One aspect of Netflix’s dominance over the small screen in recent years has been its willingness to expand beyond the borders of the US television scene, pushing into developing content in Europe and not just through the traditional British paradigm. The Rain is their first effort from Denmark and taps into a growing trend of smart, thrilling and clever television which has emerged from Scandinavia over the last decade. Jannik Tai Mosholt’s drama feels, in many respects, like an American thriller – a confluence of pared-back Danish efficiency in storytelling fused with a broad, high concept sensibility.
The Rain is no mere metaphorical title; in Mosholt’s series, set in modern day Denmark, a mysterious rain unleashes a biological contagion on an unwitting population out of nowhere and at the very heart of the drama is Simone (Alba August), a high school student who is racing to make a test in one minute, only to be whisked away by her terrified father Frederick (Lars Simonsen) in another – a man who seems to be aware something terrible is about to happen and they need to be prepared for it. Cue a story of family survival which unfolds incredibly quickly – within the first 20 minutes, The Rain gets more done than some slower TV shows manage in three episodes.
Mosholt establishes a conceptual idea which, certainly in the first episode, blends aspects of The Walking Dead and even Lost, without seeming derivative of either. Simone and her brother Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) must try and survive in an advanced, technological bunker, created by a mysterious organisation called Apollon, while avoiding the deadly downpour which causes death in very short order. What caused it? Why did it happen? Mosholt gives us hints and suggestions across the first episode but the point of the drama concerns Simone and Rasmus primarily, and a relationship which has to evolve very quickly in ways you may not necessarily expect.
You almost don’t want to give too much away about The Rain because while its revelations and narrative choices are not groundbreaking, they deserve being allowed to unfold without advance knowledge. The second episode can’t really be referenced without spoiling much of the first entirely, but it takes Simone & Rasmus in quite a different direction as Mosholt works to expand the world of this biologically devastated Scandinavia out, introducing new elements which add to a post-apocalyptic landscape which fuses modern technology with disturbing, violent and arcane practices. There is scope to go head into some interesting, unique places.
Ultimately, however, the focus remains on character and particularly how Simone must try and hold everything together in the face of growing physical and psychological odds. August works hard to establish a sympathetic, if slightly naive and hopeful character, who has the potential to evolve into something entirely different as challenges are thrown her way. The Rain doesn’t just work for the fact its well written, with a sprightly sense of pace, lots of plot development and a broad canvas for storytelling possibilities, but because the characters are well drawn even in a short space of time. You will be interested in where their journey may take them.
We’ll be very intrigued to see where The Rain goes beyond the three episodes we’ve caught so far, and you’d be well advised to eschew the latest Adam Sandler film and spend your time on this interesting new Danish piece instead. You’ll have suffered far worse downpours, believe me.
The Rain premieres on Friday 4th May on Netflix. Let us know what you make of it.