We’ve all panicked on Amazon before (don’t worry, there’s still a few weeks until Father’s Day) but now we can watch Panic on Amazon, a ten-part series based on Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel of the same name. Adapted by the author, this teen thriller is set in a small Texas town where nothing ever happens except the annual Panic game, where high school graduates compete in potentially deadly challenges to win a cash prize.
Heather (Olivia Welch) is sceptical of the tournament, but desperate to escape the dead-end town and a mother who steals from her. There is no cash prize for guessing where it is going. We’ve seen this story before when it was called The Hunger Games. And The Maze Runner. And Nerve. But where The Purge and Battle Royale set up their bloodsports with some dystopian act of legislation, this series explains away its origins with the line: “There was nothing else to do.” Even if better explanations are uncovered further into the season, we know the real reason is peer pressure; because every other YA franchise was doing it.
The show’s structure does at least lend itself to a competition format of this kind, as each episode can contain a challenge and potentially end on a cliffhanger – almost literally in the case of the first episode that culminates in the contestants leaping into the sea. Less logical is the way the local police department seems incapable of finding what are essentially large outdoor parties that high school students have managed to locate. Is it worth the suspension of disbelief to go through this again? Is this a dated view of teenage behaviour in the age of TikTok? And how long before we get a dystopian thriller version of cheese rolling? Even for fans of the genre, Panic feels like a drop in the ocean.
Panic is released on Amazon Prime Video on 28th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Panic here: