Now streaming–It’s a great time to revisit Netflix’s The Order

Review by C.J. Bunce

Count yourself lucky if you missed the 2019 supernatural series The Order on Netflix.  Why?  Because you can look forward to the best five-season supernatural series in years.  Well–it’s the kind of series that deserved five or more seasons, but it was canceled after only two seasons because of the uncertainty of what lay ahead with the then-impending pandemic for the Canadian production–not because the series was languishing or didn’t have anything more to say.  So if you think about it, so many great TV series were canceled after only one season, and here you at least get two.

How good is it?  It’s flat-out as good as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in that addictive way where you can hardly wait for the next episode.  Mistakenly referred to as a teen drama by most critics (who were asleep or watched something else), this college genre mash-up has wit and piles on the pop culture references like Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars and iZombie.  As supernatural series go, it jettisons past the similar magic focus of the excellent Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the original Charmed.  It hails from Dennis Heaton, showrunner for the brilliant superhero series The Imperfects, and Shelley Eriksen, who brought us Continuum, Private Eyes, and also The Imperfects.  And its guest cast includes some of your favorites across four decades of genre TV, bringing credibility with actors from the likes of Grimm, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Swamp Thing, and more.  Plus it’s about werewolves instead of vampires and zombies.  What more could you ask for?

Let’s dig deeper into why you should add The Order to your watch list now.

Werewolves.  We’ve all seen every which way you can comment on vampires and zombies.  Heaton used a werewolf (well, werechupacabras) to great effect in The Imperfects, but cut his eyeteeth earlier here establishing a venerable order of them consisting of tough, fierce, wise and worldly men and women.  And they also screw up things sometimes.  This is college, so kid gloves are left at the door, allowing special effects creations closer to An American Werewolf in London than what we’ve seen on CW shows.  But it’s never slasher movie grotesque.

Magic.  The supernatural series spins around a group called The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, an order of magic users like an international legion hall of the Lodge 49 variety.  It’s the occult but it’s like Charmed in that it doesn’t lean into overt dark magic, devil worship, and witchcraft as used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which may make it more accessible to some.  It’s tempered in the way Canadian productions are good at, as seen in shows like Lost Girl and Wynonna Earp.  The magic is also just an excuse, a MacGuffin of sorts, for character conflicts instead of the driving force of the plots.

Clever writing and humor.  You can count on one hand the heirs to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, arguably the greatest genre series ever.  To get there you need great writing, great stories, and even better dialogue and pop culture references.  When you’re dealing with dark worlds, humor is essential, and The Order delivers in each scene.  It also has romance, but it’s always secondary to character development and forward action.  This is not a CW series.  Heaton and Eriksen make their way through several genre tropes, and the stories only get better with each episode.

An unusualBig Bad.”  The Order features a key member over both seasons, a “magus” named Vera Stone, played by Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal, being Human, Supernatural, Psych, The X-Files).  Often the antagonist, she also has a Rupert Giles quality, having a board of overseers watching from afar, and struggling to rise to the level of grand magus.  Stone is chancellor of the university where students are tapped for the Order like they would be for Mortar Board in an ordinary college.

The lead.  Jack Morton, as played by Jake Manley, is a particularly strong but flawed hero, a freshman in many ways whose growth over the series will make viewers feel like they’ve been through a few years of actual college time.  Jack begins his first year at the college at the prompting of his grandfather, played by genre icon Matt Frewer.  Pops believes Jack’s mother’s death was brought about by the not-so-secret Order, and specifically Jack’s father, the Grand Magus, played by Max Martini (Pacific Rim, White Collar, Burn Notice).  The first goal: Pops wants Jack to infiltrate the Order and kill the Grand Magus.

The Knights of St. Christopher.  But life sometimes has other plans.  Jack gets selected for another ancient order, on the level of The Brothers of the Cruciform Sword or Knights Templar–only this fraternal organization is one of werewolves, giving Jack split obligations, relationships, and opportunities.  Two of the Knights are Hamish, played by Thomas Elms (Timeless, Project Blue Book), a serious straight-shooter, master at cocktails and head of the Knights, and Randall, played by Adam DiMarco (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Charmed, Star Trek Beyond, Supernatural), a fun-loving, amicable sort who seems to get infatuated with all the women around him.

Strong women.  Along with Magus Vera Stone is her next in command, Alyssa, played by Sarah Grey (Almost Human, iZombie, Wayward Pines, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Power Rangers).  She is loyal to the Order, but has feelings for Jack, and as they learn more about each other it makes their relationship difficult, because the Order and the Knights do not get along–in fact they are committed to kill each other on sight.  Two other women step forward in the story, to become as interesting as the two leads.  Devery Jacobs is Lilith, one of the werewolves.  She has a secret history with the Order, but is inseparable from the two men in the circle, until some memory-losing powder begins to shake up the plots of the show.  Gabrielle, played by Louriza Tronco (The Imperfects, Supergirl, Night at The Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Cult), is an angry opportunist who will backstab anyone to move up the ranks of the Order, yet somehow her character gets the most attention from the writers, who refuse to let her be just another “mean girl” type.

The guest cast.  Beginning with the forementioned Matt Frewer, you get Spike himself: Buffy’s James Marsters, Firefly’s Kaylee: Jewel Staite, prolific genre actor Steve Bacic, and even better, Grimm’s top cop and mayor, Sasha Roiz.  Even 90210, Swamp Thing, Private Eyes, and Haven Canada Club members Ian Ziering and Jason Priestley get superb, memorable cameos along the way.

As a good college drama full of real-life situations and fun, it’s a first–it fills a major void ignored by Hollywood.  Why not make more series set at college?  The Order‘s Belgrave University is believable and perfect, giving an aura like in Orange County, PCU, Community, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the only previous series to get it right other than the much earlier drama The Paper Chase.  Sure, it’s more difficult to deliver a compelling serial at college vs high school in part because the characters don’t attend the same classes.  But The Order demonstrates how a college campus can be the perfect setting for a genre show.

It’s a slow time for streaming series, so now is a great time to catch two great episodes of The Order.  It doesn’t look like a third season will ever happen (if only!), but it also doesn’t leave any loose ends in its final episode.  Stream the series now on Netflix.

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