Contains minor spoilers for The Order
On the surface, The Order on Netflix appears to be a simple tale of revenge. The main character, Jake Morton (Jake Manley) plots with his grandfather, Peter Morton (Matt Frewer), to destroy the man who is responsible for Jake’s mother’s death, Edward Coventry (Max Martini). This is where the story becomes than more than a simple tale of revenge. Edward is Jake’s father but he is unaware of this connection. Edward is also is trying to gain godlike powers through a spell from an ancient, enchanted book. Add to this volatile mixture Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey), Jake’s love interest and a member of the Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, the secret magic society that Jake wants to join. There is also a gathering of werewolves that, of course, has their own group, The Knights of Saint Christopher. And what started as a simple story about revenge becomes a somewhat convoluted tale of love, sacrifice, magic, a golem, death, and honor.
The series is set at the fictitious college of Belgrave University (the home of the Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose) where Jake has been given a full scholarship, against the wishes of one the members of the Order. As with any secret society, there are factions that want to maintain the elite nature of their group and there are those who want it to be a meritocracy. The chancellor of the school and a magus in the Order, Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle) believes in a meritocracy and secretly admits Jake to the college and the Order.
Of course, the series could have devolved into a class conflict story, since Jake is a townie and Belgrave University is a snooty university with many entitled students, but fortunately, Dennis Heaton and Shelley Erickson, the series creators and showrunners, are more creative than that. The series sets high standards of production values (setting, writing, and music) and with their choice of actors. One of the first changes from mythology that Heaton and Erickson made was regarding how werewolves are created.
In this series, werewolves are not created by being bitten by another werewolf during a full moon. Instead, they are created when the hide of a werewolf progenitor chooses a new member. Jack becomes a werewolf when he is chosen by the hide of a werewolf champion, Silverback. Jack is now both a magician and a werewolf, as well as the newest member of the Knights of Saint Christopher. Also, these werewolves are the nominal good guys as they exist to fight dark magic.
At this point, readers and viewers might note some similarities between this series and The Magicians (magic in a college environment). In fact, Adam DiMarco, who plays Todd on The Magicians, also plays Randall, a werewolf on The Order. Additionally, he is the comic relief character on The Order, just as he is in The Magicians. However, Randall is never marginalized like Todd is in The Magicians. Randall is a fully formed character, who is goofy and loveable, yet has to be taken seriously because he is a powerful werewolf.
Another parallel to The Magicians is Hamish, The Order’s resident drink mixologist and lead werewolf, who is comparable to the character of Eliot in The Magicians. However, unlike Eliot, Hamish is a more subtle and likable character. Something viewers have never observed in The Magicians is the switching of roles (comedic versus dramatic); yet in The Order, there are moments when Randall becomes totally serious and Hamish provides the comic relief. The writers of The Order intersperse these humorous moments and contemporary references to real life events throughout the series.
One of the best-written characters in the series is Vera. As portrayed by Katherine Isabelle, Vera is a wonderfully powerful, no-nonsense character who delivers some of the best comebacks and snarkiest lines in the series. Yet she has the power and the knowledge to back up her comments. The series also cast fan favorite, Jewel Staite, as Renee Marand. However, it is not only the writing and acting that make The Order a good series.
The combination of the setting, as well as the music composed by Patric Caird (Ghost Wars, Rake, The Dead Zone), creates a supernatural and gothic atmosphere. Underlying the college setting and condemned buildings, Caird adds an unsettling element to the atmosphere with his extensive use of percussion instruments to drive the action, as well as synthesizers to set the viewers on edge. Viewers know when the almost shrill violins reach into the stratosphere that the characters will become entangled in magic, murder, and mayhem. The music is reminiscent of the creepy and discordant music created for The X-Files, which was also filmed in Vancouver.
The golem is another good example of superior writing as its use in the series is unexpected, yet integral to the plot. The golem plays many parts in the story, not the least of which is as the deus ex machina.
Netflix has already announced that there will be Season 2 of The Order in 2020. The series has room to grow but it is a fun romp which does not take itself too seriously. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in Season 2.