If you’ve seen the one (which one? it doesn’t matter) about the telegenic young blonde who barely survives a near-apocalyptic event and now has to overcome her naïvety to fight off both the harsh post-catastrophe elements and humanity’s other remaining survivors in order to protect the last of her family AT ALL COSTS!!!, then you’ve seen The Rain, Netflix’s first Danish original series and newest sci-fi offering.
This isn’t to say The Rain isn’t worth watching, necessarily; any viewer with the fortitude to overcome subtitles will enjoy, if nothing else, some really sharp cinematography and acting and just general atmospherics. But it is meant to serve as a word of caution: if your tolerance for decimating mystery viruses and purportedly (but not at all evidently) genius dads who might have been responsible for the outbreak/have the cure/both but who nevertheless choose to wait to communicate those facts to their loved ones at the very last possible second while screaming like a man possessed at them to BUCKLE THEIR F*$KING SEATBELTS while careening out of town at one billion miles per hour and causing a full-freeway pileup that then traps extra hundreds of people in the oncoming death storm before they escape their own chaos on foot and throw their family into a mystery bunker before abandoning them with zero explanation for six long years then… maybe The Rain isn’t for you.
If your tolerance for that kind of story is high, however, hit play! The Rain truly looks really great, and it has a killer dancehouse soundtrack. Plus, watching this story play out in a non-North American, non-English speaking country is engaging for its novelty. The casting, too—save for the Andrew Lincoln look-alike (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) who makes every shot he’s in a distracting trip—is well executed, especially in the case of the two nearly-twin Rasmuses, the oldest/swolest of whom (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) is so eerily close to his character’s 10-year old portrayer (Bertil De Lorenzi) that you will genuinely believe the producers trapped a kid in a bunker for six years just to get your doubletake.
The emotional arc of the story, too, for all it is a mashup of the seven thousand YA-adjacent dystopian/post-apocalyptic/survival thriller shows and films that have come before it, isn’t bad. After what is essentially an anxiety-fueled bottle episode weirdly positioned as the pilot, the two main characters encounter the rest of the season’s principals in a dire, gripping way, and the circumstances that force the lot of them both into cahoots and into taking the particular trip that they do make enough sense to keep you interested—especially as each subsequent episode turns its lens to a new secondary character to follow back in time to when the apocalyptic implications of the viral rain were still making themselves known, and that character was just becoming the hardened person they are in the present. All of this, remarkably watchable.
The bigger mystery, tied back to the main characters’ secretive, jerk-genius dad and his even more secretive employer, Apollon, is less gripping, at least in the episodes provided for review. Thus far, wherever you think a story about a mystery virus engineered to be carried by rain to a population easily cut off from the rest of the world is likely, you are equally likely to be right—just as you are likely to be right about the kinds of desperate people our erstwhile heroes meet along the way, and the kinds of hard moral choices that forces said heroes to make in turn. You are unlikely to be right about what the ball of hash one of the characters finds and bites into actually is, but in the scheme of things, that shock is small.
That said, I found my thoughts drifting back to The Rain long after the final credits rolled, often catching myself wondering, out of the blue, where Simone (the magnetic Alba August) and Rasmus and everyone else would go next. I mean, I definitely know where they go next, anyone who has seen any other television ever knows where they go next, but also… I want to watch them get there, subtitled Danish dialogue or no. So obviously the show has to be doing something right.
Netflix has made a solid niche for itself as distributor of high-quality foreign territory properties—Travelers, Babylon Berlin, 3%—but none has yet been a breakout mainstream success. The Rain seems too quiet and redundantly generic to be the one to make that mainstream leap, but one should never discount the power of charismatic youthfulness paired with some artfully placed killer beats (for real, my whole brand is selling people on not doing exactly that). Should The Rain end up being The One Foreign Show to Rule Them All, you will have wanted to get in on the ground floor.
At the very least, I implore you to watch the pilot long enough to see little Rasmus turn tall and swole in a single, cinematic cut. Your tiny inner conspiracy nut will burst with joy at all the possibilities that single cut suggests.
The Rain premieres Friday, May 4 on Netflix.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult, Screener, and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go ten rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.