This is my first foray into what is fast becoming a television phenomenon, Nordic thrillers. An idea dreamed up by Norwegian writer Joe Nesbo, Occupied is set in a Norway of the not to distant future. As climate change continues to wreak havoc, America has reached energy independence and withdrawn from NATO. The Norwegian people have elected a green party to government on the promise of a total move away from fossil fuel energy sources. Seems simple enough, but with the EU in the midst of an energy crisis it ends up anything but. The EU enlist the help of Russia to exert pressure over Norway to restart their oil and gas plants, and this is where the story really gets interesting. Russia kidnaps the prime minister of Norway and gets the head of the EU on a video link to let the prime minister know that he can either restart his fossil fuel industry with the ‘help’ of Russia, or be invaded.
The Prime Minister ends up giving into the demands and is released to let his country know he is doing a complete backflip on the very policy of green energy that his party was elected for. While a good deal of the focus of the story follows the prime minister there are plenty of sub plots. A dogged journalist who knows something is up after witnessing the kidnapping of the Prime Minister, his wife who runs a restaurant across the road from the Russian embassy, the Prime Ministers bodyguard Djupvik who wants to do the right thing by his country but increasingly isn’t sure what that is, and the head of the Police Intelligence Service, Arnesen who suddenly finds she has nothing left to lose in taking on the Russians.
From the first episode there are echoes of the Stasi in East Germany during the Cold War, with husband against wife and citizens doubting who is on which side. But the creators of Occupied never really allow their story to take a clichéd approach to the dilemma the Norwegians find themselves in. The General of the Army won’t give into the Russians and ends up resigning his post, we later see him take on a role that brings Tom Cruise's portrayal of Claus Von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie to mind. A young solider trys to assassinate the Russian Ambassador early in the occupation, but it’s the Prime Minister's bodyguard Djupvik who saves her life, thus setting up a double agent story arc for Djupvik as the series unfolds.
Prime Minister Jesper Berg starts to look like a bumbling optimist who just doesn’t seem to grasp how many people are working against him. He trys to play the EU and even the US off against the Russians, but appears to fail to grasp some of the nuances of the political situation he finds himself in, or if he does he completely ignores this and pushes on. A resistance movement, Free Norway, quickly builds and this causes some of the Prime Ministers efforts to be thwarted. When Russia starts bringing elite special forces into Norway over the remote Russian – Norwegian border and planting them as sleeper agents in Norwegian towns, the Prime Minister reaches his breaking point. Norwegian intelligence has it that some of these agents are Russian FSB that have agitated and made trouble in Chechnya.
Occupied explores some big geopolitical issues. Remove Norway as the occupied country and Russia as this particular regional policeman and the themes touched on in this drama seem decidedly possible. With the US no longer having an interest in NATO and Norway not a member of the EU, they find themselves without a friend. With current real world issues in Europe including the Schengen Area on the verge of suspension, & the recent Greek debt crisis, its not hard to see Nesbo's thinking with this isn't a big leap, & more countries may end up with their sovereignty challenged. But in the tradition of the French Resistance during Nazi occupation, the Norwegians in this drama aren’t going quietly into the night. I'm hoping they go ahead with a second season because they nailed the first one.
This series of stand alone episodes was not what I was expecting. I sat down to watch Black Mirror thinking I was getting a series about some future where robots ruled the world. What I found was a series of stories that don't try and rehash overdone clichés, and therefore make compelling viewing. Black Mirror has a similar feel to Twisted Tales, or The Twilight Zone, in that each episode is a completely different story with different characters. The overarching theme here is an exploration of how technology might completely screw with our lives. The first episode is both funny, and terrifying. The British Prime Minister is literally held hostage by popular opinion, as a terrorist holds a Royal Princess captive and demands the Prime Minister perform degrading acts on live television in order to secure her release.
Episode two is a comment on just how far reality talent shows might go in the future. With everyone leading an Orwellian sort of existence & largely participating in public life via their own avatar, this particular tale doesn’t feel that far fetched, a scary thought for the human race.
