Netflix shows like The Order have an advantage that series that release episodes a week apart don’t have. Potential audiences can give a new show a quick opening binge right away rather than only viewing the always tricky pilot to prove that it’s worthy of being added to their viewing schedule. The Order is definitely a supernatural show that stands alongside The Magicians or The Vampire Diaries, but the true twist to the witches versus werewolves premise doesn’t show up until third episode. College campus drama tropes bog down the first episode a bit, but the central conflict is wholly unique with plenty of humor and well-written dialogue to smooth out the rough edges.
On the one hand, The Order should be commended for not holding the viewer’s hand during key parts of the opening narrative. Jack Morton (Jake Manley of iZombie) and his grandfather (Matt Frewer of Orphan Black) clearly have some sort of ulterior motive for getting him into Belgrave University as a freshman, but the audience has to figure out why on its own, and the details that unfold go from simple to complex pretty quickly. On the other hand, the manner in which Jack is admitted and his almost immediate encounters with frat boys and townie-hating rich kids is meant to be accepted with a hand wave and does feel a bit rushed.
Given the hurry to establish the campus atmosphere, it’s remarkable how quickly chemistry forms between Jake and sophomore college tour guide Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey of Legends of Tomorrow). Despite moments of overt flirtation on Jake’s part and even briefer flickers of mutual attraction, The Order is not in any rush to bring these two together or create any weird love triangles. A level of respect is built between them based on intelligence and an understanding that some of those around them, both magic users and regular students, are jerks with poor judgment.
It’s interesting that The Order pokes fun at ritualistic fraternity initiations immediately before bringing us into the pledge process for the titular Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, which includes — you guessed it — the presentation of a magically appearing blue rose to the potential Neophytes. Even those established in the Order, such as college chancellor Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle of The Arrangement) and the higher level students like Alyssa, indulge in the use of robes and masks, but somehow the secret society comes across as neither haughty nor ridiculous. It’s just Hogwarts or Brakebills with a dash of alumni politics, and it works.
The question is how many viewers will stay tuned in long enough to realize that the initial conflict that’s presented in which Neophytes are supposedly being killed by werewolves is not nearly as Saturday B-movie as it may sound nor is it in fact a true representation of the nature of the animosity between witches and werewolves at all? Jake’s place in the Order may have a lot to do with the mission imposed upon him by Grandpa Pete, but by episode three, it becomes so much more than that.
And again, the friendships that Jake makes along the way (some of which lie in direct opposition to each other) are a bit rushed, but the humor that comes from the Neophytes playing with magic way beyond their understanding or Jack’s R.A. (Adam DiMarco of The Magicians, oddly enough) trying to figure out what to do with his new resident is definitely worth overlooking the artificially acclerated bonding. Fellow Neophyte Gabrielle (Louriza Tronco of Spiral) is especially delightful and will quickly remind The Magicians fans of an early Margo, and she and Brandon (Aaron Hale of Pure) importantly add some much needed diversity to the lily white cast.
So ignore the loglines and stick around until The Order shows you what it’s really all about. With engaging characters and with several compelling paths set before its protagonist, this show has legs if it plays its cards right. Characters whom you assume are good might not be so honest, and those portrayed as evil aren’t necessarily so. Achieving that level of complexity so quickly is worth the sacrifice of a little exposition. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have seven more episodes to binge.
Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter (@mikescifi). He co-hosts our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast and voices much of our video content.