Picnic at Raven’s Rock
The Simplex Solution
No White After Labor Day
Amazon’s new series The Lake should have been a 90 minute movie. This is the sort of series that has a very simple and concise idea but for some reason insists on spreading it across as many episodes as possible, eventually running out of steam – and overstaying its welcome.
The story here is pretty straightforward and revolves around two central characters and their estranged relationship – Justin and Billie. Although one could argue it’s as much about Justin and his step-sister Maisy-May.
Anyway, Justin takes the summer to connect with his teenage daughter Billie whom he initially gave up for adoption. This trip to the lake is just what the doctor ordered for them to reconnect.
At the lake, Billie meets the gorgeous Killian, who happens to be the son to Victor and Maisy-May. Maisy-May is actually Justin’s step-sister and their sibling rivalry immediately ignites from the middle of the first episode until the final chapter. The prize here stems from their father’s cottage.
You see, the house is set up in a trust but at the moment, and since Maisy-May is living in the cottage right now, she’s in line to do with it what she will. Part of that comes from renovation work which she intends to start soon. Well, not if Justin has anything to say about it. He wants to fight against this, intending to battle his step-sister for the rights to this house – no matter the cost.
With the battle lines drawn, the rest of the series sees these two butt heads and compete as much as they can. There’s the usual litany of games, backstabbings and twists and turns one may expect from something like this, as the show teeters between comedic drama and outright sitcom.
At times the tone does tend to skew a little too far into the latter. That’s a particular problem late on in the show too, as the rivalry between them is drawn out across far too many episodes and takes the focus away from the more interesting division between Billie and Justin.
This is compounded further by the finale which is supposed to be subversive but just feels hollow and a bit of a cop-out. I won’t spoil what happens here but suffice to say, it’s unlikely to win over everybody who watches this.
There are also several other subplots that interweave around this though, including Billie and Killian’s romance, Justin dipping his toes back into dating and a few other subplots involving different characters around the lake. It’s all pretty standard stuff and for the most part, is actually quite enjoyable to watch.
The first episode is a bit rough around the edges, especially as the show doubles-down on its messaging but once this settles into a more consistent rhythm, it becomes much more enjoyable.
The Lake is one of those shows better watched in small doses, spread out across several weeks rather than trying to binge in one go. In doing the latter you can’t help but feel the idea would have worked so much better in movie format.
Visually the series looks great and given it was filmed in Canada, it’s no surprise to see the natural beauty of the North American country shown off in all its glory. Expository shots of the lake are a really nice touch while the filming locations are idyllic across the board.
The characters themselves are the usual array of diverse faces one may expect from a series like this, although many will come into this instantly recognizing Julia Stiles who brings a good amount of gravitas to her role of Maisy-May. Jordan Gavaris also does a decent job as Justin while Madison Shamoun effortlessly brings Billie to life.
Ultimately, The Lake is akin to booking a two week holiday and running out of things to do after 9 days. There’s definite fun here and the setting is a welcome change from the norm but it also loses that initial spark before the end. The show continues past its prime and ultimately fizzles out with an underwhelming finale.
The Lake is certainly not a bad show but it’s not as great as it could have been with a shorter run-time. Still, the shots of Canada are absolutely fantastic and for that alone, this is worth checking out.
Verdict - 6.5/10