Episode 1 of Panic Season 1 begins in Carp, Texas where a woman is buried alive. This is all part of a game, one that sees contestants forced to use their wits and make sure, above all else, not to panic. Yes, this seems like a reboot of the 2016 film Nerve but it’s actually based on the 2014 novel, Panic.
Anyway, I digress. All graduating seniors are eligible to enter and each year there’s only one winner. New judges and challenges come forward to keep things fresh too. However, the ghosts of the past also loom heavy over this game, with numerous people having died over the years.
This catches us up nicely to the present, as Heather Nill graduates. Her Mum shows up with her sister Lily, but the occasion is mired in misery when she asks her for money. It’s clear her Mother is a drug addict but Heather smiles through the pain.
Thankfully, Heather’s friends Natalie and Bishop are there, who show up at a party with numerous other graduates. Some are desperate to jump into this game of Panic, hounding a messenger called Diggins for info of when everything is due to begin.
In the morning, Heather receives some bad news. Her boss is letting her go and she’s forced to leave with immediate effect. The company apparently can’t afford to keep her on, despite the girl being one of the only hard workers there.
She has a collection of notes at home, but not enough to save up the $6000 she needs to attend an accounting course in Longhorn State. In fact, she only needs $500 more but refuses to borrow the cash from Bishop.
Natalie however, has other ideas for her future. She wants to join Panic and believes she can win. It’s all the rage across town, especially as Heather speaks to the bartender Dodge. He too is a graduate and intends to jump into Nerve. It turns out they have to wait for a sign from the judges, and they’re all sworn to secrecy. After the death of Jimmy and Abby (last year’s players and tragic victims) the police have suspicions.
That evening, fireworks illuminate the sky. The game is starting. Natalie rings Heather and tells her as much, quizzing her friend over joining her in Pilot’s Point. Heather is not so sure, but when Sherri steals her school money, she has second thoughts and drives up to meet them there.
Police officers are en-route too but they’re confused. The fireworks are all over the place and they lose the signal. Instead, they give up and decide to meet at the turnoff.
Anyway, the game of Panic goes ahead, with Diggins acting as the host. They have a grand prize of $50,000 (wait, is that it?!) and Natalie is going to join, along with a number of other players including a girl called Mimi, frat-boy Ray and Dodge. Their first task is to free-dive off the cliffs.
With flares in hand, each of the contestants head up to the cliffs but somehow can speak just fine across the lake all the way to where everyone else is. Audio levels aside, Heather suddenly shows up on the scene, deciding to join in and play. That obviously doesn’t sit well with Natalie, especially when she scoffs at Heather’s choice. Anyway, Heather heads up to the highest point and jumps off.
The Episode Review
Panic sets off this new Amazon Prime series with a compelling game that’s mired with logical issues. The fact that police haven’t been able to suss out this game, and that the prize money is only $50,000, are certainly points of contention. Now, I understand that’s still a fair amount of cash but these kids could easily apply for a game-show like Wipeout, Takeshi’s Castle or even a quiz show and win about the same amount. If the cash prize was higher, say $500,000 then it may be a little more believable.
However, the episode does well to set up this group of characters and tease some conflicts to come. It seems like the show is teasing Natalie and Heather coming to blows in the near future, while the game’s contestants will surely start to be whittled down one by one as well. Either way, the series sets things up reasonably well if you can look past the obvious logical issues.
Still, this is definite YA territory and the production design, along with the choice of music, feed into a pretty compelling opening chapter.