What The Smell On The Society Might Actually Mean

Photo: Courtesy of Seacia Pavao/Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers about the end of season 1 of The Society are ahead.
“What is that smell?” It seems like a funny question to be a driving plotline on a TV drama but somehow Netflix’s new series The Society makes a mystery smell a huge plot point. The Society is basically takes the story of The Lord of the Flies, adds women, and then places all the characters in a quaint, New England town called West Ham.
The Society is about a group of high school students who go on a trip into the mountains but are forced to turn their buses around when a severe storm hits. When they return, they discover that everyone in their town is gone and that they are surrounded by endless forests, preventing them from leaving. As you probably guessed, chaos and the struggle for power quickly ensue. But along with their families, something else is inexplicably gone from the town: The Society's strong, mysterious smell.
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It is established in episode 1 of The Society, “What Happened,” that an off-putting smell has returned to West Ham. The night after the high school students arrive to their empty town Sam (Sean Berdy from Switched At Birth) is the first to notice that the stench has disappeared. It seems like the teens forget about the smell for a while, which is understandable considering they have other problems to worry about, like not starving. It isn’t mentioned for a few episodes. Then, Sam revisits the issue when he finds a document claiming that his dad and uncle, Allie (Kathryn Newton) and Cassandra’s (Rachel Keller) father, refused to pay $1.5 million to get rid of the odor. Sam shares the information with his devious brother Campbell (Toby Wallace), who seems to be channeling J.D. from Heathers. Campbell convinces (more like intimidates) Sam to destroy the proposed contract to prevent their classmates from thinking Sam and Campbell are the reason they are stranded.
In the final episode of season 1, titled “How it Happens,” a little more information is revealed about the smell. But, we are still left with many unanswered questions.
Sam admits to Allie, Becca (Gideon Adlon), Will (Jacques Colimon), Kelly (Kristine Froseth), and Gordy (José Julián) that he found information about the proposed $1.5 million contract. Of course, there is more to the story. Sam finally confesses because Kelly tells the group that she found a picture of the bus driver who dropped them off in West Ham, now called New Ham, and that she remembers seeing him at the school talking to some of their parents. The group theorize that the smell is linked to the bus driver and their parents.
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Now, we still don’t know exactly what the smell is or why someone would be so upset over it that they would leave a bunch of unprepared teenagers alone. That’s expected considering the The Society could be renewed for a second season and it is a mystery after all.
But, the final moments of the series do confirm two things: 1) the rest of the town is still alive 2) they think the children are missing, since they are wearing yellow ribbons.
The reveal of the West Ham residents at the end of the season (and the dog who can travel between New Ham and West Ham) means that the New Ham group are on the right track with thinking their parents are responsible for their current predicament.
So viewers may know who caused the smell, but they don’t know where this odor is coming from. A strong possible source for the stench: bodies. It would explain why the leaders of West Ham were so concerned about people discussing the smell and why the “West Sham” graffiti was painted in red like blood.
Hopefully answers and more mysteries will be unearthed in a second season if The Society lands a season two renewal. C’mon Netflix! We’re waiting.
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