recognizes that most people are afraid of him. Dewey is arguably another example, as he killed Cassandra for no other reason than other guys complaining about how they disapprove of her being the leader of the community.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In season one's finale, Campbell is able to manipulate The Guard, Harry and Lexie to depose Allie and Will, making them the current rulers of The Society, and he gets Elle back, but the final look in Harry and Lexie's faces hints that they realize they have just made a Deal with the Devil for that power.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lexie believes Allie leads the town like a dictatorship and runs to beat her in an election for Mayor. She gets most of the people's support and seems like she will win, only to experience what a true coup and dictatorship looks like when Campbell takes over the town by force when he gets the Guard on his side, and makes himself the undisputed ruler with her and Harry as his puppet front men.
  • Breather Episode: Episode seven, "Allie's Rules", comes the closest. While there are certain downer aspects such as Harry's depression and Elle's plot to kill Campbell, the episode also has Helene and Luke getting engaged, Sam and Grizz getting together, a thanksgiving celebration, and everyone having fun for the first time in a while. It doesn't go to hell until the last few minutes when Campbell catches on to Elle.
  • Cain and Abel: Campbell and Sam respectively. The former is a completely egotistical sociopath. Sam meanwhile is a compassionate, caring boy. If you stretch the relationship to cousins, it's more notable with Campbell and Allie.
  • Cliffhanger: The final shot of season one hints that all the kids have actually died, or at least are considered dead, with a shot of the real town showing their parents by the side of a large plaque with their names saying "We Remember Them".
  • Commune: After finding themselves stuck in another world, Allie and the town's government decide to collectivize assets (like houses or cars) for survival. This displeases richer residents who lost their property, but seems to work overall. They also assign chores, with rations allocated in return.
  • Courtroom Episode: Episode five has Dewey tried for murder.
  • Dead Star Walking: Rachel Keller as Cassandra Pressman.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Cassandra is set up as the main character at first. She is the most level-headed character in the show, who uses smart judgement when making a decision. She even has a tragic backstory of having a genetic heart condition and survives off a pacemaker. Even her little sister Allie calls her The Hero of the situation they find themselves in. She is murdered in episode 3 after she officially becomes the leader of the town and is successfully able to hold their high school prom. Allie then takes over as leader and tries to find who murdered her sister, officially making her the main character of the series. This is foreshadowed by the performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that begins the show: it's a play about treating secondary characters as protagonists.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The ending basically depicts a psychopathic abuser and a bunch of scorned white young men imprisoning a woman and a black man under false pretenses.
  • Downer Ending: Season 1 ends like this, with the entire town of teenagers stranded somehow far from home, everyone left behind thinking they're dead, and a psychopath having taken control.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Campbell is clearly more competent than Harry, the Guard, and even Lexie who he convinces to take control but they’re all clearly his puppets who he only needs because no one will support him alone due to his 0% Approval Rating with the masses.
  • Driving Question: What happened to the town's adults? Where are the teens? Who is Pfeiffer? What is the source of the smell?
  • Dumb Muscle: The Guard are all pretty naïve and gullible former jocks who Campbell has the least trouble manipulating, but Jason and Clark are the worst.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Guard betray Allie and join Campbell's coup just to spite her when she doesn't allow them to participate in the elections.
  • Fake Guest Star: Grizz, Clark, Jason, and Bean are all major characters who appear from the beginning and have significant relationships with the main cast, but all their actors are billed as recurring.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first episode begins at a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in whose opening scene Guildenstern flips a coin that comes out heads 90 times. In the play, this symbolizes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't exist in the real world; everything that happens to them is at the whim of the author of the play. Later in the episode, Cassandra—who played Guildenstern—flips a coin over and over and keeps getting tails.
    • Indeed, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is about the title characters trying to understand their absurd semi-existence and never quite reaching the key understanding that the reason their existence doesn't make sense is because they're secondary characters in someone else's story. In the season 1 finale, it's hinted that this series's story is The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a story usually told from the perspective of the adults or the piper, from the perspective of the kids.
