Amazon Prime's 'Panic' Isn't Intense Enough to Live Up to Other Dark Teen Dramas Created by Lauren Oliver
Starring Olivia Welch, Jessica Sula, Camron Jones, Ray Nicholson, Enrique Murciano, Mike Faist
Published Jun 25, 2021Amazon's dark teen drama Panic — about a small Texas town where teens secretly compete in a high-risk competition to win a small fortune that will be their ticket out — sounds like it would make for an exciting hour. But it lacks the bite, style, and bat-shit wackiness that currently marks the genre, and it falls flat as a result.
For everything that Panic leaves to be desired, it finds merit in some inspired casting, with Olivia Welch in the lead role as Heather Nill. Heather is an underdog from a rough part of town, and she decides to compete in the Panic games when her abusive mother spends her small college fund. Welch is well-supported by a charming Jessica Sula as best friend Natalie and Camron Jones as the love interest Bishop.
The standout, however, is bad boy Ray, played by Ray Nicholson, who you know from being a courtside fixture at Lakers games with father Jack. He's a captivating presence on an otherwise underwhelming project, and it's precisely because he carries the unhinged-eye-twinkle gene.
Alas, between the love triangles, family dysfunction and small town politics, the secret competitions feel almost benign. It's a missed opportunity to take notes from survival-competition reality TV, like Survivor, Amazing Race or even Fear Factor (in the early 2000s, Joe Rogan's gig was making people drink tarantula smoothies). Those shows manage to make human drama and intense physical competition equally gripping.
Even further to that point, Panic could use more of the visual flair and boldness that made Euphoria such a hit for HBO, or a hint of Riverdale's unspeakable weirdness. If it were doing something of merit to hold its own in the current landscape, those comparisons wouldn't matter — but it doesn't, so they do. (Amazon)