At this point, it seems that apocalypse-themed series come in nearly every flavor imaginable. In the case of Class of ’07, an Australian series that follows a group of women trapped at their Catholic boarding school when a world-ending wave makes landfall during their reunion, the results are, for me, a bit mixed. It’s like when you take a bite of a baked good you’re expecting to love, but something about the flavor isn’t quite right. You keep chewing, trying to figure it out. Is it too little salt? Not enough vanilla? Too sweet? It’s not terrible by any means. It almost tastes great, so you take another bite, still trying to figure out if you like it, love it, or just find it meh. And then another. And another. Parts you like well enough. Parts confuse you. What is that spice you can’t place, but don’t want in there? Before you know it, you’ve gulped down the whole thing. And, while it leaves you not entirely satisfied, if offered, you’d probably eat another one.
Phew. That’s a lot of metaphor to, erm, digest.
Anyway, let’s dig in. After Zoe (Emily Browning) goes viral when a dove poops in her mouth at the end of her emotional rant about not being chosen at the end of a Bachelor-esque reality dating series, she decides to live off-the-grid for a bit. One day, after digging holes, or some such thing, and talking to herself, she notices the birds acting strangely, the earth trembling, cracks appearing in the dirt, and water flowing from rocks. Shaken, Zoe unearths her cell phone to check for emergency alerts and discovers that she needs to head toward higher ground. And that higher ground, literally, and I suppose, spiritually, is Ridge Heights Catholic Ladies College, her former high school, where, unbeknownst to her, members of her graduating class are awkwardly celebrating their reunion. Zoe arrives in a dither, trying to convince her peers that trouble is headed their way, but it turns out that they haven’t forgotten her penchant for exaggeration and drama, so her warnings fall on drunk and uninterested ears.
Unable to rally them toward action, Zoe decides to just say fuck it, and she joins them in partying. She quickly scores some drugs off Megan (Chi Nguyen) and Tegan (Bernie Van Tiel)—BFFs and perpetual stoners, who have yet to meet something that they cannot turn into a drug reference, or at least medium for drug use. At the party, she reconnects with her former best friend Amelia (Megan Smart), who left the school part way through their senior year under mysterious circumstances, and while carrying on an affair with the nineteen year-old groundskeeper. She also sees Sandy (Sarah Krndija), the snobby American exchange student, who seemed to hate every minute at the school, but is back for the reunion anyway, regaling them with tales of her social media famous dog and banging on about her D’amiré purse. Of course, every class needs a rule-follower, and Genevieve (Claire Lovering) is most certainly that person here. At the reunion, she’s busy controlling who drinks what beverage when and she simply cannot believe the rudeness that Zoe displayed by not RSVPing, even if she was completely cut off from the outside world for six months. She also proudly wears her Class Captain pin, even though she was technically only Caretaker Class Captain when Amelia vacated the spot with her sudden departure. Genevieve’s high school nemesis is Saskia (Caitlin Stasey), who once bullied her mercilessly about pooping, among other things. Actually, Saskia was pretty much everyone’s nemesis, as she ruled the school through bullying, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional control. In the intervening years, however, she has gone through a radical change. She now leads a company that, for every pack of tampons sold, gives away a pack to women in need. She’s now infuriatingly calm, magnanimous, and helpful. Can you imagine? If your former bully had gone all calm and peace and love and light? You’d want to poke her with a cattle prod just to earn a reaction, theoretically speaking. And then there’s Teresa (Sana’a Shaik), who used to do Saskia’s bidding, but who Sandy now claims is her best friend, is drunkenly telling everyone who will listen about her waiting embryos and how this time will be different. And, after being told by Sandy that her job as a nail tech is pathetic, Renee (Emma Horn) has started telling people she’s a doctor, which shouldn’t cause any problems or misunderstandings in the upcoming apocalypse. Finally, watching them all as she tries to log into her work computer from behind the safety of her thick black-framed glasses is former scholarship student and current acid-tongued observer, Phoebe (Steph Tisdell). Right! There is also Laura (Rose Flanagan), who absolutely no one can remember. In fact, there’s even a plaque memorializing her death on the so-called “fingering bench,” even though, as she repeatedly points out, she’s very much alive.
When the water finally reaches the school, Amelia calls out Zoe for not trying harder to warn them about the impending danger, which would have allowed them time to escape back to their own lives and possible safety. Frustrated by the blame being heaped on her, Zoe lashes out at everyone, insulting them one by one until she finally calls Amelia a huge disappointment just before a sinkhole swallows a massive portion of the building, leaving Zoe’s feet teetering on the edge of an abyss. While the rest of the women scream and run away, Amelia silently reaches out and grabs Zoe’s hair, hauling her back from the brink, before joining her to stare out at the now completely foreign view.
