Netflix's The Rain promises a fresh take on post-apocalyptic thrillers, but fails to deliver
Netflix's first Danish original show has a good premise, but stumbles through a hurried narrative and leaves you with more questions than answers.
'The Rain' is the first Danish original series for Netflix. A post-apocalyptic thriller centered around a rain-borne deadly virus that wipes out almost the entire population of Scandinavia, the trailer promised a fresh take on the genre. Told through the eyes of two Danish siblings who emerge from the safety of their bunker six years after the first wipe-out, the show seemed like it could very well match up to the artistic levels of other world-famous Danish shows like Søren Sveistrup's 'Forbrydelsen' (which was remade in English in the form of ABC's 'The Killing').
Unfortunately, 'The Rain' falls a little flat and like its name, washes all the hype and expectations away swiftly. What could have been a gripping and moving tale of epic proportions turns out to be a hurried, muddled story that leaves you with more questions than answers, and unfortunately these are not the good kind of questions that well-written thriller plots leave you with.
Full disclosure: I have been made privy to the screeners of just the first three episodes of the first season and this review only goes to that extent. For the show's and soon to come fans' sake, I hope 'The Rain' somehow manages to gather it's meandering narrative and set things straight by then. Also, spoiler alert! But don't worry, I won't be giving away anything to lose sleep over. In fact, neither does the show.
The show opens on a high note with the synth-pop goodness of Empire of the Sun's hit song 'High and Low'. Set to the song is a brief scene that introduces us to Simone, the protagonist of the show who apparently is a crucial part of her school team that's waiting for her so they can all pass the presentation. There's an attempt at showcasing some puppy love here, as Simone gets offered a date from her teammate just for showing up, but it comes off as distasteful and archetypical instead of earnest and juvenile.
But that all disappears in the very next shot when Simone's father Frederik comes rushing into her school and pulls her away into a high-speed car sequence as the entire family - Simone's mother Ellen and brother Rasmus - pull away from a giant dark looming cloud over the city.
Panic ensues and within the next few short minutes, we see the family all holed up in a bunker that belongs to _____, "a friend" of their father. The premise seems way too hurried, barely giving us any time to familiarize ourselves with the characters or figure out what's actually happening.
Halfway through the episode, I'm left wondering what the hell just happened. I'll save you a few spoilers and just say that the two kids Rasmus and Simone are now left alone in the bunker with both parents having promptly exited stage left. So what's next? How are the two little helpless children going to get through this ordeal?
The show doesn't bother dealing with that as it flies into a ridiculous time-lapse that spans six years. Six friggin' years! Barely through the first half of the pilot and they have already lost what little-vested interest I had in the characters. Rasmus is now a ripped 16-year-old and Simone has the face of sullen wisdom. Six years isolated from the hum of humanity would do even the healthiest of heads in, but Simone and Rasmus seem remarkably unmarked by it. How did they keep it together for six years in isolation? What did they do to pass the time for those 2,000 odd days? Why is Rasmus now a pubescent beefcake? It's all for you to figure out by yourself!
The show does have a good sense of aesthetics and cinematography, which seems to set the mood aptly for each episode. But that's pretty much all it has going for it. At least so far - three episodes into the first season. If the first episode is claustrophobic and contained, the second, where Simone and Rasmus join forces with a band of trigger-happy survivors, is sultry and tense, while the third, in which Simone heads to a desolate Copenhagen, shows 'The Rain' at its most stunning and cinematic best.
The second episode marks the arrival of new characters Martin, Jean, Lea, Beatrice and the rest which feels the show suddenly swerves towards a Hunger Games and Zombieland crossover which unfortunately takes itself too seriously.
What were these people's lives like before the rain fell? We do not know. How have they been surviving without a bunker? We do not know. But six years of virus-dodging has allowed Martin and the gang the moral laxity to gun down 'infected victims' (yes it's turning out to be a zombie flick) without a moment's pause.
The leaps in logic are so frequent and glaring that I found it hard to suspend my disbelief and focus on what's happening on screen. If the outside is still so perilous, and the threat of rain still so great, why aren't these new characters traveling in their protective suits? And if rain has already fallen - for six years nonetheless - surely it's not just puddles or streams that are so deadly – even a simple dewdrop might be enough to infect someone, right? How vast is this pandemic? And how did these kids survive? No answers yet again, but the show simply carries forward.
Of course, it's clear that the virus infested rain is at the heart of the show's mystery. Through three episodes, there are enough segues to suggest that much. The show also keeps hinting at the fact that Rasmus and Simone's father Frederik, was somehow involved and that it came about with good intentions, but what remains to be seen is how exactly he was involved and how the virus got into the rain in the first place.
He clearly says back in the first episode that he is the only one who can fix this and then promptly disappears for six years. So how that will connect to the current plot will be interesting to see. Hopefully, there won't be a ridiculous flashback that dismisses the whole thing off in a matter of minutes, but I won't be surprised if it does, judging by the impatient speed of the show.
From what I've seen so far, Netflix's first original Danish show seems to be a tough one to crack. Not at all because of the language barrier - but simply its meandering, sprawling narrative that doesn't leave time for any emotional investment. It feels like the other five episodes are going to take us through a hack and slash bildungsroman, one that desensitizes to the death of characters both central and incidental to the plot. Unless there's a big change of plan dropping out of nowhere in episode four, I can safely say that 'The Rain' falls just a few inches short of the mark and doesn't really quite deliver what it initially promised.
'The Rain' premiers on Netflix on Friday, May 4.