Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Panic is one of those love/hate shows that will attract a very specific audience. It falls squarely in the realm of guilty pleasure and certainly requires you to suspend your disbelief a fair amount. If you can go in with that knowledge and look past some of the inconsistencies, there’s just enough here to warrant this 10 episode season.
Adapted from the 2014 YA novel of the same name, Panic is a series about adrenaline-soaked games and testing your nerves. In essence, this is Hunger Games, Fear Factor and Saw all rolled into one. For those unaware, this game of Panic takes place in a quiet Texan town called Carp.
Each year, all graduating seniors are eligible to enter a competition and within that, there’s only one winner. New judges and challenges come forward to keep things fresh, but the game is also mired in controversy. Numerous people have died over the years, with the previous year actually sporting two dead bodies in the form of Abby and Jimmy.
At the center of this is Heather Nill, a senior desperate to leave town and save up enough money to attend university. When her drug-addicted Mother steals her savings, Heather makes the bold choice of entering Panic, much to the annoyance of best friend – and fellow contestant – Natalie.
Joining them in this crusade to take home $50,000 are several other players including the mysterious newcomer in town Dodge, and resident bad boy Ray. There’s a few other contestants here too, including Ray’s best friend Tyler and a girl called Shawna, but to be honest there’s not a lot of substance to either of these players.
Instead, Panic’s intrigue comes from seeing what this game will cough up next for our characters to try and traverse through. In true YA fashion though, each of these challenges are accompanied by a heavy dollop of romance, angst and drama along the way. Expect plenty of partying, boozing and schmoozing to be going on here.
The biggest problem with Panic though comes from its prize money, believe it or not. Given how dangerous some of these stunts actually are, $50,000 is a laughable amount to risk your life over. I’m not being snobby here by the way, $50k can be a really substantial amount of money. However, you could win this on a quiz show, by streaming games online or even with a big enough influence on Onlyfans.
One of the more glaring issues with this show comes from the age of the different characters. Given these players are supposed to be fresh seniors at the tender age of 18, three or four of these actors are nearly 30. While it’s not quite Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock, it’s still quite distracting at times.
The characters also openly reference Twitter at one point, pulling the believability of everyone fighting over $50k into question. That’s a real problem too, because so much of this series requires you to suspend your disbelief. The heavily organized games, and the way everything comes together, hints at a much larger operation going on here and it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.
No spoilers here of course, but that is part of the mystery with this show. While we never find out about the inception of the games or how long Panic has been going for, we do learn more about who’s pulling the strings. Interestingly, both this and last year’s games are intrinsically linked and the series does a pretty decent job keeping things engaging with this angle.
However, Panic is one of those shows that’s best suited to a 2 or 3 day binge rather than dragging this out for several weeks. The more you think about Panic and its ideas, the more holes and questions you end up with.
Like an airport novel, this is a quick, light bite of entertainment that you’re unlikely to return to in a hurry when the final credits roll. However, given the show actually ends on a cliffhanger then the chances are there could well be a second season in the pipeline.
There isn’t anything particularly unique or different with Panic, and as I said before the concept has more holes than swiss cheese. And yet through all of that, Panic is a show that holds your attention until the end. You find yourself wondering just what the next horrifying challenge will be and who will make it through the other side unscathed. It’s not perfect, but this is about as close to a YA guilty pleasure as you could get.
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Verdict - 6/10