‘Panic’ review: Amazon Prime teen show works in fits and starts

Based on Lauren Oliver’s eponymous 2014 novel, the drama follows a bunch of teenagers take part in a set of risky challenges to get out of their nowhere town

After spending time with tough, sexy granny Mare, in Easttown, it is time to shoot the breeze with a teenager, Heather (Olivia Welch) in another dead-end town, Carp, Texas. Everyone wants to get out of Carp, and ‘Panic’ seems the way to do it. Graduating teens take part in Panic, which comprises teenagers doing a bunch of risky challenges such as jumping off a cliff, spending a night in the morgue or a spot of Russian roulette. Competitors get eliminated as the rounds progress till four contestants face individual challenges and then final two face off in joust for a stash of cash.

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Created and written by Lauren Oliver, who based the show on her eponymous 2014 novel, Panic works in fits and starts. With two teens losing their lives in the previous year’s game, the police are sniffing around. Keeping a long-running game involving a bunch of teenagers secret from the authorities is quite an ask; the organisers, however, do not seem to care.

The clues, invitations and challenges are broadcast around town in big, bold letters and graffiti on very public spaces. The show, like the novel, is not a version of Hunger Games set in the here and now. Through Panic, the show presents a slice of small town America, warts and all.


  • Episodes: 10
  • Run time: 40 to 49 minutes
  • Creator: Lauren Oliver
  • Starring: Olivia Welch, Mike Faist, Jessica Sula, Ray Nicholson, Camron Jones, Enrique Murciano, Rachel Bay Jones, David Thompson, Kariana Karhu, Bonnie Bedelia, Madison Ferris
  • Storyline: Teenagers take part in a set of risky challenges to get out of the nowhere town of Carp, Texas

What the show loses in urgency (the challenges don’t seem to be of the life-and-death variety), it makes up for with some of its characters. We are rooting throughout for Heather (Olivia Welch), who despite being standard-issue YA — a wannabe writer with snarky voice and boy trouble — brings the right amount of vulnerability and strength to the table. Taking her manipulative, drug-addled mother, Sherri’s (Rachel Bay Jones), place to care for her younger sister, Lily (Kariana Karhu) increases her likeability.

The other interesting character is Ray (Ray Nicholson), who starts off as a bad boy but reveals interesting facets as the series progresses. Anne (Bonnie Bedelia), who runs a kind of idyllic shelter for strays, including a tiger, is the other interesting character on the show. Bedelia, who you might remember, was Holly, John McClane’s wife in Die Hard. Maybe she got sick of Alan Rickman gnashing his teeth and decided to adopt llamas.

All the others are teen drama standards. New kid in town, Dodge (Mike Faist), channels his inner James Dean and has a secret agenda for participating in Panic. Everything Dodge does seems to be for his sister, Dayna, (Madison Ferris), who has been wheelchair-bound after an accident three years ago. Heather’s best friend, Nat (Jessica Sula), is making and breaking alliances. Everyone naturally has a secret including Heather’s other best friend, Bishop (Camron Jones). Daniel Diggins (David Thompson), the host of Panic, seems to be trying to help, but he also could be hiding something. Sherriff Cortez (Enrique Murciano) wants to shut down the game as he lost his son to it, but the police always arrive puffing and panting a little too late. Luke (Walker Babington), Ray’s older brother and Panic winner from three years ago might or might not be the jerk he presents himself to be.

The show deviates from the book quite a bit, including the identity of bad guy. With adequate thrills, love triangles and mystery, Panic is a middling show made watchable for Heather, Ray and Anne.

Panic is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video


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