In Episode 3 people have an implant in their ears which allows them to record every aspect of their life, and then play it back at will. Just imagine being able to replay every conversation or experience you have had over and over again and you start to get the idea of the challenges people face in this imagined reality. We see the main character analysing every aspect of his life to death, with very sad consequences. Every episode of Black Mirror, challenges your perception of technology and examines the moral and physical consquences of our march towards the supposed technological utopia that is meant to make our lives easier.
19th January 2016
I signed up to Netflix late last year and have binge watched a lot of tv since then. The ability to watch a series in totality over a day or a couple of weeks means I’m now watching more tv than I have in years. Here is my top three to date.
Based on a Danish television series, The Killing has been reimagined and set in Seattle, Washington. The series follows Mireille Enos who plays homicide detective Sarah Linden, and her partner Stephen Holder played by Joel Kinnaman. If you love sinking your teeth into crime drama, you will enjoy The Killing. Presenting a 360 degree view of a crime we don’t just get the detectives point of view, we are also taken inside the lives of the victim’s family and the people that fall under suspicion. With three seasons currently available I managed to get through The Killing in two weeks. The first two seasons see Linden and Holder investigating the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen. We watch the Larsen family falling apart as the reality of their daughters death sinks in, and the fortunes of a mayoral candidates political fortunes rising and falling as people within his campaign fall in and out of the list of suspects. The end of Season Two sees us finally learning who killed Rosie Larsen, and I never saw it coming. This is one of those rare shows where you will be genuinely shocked when you find out who the murderer is. Season Three managed to be even better than the first two seasons and see's Holder and Linden join forces again to investigate a prolific serial killer and once again the murderer's identity will shock.
Is it wrong to be a little too enamored with a serial killer? I found myself both loving and loathing Jamie Dornan’s character Paul Spector in equal measure. On the surface, Spector appears to be a loving father & husband, and even a champion of women in his work as a grief counselor. But below the surface, this quiet man, practically seethes with hatred and rage. The Fall follows the life of Spector has he goes about bumping off successful professional single women, all while holding down a job and looking after his two small children. Enter Gillian Anderson as the no nonsense detective Stella Gibson, sent from London to review the murder cases resulting from Spector’s killing spree. Stella is determined to catch the bad guy, and is quick to jump on clues as Spector’s life starts to unravel. His obsessive attention to detail when planning his kills gets sloppier and more desperate and he starts to make stupid mistakes. Throw in a teenage babysitter who is obsessively in love with Spector, an angry husband trying to track down the battered wife Spector helped escape, and its not just Stella who Spector has to worry about.
I wasn’t sure this show would be to my taste. I tend to love crime drama, but this post apocalyptic look at humanity after Nuclear Armageddon has me hooked. Australian’s will have a number of a-ha moments when they spot some familiar Aussie faces headlining the cast. Former Neighbours alum Eliza Taylor plays Clarke, one of the natural born leaders of a group of 100 juvenile crooks sent from a space station ‘The Ark” which has been orbiting the Earth. The people on The Ark have been waiting for the right moment to send humans back after a Nuclear war 97 years earlier made earth uninhabitable for humans. Joining her is Bob Morley, a former Home & Away alum, playing Bellamy who shows an equal talent for getting others to follow him, but with some mixed results for his conscience. While the humans on the Ark assumed that they were the only hope for humanity, they soon discover that not everyone was wiped out during the Nuclear Apocalypse and there are a whole host of tribes ready to show us that human dynamics are nothing if not complicated and fraught. Rounding out the Aussie element of The 100, we see another former Neighbours alum, Dichen Lachman playing the leader of one of the ‘Grounder’ tribes. Add the Mountain Men, & The Reapers, and the radiation levels on earth are the least of the problems the newly returned souls will face. The 100 is a fantastic dramatic illustration of the problems that always exist in human dynamics, and morality.