(epix/Hulu/Paramount+/VOD) In a year of unnervingly prescient pandemic screenplays, this one stands out. Based on Aaron Starmer’s young adult novel, senior-year high school teens start spontaneously exploding and are quarantined while scientists race to find a cure.
Brian Duffield’s (writer of both UNDERWATER and JANE GOT A GUN) adaptation takes a number of notes from THE LEFTOVERS, such as uniforms similar to the ‘Guilty Remnants’ and referring to the ‘exploded’ as ‘departed’. They even leave the ‘act of departing’ in the visual gutter — you never witness it occur, you only witness the aftermath. It’s a nice touch by Duffield, and it leads to more than a few gleefully shocking moments.
While you will laugh while watching this — especially at the playful insults bandied about by acerbic smartass Mara (Katherine Longford, KNIVES OUT and LOVE, SIMON) with her best friend Hayley Law (RIVERDALE), boyfriend Dylan (Charlie Plummer, LEAN ON PETE), and ‘cool dad and mom (comedy mainstay Rob Huebel and COYOTE UGLY’s Piper Perabo) — it’s a much more downbeat and thoughtful, occasionally distressing, look at teens reckoning with their mortality on the cusp of beginning their adult lives. It’s not exactly the thigh-slapping dark rom-com the trailer pitches, which is a relief because the end result resonates far longer than a more flippant approach to the material would.