When it comes to television genres, post-apocalyptic dramas seem to face the biggest challenge when trying to differentiate themselves from other similar titles. More often than not, their narratives include a trio of plot points; glimpse at a functioning society and a catastrophic event, followed by an examination of the fallout and how people survived going forward.
This predetermined structure means that many shows wind up feeling familiar, even if their overall premise and characters are wildly different. Fortunately, Netflix’s first Danish outing The Rain has just enough about it to make it unique. (Even if what it does have seems to evaporate more-and-more with each passing episode).
The opening few get the show off to a strong start regardless, plunging the viewer right into the heart of the destruction and mystery. Wide-eyed, we watch as student Simone (Alba August) gets yanked out of school by her frantic father and taken to a futuristic bunker nearby. We’re as in the dark as she is as he instructs her, and her ten-year-old brother Rasmus, to hide out there while he – ‘the only one who can fix this’ – goes back outside to save people from ‘the killer virus in the rain’.
Six years pass and the siblings are still living underground, with Rasmus having grown from a boy to a teenager. With that The Rain sets up two fascinating subplots; what is this virus and how will these two adjust when their food supplies run out and they have to venture out into the world again?
It’s a shame then that soon after Simone and Rasmus actually emerge and team up with a bunch of young misfits, their assimilation is completely glossed over. Aside from a few remarks about Rasmus not understanding sarcasm and their lack of sexual experience, that is.
Instead, the show becomes more preoccupied with adhering to genre tropes; the survivors stumbling across a too-good-to-be-true safe haven only to find out it possesses dark secrets, for example. It’s not that it’s not compelling. It’s just that we’ve seen it before.
Much like The Walking Dead was in its prime, The Rain is at its strongest when it’s focusing on group dynamics and how this disaster has affected each individual differently rather than shocks and thrills. Some have been forced to become leaders – and are now unable to shake those responsibilities despite the need for them lessening – while others are struggling to keep a hold of their humanity. Elsewhere, others have learned that their newfound freedom allows them to tell manipulative lies about their pasts while some are given more truthful, tragic backstories.
Basically, there’s enough character-based stuff to warrant Netflix subscribers giving it a look-in. It’s also refreshing to see a show like this lead by young actors; all of whom offer up noteworthy performances. August, Sonny Lindberg, Angela Bundalovic and Jessica Dinnage have to carry some particularly heavy scenes and seem to do so with ease.
The Rain might not be as ground-breaking as it thinks it is but it’s both intriguing and short enough – (at just eight episodes) – to render it reliable, relatively binge-worthy entertainment. Sci-fi survival thriller enthusiasts, what are you waiting for?