Warning: Spoilers from The Society are ahead.
About 20 minutes into the pilot episode of Netflix’s new teen drama series The Society, you will find your new favorite character you’ll love to hate, or maybe just hate. That character is Campbell Eliot (played by Toby Wallace) who makes viewers dislike him from the first moment he comes on screen.
First of all, Campbell seems to taking teen angst to another level while also channeling a combination every bad boy on TV. Seriously, Campbell calls his deaf brother Sam (Sean Berdy) a homophobic name, aggressively pursues Elle (Olivia DeJonge) without her consent. and threatens to shoot his cousins — all in the first episode! But unlike some loveable bad boys (see: Veronica Mars’ Logan Echolls), Campbell somehow becomes more unbearable and unlikeable as the season progresses. Here's everything you need to know about the guy (and if you're here hoping to see a spoiler that Campbell dies on The Society, you're going to be very disappointed).
Why Is Campbell The Way He Is?
It seems like Campbell dislikes everyone in New Ham for no apparent reason. He is in a relationship with Elle because he wants to control her, not love her. He clearly has tension with his brother Sam, but it doesn’t seem like normal problems between siblings. Campbell and Sam’s parents disappear along with everyone else in New Ham besides the high school students who went on the trip. Campbell’s response to this information is to kick Sam out of the house, claiming it is because he has never had a moment to himself with Sam around. This was just a glimpse into Campbell’s cruel nature.
The audience really learns what is wrong with Campbell in episode 4 “Drop by Drop” when the Sam tells Becca (Gideon Adlon), Grizz (Jack Mulhern), Allie (Kathryn Newton), Gordie (José Julián), Will (Jacques Colimon), and Bean (Salena Qureshi) about a pet bird the two had growing up. Without going too much into the disgusting and disturbing details, the point of this story is that Campbell’s parents had him tested based on his behavior as a child and it was determined he is a psychopath. Sam explains to the group that means Campbell cannot feel guilt, empathy, or anything else. He has to mimic these feelings, which is why Sam calls Campbell a “monster.”
But in case Sam’s childhood memory wasn’t frightening enough, while he is telling this story Campbell is holding Elle underwater, nearly drowning her, because she hung out with friends without him. So, basically, The Society makes Campbell an irredeemable character in this episode and there is nothing he can do in future episodes to try to change anyone’s opinion of him.
Why Campbell Doesn’t Die In Season 1?
If The Society was a predictable series, Campbell probably would’ve died this season. He is the main villain, there's a whole town that knows he's the villain causing problems, and it's a perfectly acceptable trope of dystopian series to kill off the old villain to make room for another. So why is he still here?
Well, The Society writers proved nothing goes according to expectations in New Ham, when our main protagonist Cassandra (Rachel Keller) is killed at the end of episode 3. Of course, the series isn't going to deliver what we expect (that the citizens of New Ham hold Campbell accountable), plus, after all the deaths we witness in season 1, Campbell had to be spared to save some suspense for a potential second season. And since no one can leave or enter the town, Campbell really is the only clear adversary when the season ends. If they kill him, what's left?
Harry (Alex Fitzalan) seems to be competing with Campbell early in the season for the title of Worst Douchebag, but then Harry’s struggles (drug addiction and constant sluggish state) humanize him far more than Campbell. And while he does team up with Campbell, it's clear that Harry is a follower and Campbell is the real opposition leader being set up for season 2.
So, Is Campbell Just... Invincible?
Despite how much most viewers loathe Campbell, he has to get credit for how easily he can manipulate some of the teens in New Ham who all know they shouldn’t trust him. He plays on their fears and their desires to persuade them into believing what he wants is actually want they want for themselves. In episode 10, he is able to get Harry and Lexie (Grace Victoria Cox) elected as co-governors after he convinces them to lead a coup against Allie and Will. He also tricks the Guard into turning on Allie and is the reason she and Will are locked up and resented by the town at the end of season. Campbell feeds on chaos and he gets just that.
With Campbell technically in charge, but running things behind the scenes, it will interesting to see how long it takes him to completely take control from Harry and Lexie. He will most likely push Lexie out first because the manipulative relationship he built with Harry is much stronger. He also now has Elle back since Allie could no longer protect her by keeping her imprisoned.
But Elle is the ace up Allie's sleeve, and potentially, the biggest threat to Campbell (an exciting prospect for season 2, if it happens). She promised Allie she would help her, which means Elle presumably has support from Gordie, Grizz, Becca, Sam, and Kelly (Kristine Froseth). Keeping Elle close to him, not knowing she is planning to overtake him, could finally lead to Campbell’s downfall.