Things start off chaotic, as one might expect in adjusting to the end of the world, with Phoebe trying to go about life as usual, Tegan and Megan trying to look busy while doing nothing, Sandy wreaking havoc with her non-stop sobbing and life-or-death search for her handbag, Zoe using all the gas to write a message in the grass, leaving the generator dry, and almost everyone physically fighting each other for room 2F, which is apparently the room to have. Amelia, seeing that they need order and control, tells Saskia that they “need a bitch.” Saskia demurs, telling her that she “doesn’t do that anymore.” But Amelia persists, saying that “when you were captain [of the rowing team], we never lost a race.” As Saskia walks down the dorm hallway, she witnesses women in all stages of regression toward absolute feral behavior, but it’s hearing Sandy’s fatalistic sobbing that pushes her to finally revisit the side of herself that she loathes, but understands can whip this group into shape. Her first act, with Zoe’s somewhat guileless help, is to lull Sandy to sleep in a row boat and then push her out to sea under the cover of darkness, making sure to convince Zoe that it was her idea all along. So I guess it didn’t take too much for Saskia to unearth her former self after all? Zoe is well-meaning, but she’s always just self-centered enough that she’s constantly messing things up. She can’t get out of her own way long enough to see what other people might need or want or what their larger emotions might be. She admits to Saskia that she loved her time in high school, and that it never really left her. That she always feels like a second runner-up in life .
Next, Saskia interviews the women to determine their useful skills before dividing them into one group, which will re-invent electricity, and another, which will dig holes for latrines. Under her iron rule, the women seem to revert to their teenage personalities at first though, with time some rebel against the strictures. Before long, they have a thriving economy of batteries charged by stationary bikes traded for goods that have been looted from the campus. Saskia also demands that everyone keep their hair styled at all times as their last vestige of normality. Ew. No thank you. Could this system have evolved without a “bitch” at the helm? One could certainly argue yes, and I’m not quite sure what the message the show is trying to impart by doing it this way. That we never really grow up? That, when faced with our past traumas, we always revert? That the apocalypse will first bring out the worst in people? That one I would certainly believe. All of these women are quite flawed, but still have redeeming qualities, which makes a lot of sense, because I think surviving the apocalypse is going to bring out the best and the worst in everyone who survives. I do not understand how it manages to bring out the best in their clothing, which manages to remain in pretty good condition after months and months of really hard wear and (one imagines) very little washing.
What does work very well about the show is its focus on the mundane and on daily survival. At the beginning, the characters are overwhelmed by trying to comprehend what has become of the rest of the country or the rest of the world. It’s, quite frankly, too much to absorb. So it makes sense that they would re-focus their attention and energy on things that they can control, like food, electricity, clothing, hairstyles, blackmail, decades-old grudges, television shows, and deeply repressed trauma. The series zeroes in on women’s day-to-day struggles over power (literal and figurative) and the airing of grievances. Through brief flashbacks, we see glimpses of who they were as teenagers and how that relates to how they are coping now in this situation as adults. They reckon with their past wrongs and, in some ways, find peace with those who have trespassed against them. A lot of this material is darkly funny and well-done, as it recalls things like The Lottery, with the mob’s gleeful willingness to impose any number of horrifying judgements against the damned. (Oh, I know there’s another literary reference I’m supposed to make here, but I think it’s just low hanging fruit and not actually that apt.)
However, for a show that is entirely about women’s relationships with each other, I felt somewhat let down by its lack of depth. I mean, these women have LITERALLY all the time in the world, and I was still left feeling like their characters weren’t built all the way out. For example, Saskia’s incredibly deep trauma from high school never feels fully fleshed out to me. The characters feel like interesting stereotypes, but not entirely individualized people, and I want to know more about what makes them tick. Plus, for a cast of ten women, it seems odd that none of them were LGBTQ+. Well, that’s not entirely true. At some point Tegan makes an off-hand comment about back when she used to think she liked boys, but that’s as much as we get. There is more diversity in terms of ethnicity, though that’s largely left undiscussed.
It also didn’t feel like the series had anything super-deep or affirming or unsettling to say about women’s friendships, except that, when stuck together during the apocalypse during a class reunion that will never end, women will go through some shit. I guess, to me, it’s unclear how many of these relationships would really even qualify as friendships before they were trapped together in the apocalypse. Most of these women seem largely incapable of maintaining relationships with each other or other people in general. Which, I guess is saying something, indeed. Their memories of high school are largely about disagreements, bullying, separations, and traumatic experiences. Certainly, we all have those, but they’re generally balanced out by memories of sustaining friendships, support, and community. You know, the lifeblood of women’s relationships. Class of ’07 seems to have left those key ingredients out, which isn’t world-ending or anything, but does leave it wanting for flavor for me.