I’m not a big fan of the horror genre. Most times it scares the bejesus out of me and generally isn’t what I want to watch. Still, I was curious about The Order, which is billed as a horror thriller and is about a young man trying to infiltrate a secret society. It ended up being far less horror, far more supernatural and a cool twist between Buffy and The Magicians and completely quirky with original concepts and some excellent research.
The Netflix series begins with Jack Morton (Jake Manley) heading to college. We quickly find out his mother died due to the leader of The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose and Jack has been raised by his grandfather Pete (Matt Frewer) who wants Jack to infiltrate the order and exact revenge on the leader, Edward Coventry (Max Martini), Jack’s father. Unfortunately, nothing goes smoothly for Jack. While he is recruited to the order by the chancellor, Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle) he falls for a young woman, Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey) who is a member of the order. Jack manages to join the order but his difficulties are only beginning as he becomes torn between the Order, his desire for vengeance, his romance with Alyssa and the Knights of Saint Christopher, werewolves who hunt those who use dark magic. Jack will be forced to pick a side but which side will he pick and as he chooses, will dark family secrets pull him from his obsession with his father?
The Order, created by Dennis Heaton and written by Heaton, Shelley Eriksen, Rachel Langer, Jennica Harper, Penny Gummerson and Jason Filiatrault, premiered on March 7, 2019. One of the first elements that intrigued me was the description of the show, a young man joining a magical order and torn between The Order and werewolves. While it could have been overly campy, over the top and not at all original, The Order manages to strike the right note, combining a light humorous tone with the more serious moments in the show. One of the reasons it has that tone is the unique twists the series brings to both the magic users and the werewolves. For the magic, the creators don’t do the typical magic is evil but does show how power can corrupt. With the werewolves, they depart from most of the traditional elements and bring a fresh new type of werewolf to the screen. Both those choices are wise and give us something original.
Another reason that the show works is the amount of research that the writers used to bring all the magic to the screen. Some of the magic is subtle, created by herbs and mixtures, traditional magic of practitioners of Wicca. Some of the magic is ritualistic, requiring a blood sacrifice, such as slicing the palm of the user’s hand. But all of the magic is believable. It works, consistently but the rules of the show require that magic has a price which is similar to fantasy books and creates a world that is solid and realistic. The werewolves, despite not being traditional, broach the subject of the different tropes but quickly dismiss them as pertaining to this world. You learn a lot about both groups in a short amount of time and without a lot of information dumping.
Next is the special effects. Wisely, some of the magic is subtle and could be easily performed by sleight of hand, making it much easier to achieve on screen and making is much more realistic on screen. When Jack arrives at college, students begin dying. The deaths aren’t overly drenched in blood and don’t go over the top. The werewolves subtle moments, eyes and claws, the initial transformation is well done and in the darker scenes, these creatures are just frightening enough. While not so scary that the scenes tip over into horror for me, they satisfy the supernatural aspects within the series.
The series has a lot of great talent. While Matt Frewer, Max Martini, and Katharine Isabelle are truly incredible as is Sam Trammell who plays Jack’s ethics professor, it is the younger performers that I want to focus on as they are the heart of the show. Among the order, we have Alyssa, joined by Jack’s fellow recruits, Brandon (Aaron Hale) and Gabrielle (Louriza Tronco). The werewolves are represented by Hamish Duke (Thomas Elms), leader of the Knights, Randall Carpio (Adam DiMarco), responsible for Jack joining the Knights, and Lilith Bathory (Devery Jacobs), most bloodthirsty of the wolves. Jake Manly is charming as Jack, bringing a sense of humor to the role but also a sense of caring. His performance is the center of the series and while some might compare it to other shows, it is the acting that resonates and heightens the show above others I have seen. Alyssa is emotional and strong, bringing great chemistry to the romance between her character and Jack. The werewolves perform their roles light-hearted but serious as the mood requires, fighters but also thinking through their problems. I love that they are not the typical werewolves and some of that is the silliness that their beer pong playing and jokes bring to the show. The magicians, Brandon and Gabrielle bring complexity to their roles and change over time to the characters. All of the younger actors are well chosen and I want to see more from all of them.
Beyond the younger performers, I loved seeing Sam Trammell in a different role. He was sarcastic and harsh, great as a professor in college. Katharine Isabelle, known for Ginger Snaps, was the perfect choice for the manipulative chancellor and Magus of the Order. Max Martini gave an intriguing performance as Edward Coventry, an illustration of how power corrupts. Matt Frewer is a talent that I’ve always loved and he did a stunning job as Jack’s grandfather, his desire for revenge making him push away Jack. Lastly, a surprise actor, Jewel Staite was in several episodes and she was just wickedly good.
One small flaw was that some of the characters besides the younger actors weren’t as well developed, a bit flat at times. I would have liked to have learned more about Edward Coventry. There’s even one character whose part is ended far too early and is a waste of a great actor. Last, the werewolves effects didn’t look as good during the daytime scenes.
However, this is such a fun and engaging show overall. The acting is compelling and Jake Manly is charming. The werewolves are humorous and the concept is original. The magic is well thought out and researched. It is a well executed and those who like the Supernatural will truly love the great vibe!
Rating: 4 pelts out of 5