Netflix’s Social Distance is not a must-watch show
In the grand scheme of things, Netflix‘s Social Distance anthology series is going to be a forgotten piece of media, and it’s unfortunate because the series strives for poignancy.
Through an innovative use of technology from laptop cameras, social media accounts, and home surveillance, the series attempts to take us back to the early days of quarantine–specifically April 2 to May 30.
Series creator Jenji Kohan treats the audience to a diverse grouping of stories that touch on topics of isolation, job loss, death, sickness, estrangement, community, and activism but the storytelling is largely safe and tends to fall flat.
When the cast for Social Distance was announced, Deadline described the series as a dramedy that “showcases the power of the human spirit in the face of uncertainty and isolation” and that can certainly be seen in its second episode, “A Celebration of the Human Life Cycle.” It takes place during a virtual funeral which features a bickering family, a zoom bomb, and an acknowledgement that triggers a moment of catharsis in the middle of grief. The second episode of the series–starring Oscar Nuñez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Guillermo Díaz, and Miguel Sandoval–is by far its best.
The series opener “Delete All Future Events” is also strong. Mike Colter plays a barber named Ike who is quarantining alone and struggling to stay sober in the face of his business closing, his recent break-up with his girlfriend, and the realization that outside of his sponsor, his only friends were the people he partied with. His lifeline is his virtual AA meetings and his outlet is social media.
After these two episodes, Social Distance loses steam. The series reminds us of the strain the pandemic has had on single parents without childcare. How it’s affected long term relationships and marriages, tested families when someone has caught the virus and revealed people’s character. Social Distance, however, doesn’t add anything new to the conversation outside of showing the audience how the virus has impacted people across different walks of life.
Its final episode “Pomp and Circumstance” shows some promise, but it also comes across like a public service announcement. Asante Blackk and Ayize Ma’at play Corey and John, two video producers setting up for a social distance graduation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
The episode is an explosive discussion between two Black men from different generations who have opposing beliefs on how to ensure progress for their community and equity for their race. “Pomp and Circumstance” is frustrating because while it doesn’t lack nuance, it does place both men on extreme opposites of the spectrum.
It also doesn’t acknowledge that Americans have been protesting en masse off and on for decades over the lack of accountability for the loss of Black lives at the hands of the police and private citizens.
Everything about John isn’t broken. He’s right that Corey needs to have a clear cut plan for what he wants from his activism and to take into consideration that his financial needs have to factor into what he can and cannot do. Corey is right in his belief that John investing in his community is not enough if Black people are still being killed in the street and in their homes with impunity.
The two men cannot hear each other which is common in mixed generational discussions when each person enters the conversation with preconceived notions about the other. The conclusion of “Pomp and Circumstance,” however, goes nowhere significant with its message which was disappointing.
Social Distance is a slice of pandemic life. Eight slices to be exact. The problem, however, is that outside of its innovation with technology which is exceptionally showcased in “everything is v depressing rn” there isn’t much that it adds to the television landscape.
While I enjoyed seeing teen gamers navigate friendships and romance across social platforms, I felt like I was just passing time which is true of many of Social Distance‘s episodes. Thankfully, they’re between 18 to 25 minutes long and they don’t interconnect, so if you want to sample the series you can, but like I said, you can skip it.