The Rain (Netflix, 2018-20, dir Kenneth Kainz and Natasha Arthy)
In return for Jim selling me on the Netflix adaptation of In The Tall Grass by Stephen King, which we really enjoyed watching together, I suggested that we try Danish post-apocalyptic TV thriller The Rain from Netflix. Partway through episode one, however, I could see him frowning gently and wondering whether my taste in TV was always this bad.
The premise of The Rain, that acid rain is fatally dangerous to the natural world, is widely appreciated in Scandinavia, where they've been suffering from the ecological effects for decades. It was therefore intriguing to see a drama centring around the breakdown of society in the face of poisonous rainfall, which forces everyone to take cover and survive inside for long periods as best they can.
I couldn't wait to see how this premise was established alongside the characters in the first episode and then developed beyond that as the fight back against the enemy took shape.
The concept that the rain is deadly, and that the protagonists must take cover immediately in order to save themselves, was established very quickly. I was drawn into the action quickly and the 'right there and then nature' of the threat was very present. The Andersen family abandons their car and flee to a bunker deep in the woods, where the father knows they will be able to hunker down and ride out the danger.
The father, a scientist, leaves his wife, son and daughter there and heads back into the chaos to help find a cure. The remaining three then have to adjust to life in the bunker, an entirely static and pretty dull environment, and a little later in the episode a further plot development lures the mother out into the rain, leaving the two children to fend for themselves in the bunker.
There is next to no information about the outside world, except for some short-lived communications via radio with a teenage boy. We don't find out anything more in this episode about how the father is faring, not is any information supplied about the chaos unfolding outside the bunker.
The dystopian chaos as social order breaks down is inherently dramatic and interesting, and establishing more than one plot strand would have helped the action to stay compelling. Unfortunately, the viewer's focus remained on the siblings, and a very long period of time passed during which time they grew up and all pretence at narrative tension died a slow death. By this point, we had agreed to finish episode one of The Rain but not to watch any more.
I love Nordic Noir, and no one does gritty thriller drama like the Scandinavians. Plus it's always a pleasure to experience TV in the original language with subtitles. The Scandinavian languages are so beautiful to the ear. But in terms of a cracking opener that would lure us into wanting the watch the rest of the season and beyond, it missed its mark for me. In a fast-paced world where a single click can take you straight back to Netflix search and see you exploring so many other options, choice is just everywhere. A first episode needs to be far more compelling to keep us watching under those circumstances. The acting was excellent and the cinematography of outside the bunker was beautiful and eerie, but the structural problems surrounding the plot focus proved too much.
The Rain was renewed for two further seasons. All three seasons are available now on Netflix.
Thank you so much for reading this Weekend Watchers post from John C Adams Reviews. If you have enjoyed Nordic Noir or any other drama please share your own recommendations in the comments section below. My next post is a Monday Musings review next week.
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If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Hollywood here.