    • Episode 3 starts with a girl raiding a dress store to get the dress she reserved for prom, saying that she is unlikely to use it now. Later on the girls decide to make prom happen anyway.
    • Sam mentions that there are probably closeted gay people among them. Later in the same episode, Grizz starts dropping hints that he is gay and interested in Sam.
    • Allie has a nightmare that the Guard will turn against her and overthrow her rule. This happens during the Season Finale. Except Grizz.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes:
    • Inverted with Grizz, who was planning to never talk to any of his high school buddies again once he went to college.
    • Played straight with Harry. During high school he was the most popular kid because of his rich parents and him throwing huge parties at his home. However, once all of that went away, many of the students in town want nothing to do with him, even the ones he thought were his friends, because they now see how selfish he is. There are scenes where teens won't even bother with him, unless he promises them something, like letting them borrow one of his fancy cars. This on top of having to share his assets with other teens has led him into a deep depression, which Campbell later uses to manipulate him into helping him take over the town at the end of Season 1.
  • Friend Versus Lover: A complicated situation with Sam. In order to keep the fact that Becca got pregnant off a one night stand hidden, Sam agrees to pretend to be the father of the kid. When he and Grizz start to have a fling, Grizz also thinks Sam is the baby's father and Becca's behavior, acting as if she and Sam were a couple, puts Sam in a tough position.
  • Hand Signals: Very common due to Sam being deaf, and a majority of those around him taking steps to learn the basics of ASL. Becca is fluent and acts as his unofficial interpreter. Grizz is also learning, though initially he tries British Sign Language because he doesn't realize it's a different language.
  • Hate Sink: Campbell clearly establishes himself as this early on when he takes advantage of his newfound freedom by banning his own brother Sam from their house (calling him a homophobic slur in the process) and only gets worse as the story goes on by emotionally and physically abusing Elle while alienating her from the rest of the people in town. His own cousins and brother hate him. The only people who tolerate him are Elle (increasingly out of fear) and Harry (because Campbell supplies him with drugs).
  • He-Man Woman Hater: When Dewey admits to killing Cassandra, he puts this trope on display as his reason.
  • Hope Spot: Despite everything in the first season finale, things start to look up when Becca gives birth to a healthy baby and Grizz's expedition is able to find viable farmland. Then Campbell and Harry's coup happens.
  • Idiot Ball: Allie decides to keep Campbell alive and let him run free after extensive evidence that he's a dangerous psychopath that sooner or later will rain down chaos in the city and against the warnings of Sam, Elle and the Guard. When he comes back as the final enemy of the season, he even says that letting him go was a terrible decision.
  • Irony: Gordie creates an execution method that is supposed to alleviate guilt. Three people shoot the executed, two have blanks and one has the real bullet, this way, everyone can think that they're not the one to have killed the executed. When the method is used, it has the exact opposite effect. All the members of the execution group think that they were the one to kill Dewey.
  • It's All About Me: Harry is almost virtually incapable of putting the needs of others before his petty desires to the point that being forced to do so causes a Despair Event Horizon rather than Character Development.
  • Legion of Doom: Campbell's coup serves as this. A number of different people who don't like Allie team up to overthrow her.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Allie has feelings for Will, who's crushing on Kelly. Kelly might return those feelings, but she also cares a lot about Harry. Harry is still hung up on Kelly, but does end up sleeping with Allie early on.
  • Make an Example of Them: This is the reason Will gives for needing to execute Dewey. They need to make sure people know that breaking the rules isn't without consequence.
  • Malicious Slander: Campbell, Harry, Lexie and the Guard all make up a story that Allie plotted to steal the election, which results in them arresting her on this supposed charge. Harry and Lexie are plance in charge as co-mayors, with Campbell running things behind the scenes.
  • Meaningful Background Event: There's a picture of Cassandra from the bus before everyone fell asleep that is shown several times over the first season, but it isn't until the finale that Kelly notices the bus driver behind her, who is also the man she saw in a meeting with Harry's mother before everything happened. He's most likely Pfeiffer, the figure responsible for sending everyone to the alternate dimension.
  • Meaningful Name: In the last episode of the first season, the kids begin to theorize that Pfeiffer took them away to punish their parents for not paying his bill for cleaning up the mysterious smell. "Pfeiffer" means 'piper', as in The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In the middle of the prom, Kelly goes on stage to say a few words, but ends up having a minor meltdown instead and almost ruining the party.
    • The raid of Harry's house in episode five is covered in this. It goes back and forth between the genuinely scary thought of a bunch of jocks bursting into your house while you're sleeping wielding weapons and yelling at you, to the general incompetence of the Guard while doing it (such as Jason trying to read people their rights and Grizz stopping partway through to catch up with one of the girls).
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Allie goes out of her way to help Elle when she finds out that Campbell is abusing her. And how is she thanked for this? She's accused of abusing her power by arresting Elle on secret charges, which gives Lexie moral authority in her campaign against her.
  • No Bisexuals: Played with. While none of the characters are stated to be bisexual, the possibility isn't dismissed either. Sam pretends that he's interested enough in Becca to sleep with her in order to appear to be the father of her baby. When Gwen comes on to Grizz and he rejects her because he's gay, she asks if he's "all-the-way gay" or "just mostly gay" (it's the former). The words "bisexual" and "bisexuality" still never come up though.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Kelly is shown giving Helena pads and the girls discuss rationing them because they have a very limited supply. Clarke and Jason forcing Lexie to stay in custody in the same clothes while she gets hers prompts the latter's campaign against Allie.
  • Oh, Crap!: A comedic one when Bean realizes the jocks have started deep-frying the turkeys without thawing them first.
    Bean: When ice hits hot oil, it creates steam, which forces the oil in the container to overflow.
    Bean:...oil is combustible, so when it hits your heating element...
    Bean: Turkey goes boom.
    Jocks: Oh!
  • Only Sane Man: Grizz, Kelly, Helena, and Gordie stand out as the more level-headed ones when even Allie and Will tend to go over the line. Cassandra was also this before she was shot and murdered by Dewey.
  • Power Corrupts: Allie realizes she has become much worse of a person ever since she got to power. When Lexie and Harry take over and Lexie becomes distressed seeing the mob against Allie, the latter is quick to say what she is thinking and say that things will change that fast and she'll become worse and worse, much to Lexie's horror.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Emily, one of the girls that goes into the woods in episode one. She's bitten by a snake and after spending time trying to revive her the others can only watch as she dies, driving home that the situation here is life or death.
  • Shout-Out: When the society starts to figure out what happened, it's an allusion to The Pied Piper of Hamelin. A mysterious stranger (Pfeiffer) offers to solve a problem (the smell) for a fee. He does it, but the town screws him. In retaliation, he kidnaps their children.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Allie and Cassandra Pressman. Allie is more cynical and jaded while Cassandra is more optimistic and idealistic.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Greg Dewey only has a major role in episodes 5 and 6, but murdered Cassandra, which forced Allie to step up and eventually declare that he needs to be executed as punishment.
  • Stress Vomit: Grizz hurls at the prospect of having to execute Dewey near the end of episode 6.
  • Straight Gay:
    • Sam's an openly gay boy, displaying no stereotypical traits.
    • Grizz. Gwen is surprised to find out he's gay and when Grizz admits he didn't approach Sam in high school because he was pretending to be straight, Sam tells him he was very convincing.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A recurring theme of the show is how unprepared the teens are for the realities of survival and government.
    • On day one, the community logically decides to send a small group out to scout the surrounding area and look for civilization. This goes awry very quickly when one of the scouts, Emily, is bitten by a snake and has an allergic reaction. The group has no medical knowledge or medication that might help. Grizz is the first to realize that nothing can be done to save her, and sure enough, she dies soon after.
