The Pied Piper is about a man who is hired to rid the town of Hamelin of its rats, which he does by playing a tune that drives the rats to their death. When the townsfolk do not pay up, the Piper uses his music to lure their children.
There are several versions of the tale; in one, the children are drowned, just as the rats are while in another, three children survive including one who is deaf and could not hear the music. In a third tale, the children follow the music to a beautiful paradise, away from their home.
The Society opens with word that "the smell" has returned to the privileged Connecticut town of West Ham. (Note "Hamelin" is very similar to "Ham.") There's a town meeting in which adults declare that they will get rid of it. However, in the meantime, the grown-ups send their teens on a field trip, so that they can get away from the stench.
The teens never make it to the mountains. Instead, they wake up back in West Ham, or what appears to be West Ham. It's soon revealed that they are not in their real hometown, but a nearly-identical copy of the town, one which is surrounded by forest and is smell-free. Crucially, their parents are nowhere to be found.
Later in the season, it comes out that a man named "Pfeiffer" (Chaske Spencer) was hired to get rid of the smell. However, the parents of West Ham never paid Pfeiffer the $1.5 million he was owed. Pfeiffer just so happens also to be one of the bus drivers, who took the kids to "New Ham" and then seemingly disappeared — suggesting that maybe, Pfeiffer took the children as a way to punish the parents.
Graffiti found on the wall of the high school indicates Pfeiffer was ready for retribution. The words "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin," which are found written on the wall, loosely translates to "You have been weighed on the scale and found wanting." In simplest terms, the graffiti could mean it's time to pay up.
In the final moments of the season, we find out that the parents are, indeed, without their children: a look at the real West Ham shows the parents in a library in front of a memorial plaque for their lost kids.
Pfeiffer is the German word for "piper" — suggesting that the similarities between The Society and The Pied Piper are likely no accident. It also suggests that Pfeiffer is the key to where the teens of New Ham are, and that the payment was, in fact, the reason why they were taken from their home. Did Pfeiffer take the teens to what he believed was paradise, or were his motives even more sinister in that he hoped leaving them without their parents would result in their deaths?
We don't know what happened to the children in The Pied Piper, which means we have no idea what's to come on The Society. Here's hoping there's a season 2 that gives this fairytale a happier ending.
The Society is available on Netflix now