With shows such as The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, Scandinavia has produced some of the most original, gripping and compelling television of the 21st century. After the success of Netflix’s German-language Dark, it comes as no surprise that the streaming giant is venturing into Scandi territory with its first Danish original series. Although The Rain borrows its bleak tone and muted colour palette from Nordic noir, it distinguishes itself from the genre with an injection of teen angst and post-apocalyptic terror. Set six years after virus-infected rainfall decimates almost all human life in Scandinavia, The Rain follows siblings Simone (Alba August) and Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) as they navigate the dangers of this environment. Brutal, thrilling and elegantly-filmed, The Rain’s first three episodes establish an intriguing world, despite several narrative contrivances.
Co-created by Jannik Tai Mosholt, one of the writers on Borgen, The Rain doesn’t waste any time in kicking off its weather-induced apocalypse. The first episode opens on Simone prepping for a high-school presentation, before she is whisked away by her panic-stricken father Fredrick (Lars Simonsen). Fredrick works for a mysterious organisation called Apollon, who seem to be the only ones aware of the impending epidemic. Thanks to Fredrick’s connections, he manages to take his family to a secure underground bunker in the middle of a forest. But a traumatic incident leaves Simone and Rasmus alone without a parent to guide them. Six years pass, until a dwindling food supply force the siblings to venture out from the safety of their bunker. The duo soon joins forces with a clan of teen survivors and discover that the rain has annihilated virtually all of the Danish population. Together, the group must contend with the many threats of this post-apocalyptic landscape alongside their own personal obstacles.
The Rain’s lightning speed pace makes for an exhilarating introduction, although it rather brushes over the years the siblings spend confined to the bunker. We see the pair dance around in one particularly charming scene, and Simone gradually memorises the locations of the other Apollon bunkers in another (information that will prove invaluable to her later on). However, it’s not made clear just how they occupied themselves for six whole years without going completely insane.
While the time lapse may not feel entirely convincing, The Rain’s apocalyptic vision most definitely is. The high-tech bunker in Episode 1 is a believable, well-realised creation, the eerily tense woodland of Episode 2 is beautifully captured, and the deserted urban streets of Copenhagen in Episode 3 feel awe-strikingly cinematic. Each episode has its own distinct atmosphere and visual signature, which helps form a memorable, vivid dystopian world.
Many of Netflix’s original series suffer from over-inflated narratives, yet The Rain maintains a refreshing momentum, thanks to its lean runtimes with Episode 2 and 3 not exceeding the 40-minute mark. The Rain doesn’t short-change us on character development either: August and Tønnesen both put in expressive turns and their sibling dynamic is tender and authentic. Highlights from the rest of the crew include leader of the pack Martin (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), an engaging, morally dubious character who causes conflicts within the group and the enigmatic yet alluring Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic), who stokes up the show’s sexual tensions.
Despite the young cast, The Rain doesn’t water things down (no pun intended). It’s satisfyingly gory in its approach – bodies decompose on the streets, ravenous, zombie-like bands of people scavenge for food, and a single drop of rain causes a violent, convulsive death. Alongside a synthy, ominous score, this grisly tone helps creates a palpable tension. Unfortunately, this suspenseful mood is occasionally undermined by some flimsy plot contrivances – several clunky coincidences push the boundaries of believability and disengage you from the story.
Although the script has its weaknesses, The Rain’s opening episodes propel the narrative forward and provoke many compelling questions. What kind of virus is carried in the rain? How are Apollon and Frederick involved in this catastrophe? And just how far has this epidemic spread? There’s certainly plenty of scope for this gripping dystopian series to build on.
The Rain: Season 1 is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription.