Ken Woroner/Netfix
May 20, 2015 at 05:04 PM EDT
We gave it a C-

The town of Pretty Lake suffers from a mystery plague: Everyone older than 21 is dropping dead for no apparent reason. It’s the kind of premise that’s tailor-made for the YA boom (no dumb parents!), but the younger residents (including iCarly’s Jennette McCurdy) have bigger problems to deal with.

On top of the military-patrolled barricade, the survivors have to contend with awkward dialogue (“Plenty of people have given childbirth at home”) and a story that forces them into situations without explanation or motivation. The young ensemble—some of whom, including a teacher, happen to be under 21 by convenience—occupies the same space, but there’s no sense that anything happening in the separate storylines has any bearing on the show as a whole. Stuff just happens. That’s obviously a reductive statement, but when every action is drained of any meaning beyond what the series needs to hurdle forward, “stuff” is what you’re left with.

The biggest factor contributing to this effect is the clumsy character work, which is often crammed into awkward identifiers within the dialogue. McCurdy says “Unlike you, Mr. I’m Accepted To MIT Early…” and “I’m just going to continue my career as the minister’s fallen daughter” in the same scene. Pilots are always going to be exposition-heavy, but there’s a way to make it less painful.

Despite the intriguing premise, Between’s writing winds up being as deadly as the show’s virus—except this sickness affects viewers of all ages.

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