    • After a largely male group starts a small riot while looking for flashlights and lamps, the girls obviously start to fear for their safety, when they realize that their society no longer has any of the rules they relied on to keep them safe. As Cassandra realizes the threat of rapes are in the air, fear sets in among the girls and they push for society to have rules and structure to prevent any further incidents.
    • The show (rather surprisingly, given its genre) averts many Common Hollywood Sex Traits. For example, Allie gets a urinary tract infection after an ill-advised one night stand. Cassandra chastises her for not peeing afterwards.
    • Forcing a bunch of formerly coddled teenagers to work and live by strict rules is a recipe for a lot of dissent, even if it is necessary for survival. Cassandra doesn’t expect such a severe backlash and pays for it with her life.
    • Even a small community goes through a large amount of food in a year. Before it reaches its first anniversary, New Ham already has a food crisis as the warehouses and supermarkets begin to empty. The town is forced to search for clear land to farm in, or face starvation.
    • The Guard might enforce the rules and keep order, but at the end of the day, they’re more of a gang than a professional police force. Allie shuts down the efforts of some Guard members to gain political power, which they see as fair compensation for their efforts to protect the town. She essentially expects them to continue to work for her simply because she’s mayor and it’s their civic duty. Instead, they join a coup plot against her.
    • Recreating surface-level structures of government from one place does not mean they will automatically have the same institutional strength and respect in another place. New Ham’s attempts to hold elections for Mayor and City Council goes completely haywire, quickly leading to a coup.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Elle tries to poison a pumpkin pie and give it to Campbell, but he takes the pie to the Thanksgiving dinner being held by the town, poisoning a bunch of random people.
  • Tempting Fate: In episode three, two characters have a talk about how they never fight, only for the end of the episode to have them fighting.
  • Token Religious Teammate:
    • Helena, who even tries to recreate religion in the new society.
    • Bean to a lesser extent—she wears a hijab, prays, and is vegetarian, but her religious beliefs aren't brought to the forefront at any point.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: A solar eclipse occurs in the second episode, and the kids have varying opinions on whether it means something or is just a natural occurrence. They end up on the former side of things once Bean points out that the next scheduled eclipse isn't for another five years, and take it as proof that they're somehow in another dimension.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Sam says that Campbell had killed their family's pet bird. He cut off the bird's wings and watched it try to run away, and that he was later diagnosed for psychopathy.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Gordie's Jewish and implied to be Latino as well (his actor is Latino, and his surname— Moreno— is a Spanish and Sephardic Jewish surname common in Latin America, indicating that he is probably Sephardic Jewish).
    • Sam is a deaf teen, and he is also the only openly gay guy in the society.
    • Helena's a girl with East Asian ancestry.
    • Bean is a Muslim girl of West Asian descent.
  • Villain Has a Point: When Lexie launches her candidacy for mayor against Allie, she argues that Allie has been acting like a dictator, making unilateral and unaccountable decisions in secret, and letting the Guard get away with abusing prisoners. She's not wrong.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Everyone falls asleep on the buses, only to be suddenly woken up back in town. It doesn't take them long to figure out everyone else is gone, and by the next day they realize the town is now surrounded by endless forest.
  • The Wall Around the World: The town is surrounded by a forest that has cut through everything that used to mark the borders of the town. Though nothing keeps people from walking through it, it seemingly has no end.
  • Wham Episode: Episode 3 has the society establish itself for the first time, with Cassandra at the helm, and she is murdered by the end of the episode, prompting even more chaos than before.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Allie gives this to Will and the Guard when they criticize her for ordering Dewey's execution, pointing out that they were all pushing for her to do so in the first place because everyone else was getting restless.
  • Wild Teen Party: As soon as they realize the adults are gone the teens make a party in the church.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Sam and Grizz, Allie and Will, Kelly and Will.