- To the lake is a new original Netflix show that debuted this month, a sci-fi drama about families in Russia risking their lives like a plague is on the verge of breaking down society.
- The 8-episode TV series was shot in 2019, long before the new coronavirus pandemic began.
- Regardless of the real parallels, To the lake is a great new Netflix show you will not be able to stop watching once you start it.
When To the lake premiered on Netflix a week ago, I thought there was absolutely no way I was going to watch a TV series about a pandemic. I was going to check out another Netflix original was hitting the so-called streaming service The Haunting of Bly Manor. That is the follow-up The Haunting of Hill House which has now become an anthology series in the same direction as American horror story. When I was done, though, I decided to do To the lake my next binge on Netflix.
It really is the premise of the show that convinced me to check it out, and I would not even have needed to read the synopsis of the show if Netflix had used the original title. You do not need to understand Russian to know what Epidemic means, especially considering what̵
“Encountering the end of civilization when a frightening plague strikes, a group risks their lives, love – and humanity – in a brutal struggle to survive,” reads the synopsis in the series. But make no mistake, the release of the TV show is just a coincidence when it comes to real events. The series dates back to 2019, a much happier time when the world was covid-free.
But it really is the pandemic that made me list To the lake like my next binge. It turned out that the show is a lot harder to binge on than any similar drama. This is because it is all in Russian, which is also a massive advantage To the lake. You really do not want to watch this TV show in any language other than Russian. Resist the urge to play the English audio version of it and read the subtitles instead. That way, you can experience Russian characters struggling with a deadly epidemic and each other in their native language. Remember how strange it was to hear the perfect British English accents from the actors in HBO’s hit series Chernobyl? It really ruined an otherwise incredibly entertaining show.
Having to read these subtitles while watching the action makes it impossible to handle the addictive device that usually interferes with watching TV and Netflix. That’s right, you’ll have to leave your smartphone in your pocket. You find yourself stopping and rewinding to see what Anna just told Lenoid, or where Anton disappeared to. Disruptions of smartphones aside, I could not stop looking To the lake and wonder what might happen next.
To give you a spoiler-free sense of what’s going on in the movie, I’ll tell you to imagine a cross between Infection, the TV movie that saw a resurgence in popularity over the last few months, and The Walking Dead, the zombie apocalypse series that AMC is still not ready to give up after all these years.
A contagious disease that is more deadly than coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Russia, and a few families decide to retreat to the desert a few hundred miles away from the cozy suburbs of Moscow – hence Lake part. Face masks, hand hygiene and social distance can no longer save Sergey’s Russia.
Walking Dead’s scary zombies are replaced by something much more scary and much more dangerous: human nature. If you thought it was challenging to get you through hordes of hikers for supplies or in search of a better home, imagine doing all that in a world where any other group of people may prove to be more dangerous than the actual pathogen that broke down society.
Forget everything you know about rules, law, and any common understanding between people that allowed civilization to evolve. Humans are reduced to their animal instincts when it comes to life and death issues. It is what To the lake tackles, and it does so in a way that makes you silence your phone and immerse yourself in this deadly Russian winter.
Not to mention that the whole show hits too close to home given the current health crisis. There are no indications in real life that the pandemic is unmanageable. Humanity will not eventually disperse into real life, as it does in these post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows. But should that eventually happen, there is not much warning. No one will tell you that society is crumbling and that everything you knew yesterday about normal life will be gone tomorrow. It all happens in an instant and you will realize it after that fact. That’s how fast it is To the lake transitions from normal life to a survival race where otherwise worldly events can trigger unexpected, possibly deadly consequences. It all goes pretty fast from a boring dinner to watching people run for their lives.
In contrast to Infection, we do not have an ensemble cast in Netflix’s new show. Or rather, the stars in Epidemic is not as well known as Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law or Kate Winslet. But Kirill Karo (Sergey), Viktoriya Isakova (Anna), Maryana Spivak (Irina), Aleksandr Robak (Leonid), Eldar Kalimulin (Misha), Viktoriya Agalakova (Polina) and the rest of the cast really make the show shine. Credit is certainly due to director Pavel Kostomarov and writers Yana Vagner and Roman Kantor for bringing this TV series to life and to Netflix for downloading it.
With a few episodes left, I have not figured out if the show needs another season, or if one is adequate. To the lake can be the kind of story that does not need a sequel. If anything, the show provides a clear warning of what the absolute worst case scenario would be for a deadly pandemic. And it serves as a reminder that we can still work together to beat COVID-19 and future health crises. As you will see, when you yourself start binge-watching this amazing new show, our lives can definitely be far worse than they are right now.