Episode 1 -| Review Score –4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
To The Lake feels like a mash-up between the latter half of 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead Season 1. The human drama is tense, the characters nicely developed and the dystopian world is bleak and unforgiving.
It’s refreshing in some ways to find a series like this with such a controlled dose of dread without going overboard. To quell any doubters, this is not a series about a mass zombie apocalypse. It’s not a series that has massive action set-pieces or characters acting idiotically.
Instead, To The Lake feels more like a character-driven commentary about the selfishness and paranoia hidden away in all of us, back-dropped by an eerily similar viral outbreak not unlike what we’re facing right now (minus the crazy eyes).
Facing this threat are a group of main characters flawed and divided across two separate families. The first, is fronted by boisterous and selfish Lyonya. His wife Marina is pregnant and tearaway daughter Polina is in rehab for alcohol abuse. Dysfunctional isn’t even cutting it.
By comparison, Sergey (our main protagonist) is a man stuck in the middle of an ongoing grudge match between current partner Anna and his ex Ira.
Complicating matters further are two children caught in the middle of this messy unresolved drama. Anton is Ira’s son while Misha is Anna’s autistic but smart son.
When Moscow becomes ravaged by an unknown virus, both families are forced to band together in an effort to survive this invisible killer. Instead of shuffling zombies groaning about the streets, the bleak reality of this disease is far less palatable.
Expect a nasty side order of 3 days coughing followed by the main course of delirium, whitened eyes and death. It’s bleak, inhospitable and paranoia-inducing for anyone who winds up with a tickly throat – and the perfect way to showcase the worst of humanity.
While the set-up will be familiar to anyone who’s dabbled in dystopian fiction before, it’s the unique European slant that makes this such an enjoyable show.
The media distorts messages about the severity of what’s happening; military rally around checkpoints; and people become panicked at the slightest hint of a cough.
All of these segments are designed to feed back into the main theme of the series. The selfishness of man and our innate desire to survive are both interlocked like a synchronized dance from the first episode to the last. It is worth bearing in mind though that this dance comes to an abrupt and wobbly end, courtesy of a big cliffhanger.
This is particularly disappointing because it’s still unknown whether To The Lake will be getting a renewal or not. Given Netflix’s trigger-happy cancellation finger right now, it doesn’t look great for this one.
Alongside this interesting slow-burn story is a creative team behind the camera that does everything in its power to heighten the tone and mood of this show.
Dutch tilting camera angles, pulsating rock riffs during tense or emotional segments and frantic, choppy editing all feed back into the idea of this being a fight for survival at any cost.
While there are lulls along the way, To The Lake is undoubtedly an original and surprisingly effective look at how a country would actually handle a pandemic of this magnitude. It’s not perfect, and that ending is a disappointment, but this dystopia is one well worth checking out before the end.
Verdict - 8/10