Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak – Netflix Season 1 Review


Season 1

Episode Guide

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.


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  • Verdict - 3.5/10

10 thoughts on “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak – Netflix Season 1 Review”

  1. Love this documentary. It completely hits home the point that one person – one virus impacts all of us and that we are all interconnected regardless of religious belief or geographic location. The fact that it was created before the coronavirus validates the documentary even further… highly recommended – I enjoyed every episode.

  2. This documentary made me realize the events that are happening to the world today. I thank and applaud the series to showing. It maybe be hyped to some people but these are not actors but real people who have religious beliefs. I truly believe this documentary series is very good. God does work in mysterious ways whether you want to believe it or not.

  3. They talk about religion way too much like it has some sort of connection to medical intervention. Maybe just focus on the science and technology and not the personal stories of people’s faith. Was looking forward to the doco but was highly disappointed.

  4. While watching this tv-series, I really wanted to find a cohesive way to explain this movie to my friends. I wanted to find a way to be concise, so I went to Twitter and found that this movie is described as fear-porn. I agree.

  5. I’m a few episodes in and I don’t think I’ll finish it.

    I’m fine with a political slant, but a documentary needs to have a cohesive narrative and clear direction in order to keep my attention.

    I thought it would be an episodic show with each chapter focusing on different diseases (past and present) and what was/needs to be done to prevent them.

    This show is all over the place and doesn’t offer anything that interesting.

    It takes a lot of work to make a show about a doomsday pandemic boring.

  6. Thank you for this review. I read the summary of each episode and got the idea that it seems to be motivated by fear, rather than science and education. I felt this is an inconsiderate publication with the timing of the news of the corona virus. People may be misled by the impending doom type verbiage and carelessly apply it to the corona virus.

  7. Not the greatest production, especially with the focus on the ridiculous religious beliefs expressed by some of the participants as well as the pathetic anti-science anti-vaxxers. Yes, it’s important to show all points of view, but way too much time spent on their absurd claims.

  8. I watched through to the end waiting for the obvious, simple, safe “how to” prevent another pandemic flu. If the biggest risk, as the series states, comes from food industry pigs and chickens, wouldn’t the most effective strategy be for the world to go vegetarian? That would solve a lot of environmental problems at the same time. Too simple????

    I suppose naysayers to that would say it is taking people’s free choice away. The same people would probably insist on antivaxers not being allowed to exercise their free choice. I am not an antivaxer but get annoyed by this double standard. I also get annoyed by docos like this not giving a balanced view of the antivaxer argument. They never actually go into the science but rather dumb it down to the lowest common denominator with opinion of one mother.

  9. What made you think that our medical technology has advanced to the point that this is not going to be an issue? Viral infections remain difficult to treat due to lack of options beyond a tight treatment window. And from personal experience working the in medical field during a few flu epidemic, drug shortages can definitely hit and hit hard. No hospital in the world is equipped for an epidemic and a lot of the highly contagious diseases are rearing their heads because of antivaxxers and their pseudo science. Many young physicians have never seen an actual case, let alone treat, diseases like measles. Not disagreeing with you that this documentary is geared more towards general population and not hard science. Its purpose is to try to draw attention to a situation while trying to ring the doomsday bell, but I’m not sure what gives you grounds to imply these scenarios are implausible. This is not a show that will teach you how fema works or how vaccines are actually developed, but it does highlight some of the challenges the boots on the ground faces on the front line during an outbreak.

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