It Hunts Us
Pandemic Is Now
Seek, Don’t Hide
Hold On to Your Roots
Prayers Might Work
Don’t Stop Now
There’s something morbidly fascinating about a world-ending virus wiping humanity out. From Stephen King’s The Stand to The Walking Dead this phenomenon has been explored through various different mediums for many decades and it doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. What better time then for Netflix to flex its docu-series muscle and deliver a six-part series about flu pandemics and potential outbreaks in the future. On paper this looks like the perfect recipe and a throwback to one of those old History Channel “What if” documentaries like Life After People. Unfortunately in reality, the show is something very different indeed and fails to deliver on so many levels.
Because Pandemic won’t tell you this, there’s a few important facts to remember before watching. Swine flu infected 61 million people in the United States and 12,469 died (Source). Out of 28,652 confirmed cases of Ebola, 5 of those reached the shores of the United States and the UK respectively – with 1 confirmed death. (Source) This is important to remember because as we’re told early on, and throughout the series, “A future flu pandemic would likely kill hundreds of millions of people”.
The six episodes on offer are broken up into chapters and unfortunately don’t follow the aforementioned “what if” scenario format. Instead, the episodes combine political and societal hot-topics and blend them together into a globe-trotting healthcare series that looks at nurses around the world and the struggles they’re currently facing in their industry. Predominantly we follow different workers in the United States, grappling with budget cuts, the Trump administration, anti-vaxxers, religion and the ever-looming threat of a deadly world-ending flu pandemic that ties this series together and keeps things on topic.
To contrast this predominantly American slant, the series peppers in several other workers from around the globe, including a particular interest in India where the health-care is substandard and a lot of people look to “quacks” for health advice. The UK, Vietnam and several other countries are visited too across the six episodes but most of them follow the same fly-on-the-wall scenes as we learn more about the nurses and their home-life, with the conversation usually drawn back to the topic of pandemics in contrived and often-times fear mongering conversations.
“After World War II, millions of people died from the flu,” One character mentions to her family around dinner, “If that occurred now, hundreds of millions of people would die.” It is, of course, a very real scenario but between 1940 and now healthcare has advanced so much that the likelihood of this is very rare indeed. There’s also no animations here beyond timeline jumps and expository text to break up the episodes into chapters, and most of the time the series uses its run-time to discuss the woes of American healthcare and that of third world countries.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is not a particularly good documentary series. The facts and figures are skewed, the fly-on-the-wall footage is interesting but contextually jarring against what the series feels like it wants to be and there’s an incredulous, almost fear-mongering aspect to this that does little to balance the argument out with genuine facts and figures. Perhaps in doing so, one would argue against a flu pandemic killing “millions of people” in the near future.
Those looking for an educational and entertaining “What If” documentary won’t find that here but if you’re in the mood for a more reality-driven series like 24 Hours in A&E about the problems nurses and doctors face around the world, this isn’t that bad of a watch. Unfortunately the mis-directed title will almost certainly attract the wrong crowd to this and the incredulous way the series fails to actually mention genuine facts and plays up to the world-ending threat of a flu pandemic feels like it perhaps should have gone for the “what if” scenario after all.
|Pandemic is available to watch on Netflix. Feel free to click here and sign up now to check this show out!|