Not all Netflix series are created equal. “Between,” a Netflix original whose six-episode first season began appearing weekly on the video-streaming site last week, is a Canadian science-fiction series – Netflix money, north-of-the-border talent and formulas. So we’re talking about something a lot closer to the Syfy channel – home of Canadian shows like “Bitten,” “Lost Girl” and “Continuum” – than to “Daredevil” or “Orange Is the New Black.”
“Between” is in the quarantined-small-town genre, with some general resemblances to CBS’ “Under the Dome” and Fox’s “Wayward Pines.” But it has distinctive elements of Canadian TV. One is related to budget. When the residents of Pretty Lake start dying in bunches and a pair of government types come to the town morgue to take a look, their hazmat outfits consist of cheap business suits and the kind of face masks Beijingers wear on a bad air day.
Another has to do with politeness. Tempers flare and some guns are waved as three-fourths of the population of 8,000 or so die within a few weeks, but for the most part the survivors behave with a level of decorum and docility that’s both impressive and perplexing. Through two episodes, only one character tries to jump the fence that the military throws up around the town.
This is particularly surprising given that none of the survivors are over 21. That’s the big twist in “Between”: Everyone in Pretty Lake who’s 22 or older dies. It’s certainly not the first time since “Lord of the Flies” that a plot has been engineered to put a large group of very young people in charge of their own destinies – CW is doing it right now with “The 100” – but you have to admire the brutal efficiency of the generational cleansing.
Beyond that conceit, though, most of the action in the opening episodes is familiar ensemble soap opera with conspiracy-theory embroidery (the government knows more than it’s saying). The rich kids try to run things, the poor kids fight back, the improbably mature farmer’s son tries to make peace. Jennette McCurdy of “iCarly,” all grown up, does her tough-cookie act in the role of a preacher’s pregnant daughter.
One thing you don’t see every day: an episode in which the town’s children have to organize and carry out the mass cremation of their elders. To judge whether you’d enjoy “Between,” consider how you’ll feel watching those scenes set to tastefully mournful pop tunes by Daughter and Reuben and the Dark.