Hey everybody. Welcome back for the second installment of our coverage of Amazon’s new dramatic series. Or, as I like to refer to these articles, Panic at The Gistco, the only recurring recap column that asks the question, “Haven’t you people ever heard of taking out student loans?”
If you’re like me, Panic’s premiere left you wondering how a group of teenagers could coordinate a clandestine thrill kill competition with a $50,000 cash prize. Well, episodes two and three flesh out the inner workings of the Panic games.
Episode two begins with our plucky protagonist Heather fleeing from her landlord, who has come to collect rent. Luckily, her friend Bishop arrives just in time to serve as a getaway driver. Bishop provides their escape in his new Audi because the wealth gap is real, y’all.
In a nicely economic exposition dump, we see the town sheriff brief his deputies on the Panic competition that resulted in the deaths of two local teens last year. One young woman was struck by a truck while attempting to cross a highway blindfolded. Her boyfriend also died as a result of the Panic games, felled during a game of Russian roulette.
Now, I don’t participate in a lot of firearms-based amusements, but are you supposed to spin the pistol on the table like you’re playing adolescent kissing games? Deer Hunter this is not.
There is a really compelling shot during the police briefing scene that I wish the show had lingered on. As the Sheriff begins wrapping up his presentation, he pauses directly in front of the projector. While he implores everyone to shut down this underground competition, the images of the dead teens are projected directly onto his chest. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it’s good visual storytelling.
As Heather continues her job search, someone recommends she try looking over at celebrated convenience store chain Buc-ee’s. Hell yes.
I recently visited a newly opened Buc-ee’s back home in middle Georgia. God almighty, they’ve got 120 gas pumps and a soda fountain that covers most of creation. The row of gas pumps is so long that you can actually see the curvature of the Earth when you look at it.
Also, starting pay at that particular location is $15. For comparison, the minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour, which, fortunately, is superseded by the federal rate of $7.25.
What I’m saying is maybe walking into traffic and playing Russian roulette doesn’t sound so bad when your best financial opportunity is working at the Xanadu of gas stations.
Heather helps a woman struggling to load groceries into her car, and we have our first Bonnie Bedelia alert. Sound the klaxons.
Bonnie Bedelia (you always say her full name) deserves to be celebrated at every opportunity. Bonnie Bedelia fact No. 1: She is a Culkin. Yep. She was in Die Hard and is also Macaulay Culkin’s aunt. The woman can do it all.
Anyway, Bonnie Bedelia offers Heather a job at her farm. With a job secured, Heather must now try to make amends with her friend Natalie, who is upset that Heather competed against her in the Panic games.
Heather and Natalie have a considerate, civil conversation in the way that all teens do when there is conflict and misunderstanding. No one says anything biting or intended to intentionally wound the other person. It’s ummm, it’s not too realistic. But even worse, it’s not very dramatic.
In an interesting wrinkle, Natalie proposes that she and Heather work together to win the game, with either victor splitting the purse with the other. I’m actually very interested to see how this affects their relationship. What moves will be made? Will there be paranoia? Subterfuge? Way to do a thing, show.
Finally, our youthful competitors gather for the second challenge: Walk the plank between two pieces of elevated industrial farm equipment. Be warned that these two episodes rely heavily on agrarian dangers. This may sound dull, but remember that cows kill more people each year than sharks.
While our central characters manage to successfully survive the challenge, the police manage to intercept the Panic competition and break up the evening’s proceedings.
To wrap up our second episode, we get the reveal that the Sheriff’s son was the teen who died during the Russian roulette challenge. “Now it’s personal,” the Sheriff says as he racks a shotgun. Not really, but that same energy.
We pick back up at the small-town Fourth of July parade. All our teenage protagonists are there because there’s nothing teenagers love more than patriotism and slow-moving vehicles.
Thanks to a series of clues, we learn that the next challenge will take place at the notorious Spurlock Farm. Apparently, a previous Panic challenge at the farm resulted in the death of a competitor. I really hope the show expands on these recurring campfire-style stories about previous contestants.
In this story, we learn about a competitor who was forced to spend the night in a barn full of snakes. For years he had told everyone he had an irrational fear of snakes. But it was all part of his plan to get a lead in the competition. He had grown up around snakes, as one does. But he didn’t plan on the barn being full of bats.
Startled by a swarm of bats, he crashed through the barn floor and was impaled on farming equipment. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
We then catch back up with prominent character Dirtbag Ray. He is the guy you went to high school with who was eventually hit by a train. We all have one. Ours was named David. Leave a tribute to your high school’s train victim in the comments.
Anyway, Dirtbag Ray’s crew begins hatching a plan to track down and rob “the bagman,” the person tasked with guarding all the prize money for the Panic contest. They hope to “hit a lick,” as we say back home. We say a lot of things back home. Like “This is the good gas station because they let you buy lottery tickets with a debit card.”
Ever the schemer, Natalie stops by mysterious newcomer Dodge’s house. We meet his sister, who talks about Dodge’s private nature. Natalie responds by stealing some of his mail. Natalie really knows how to play the game.
Meanwhile, industrious constable Sgt. Langley is investigating the death of a girl named Abby. Abby’s mother knew she was competing in the Panic games prior to her death. She claims that Abby was murdered after receiving threats, demanding she quit competing. Then we learn that Abby is the young woman who was struck by a truck while trying to cross the highway blindfolded. How about that?
Thanks to her mail theft, Natalie confronts the mysterious Dodge Mason (what a name) about his true past. He apparently re-enrolled in high school after graduation in order to compete in the Panic games.
With her newfound leverage, Natalie gets the truth out of Dodge. He’s not a secret judge in the Panic games. Hurricane Harvey destroyed his previous home and put his sister in a wheelchair. Buried in debt, his family moved to Carp, and he devised a way to compete. Natalie teams up with Dodge. She is still bitter about Heather’s lead in the competition. I foresee a double cross.
Challenge three comes in the form of a contest to steal something from the Spurlock Farmhouse, which is allegedly full of boobytraps. This risk is highlighted when Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts falls into a camouflaged pit. Fortunately, Dodge stumbles upon the pit boy and pulls him to safety. We wouldn’t want to indicate that these challenges are actually dangerous.
Originally, Heather, Natalie, and Dodge approach the farmhouse together. Then Natalie suggests to Heather that they split up and meet back later. This deception works. Heather disappears into the cornfield and Natalie doubles back to join up with Dodge.
This episode has teased the threatening tripwires scattered throughout the farm, but we don’t know what they actually trigger. Natalie watches as a contestant steps on a tripwire and is immediately caught in a net. A net. These traps are more Legends of the Hidden Temple than Doomsday-prepping farmer.
Out of desperation, a reluctant Heather agrees to follow Dirtbag Ray, who claims she’s walking in the wrong direction. But all these kids have smartphones. There’s a compass app. I know the existence of mobile phones is often a hindrance for horror movies, but maybe don’t show your entire cast lighting their way with their phones if you don’t want these gripes to pop up.
On a separate note, it turns out the farmer is growing pot, which explains the beefed up security measures. Well done.
Finally, one of the contestants trips an alarm, and the farmer comes out guns a-blazing. Meanwhile, Heather stumbles across an underground tunnel.
As she descends the ladder into the darkened passageway, footsteps approach. Heather waits to see who is coming. Suddenly the bunker door slams closed above her. She’s trapped.
I’m actually excited to see what awaits Heather next. Please circle back for the next installment of Panic at The Gistco. If not, we’ll be forced to ping you and touch base. You’ve been warned.