Netflix's The Rain Review: A YA Twist On A Classic Scandinavian Noir

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
If there is anything you should take away from the last year of releases on Netflix, it’s that the streaming giant loves teens. There are lovable, murdering teens, and funny teens, and, even, different funny teens battling cancer. And, of course, there are the service’s No. 1 teens, the youths of 13 Reasons Why. So, it should be no surprise The Rain, about two Scandinavian siblings trying to survive after a horrifying virus wipes out civilization as they know it, is Netflix’s first-ever Danish original series.
Like all those aforementioned shows, the futuristic drama, premiering Friday, May 4, takes the genres we know and love — from biting black comedy to tragic coming-of-age saga — and adds a healthy dose of young adult angst. In The Rain’s case, that means taking the icy Nordic noirs that have dominated the crime drama realm and tossing in a healthy dose of hormones and sci-fi dystopian terror. What you’re left with is a shockingly gripping international adventure.
While many end-of-the-world-flavored series waste time exploring the world before it falls, The Rain doesn’t make that mistake. Rather, we jump into the series as leading lady Simone (Alba August) realizes the apocalypse is nigh in real time. One minute, she’s flirting with cute boy and worrying about a high school presentation. The next, her dad is screaming about rain, swerving on the highway, and forcing his family into a surprise underground bunker in the middle of the forest. Immediately following, she’s been abandoned, suffered a family tragedy, and left in charge of her little brother Rasmus (Bertil De Lorenzi), all while trapped in a bunker she never even knew existed. All Simone knows is that coming in contact with a single drop of rain now leads to painful, ghastly death.
All of those catastrophes happen within the first 12 minutes of The Rain. The effect is truly jarring, and the viewer comes to realize this is what life would look like if the apocalypse arrived without warning. You would be in a state of shock. You would be slow on the uptake. And, you would make terrible, irreversible mistakes. Watching Simone and Rasmus (played as a teen by Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) make rookie, thoughtless, missteps is oftentimes drive-you-up-the-wall frustrating — it’s easy to scream “Don’t open that door!” at the screen — but it’s also realistic. You can eyeroll all you want from the comfort of your safe, dry apartment, but we would all accidentally plunk our foot into a puddle when faced with the actual water-based apocalypse.
Thankfully, the series isn’t filled with total newbies to the apocalypse game. When Simone and Rasmus finally decide to leave their ultra-safe bunker after six years of hiding, they come in contact with a band of fellow teens. This is how they learn the rain, which carried a fatal, disgusting mystery virus, eradicated nearly all of the Danish population (the rest of the world is a mystery). Now, just a handful of humans roam the wild, empty new landscape, led by starvation and survival instincts. While the Rain siblings make endless blunders in the new world, their new acquaintances are hardened by all the death they’ve seen.
The additions add a necessary spark to the proceedings. The enigmatic Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic) is a standout, as we come to realize she’s far more than a doe-eyed damsel in distress. Not to spoil anything, but Beatrice might just be the smartest and most ingeniously manipulative survivor in the entire series. She also happens to be the catalyst for much of Rain’s brimming sexual tension. If sex amid the constant threat of a vomit-y, feral death seems a little too stressful for you, there is the puppy dog flirtation between curly-haired Jean (Sonny Lindberg) and the adorable, doomed-to-a-lifetime-of-braces Lea (Jessica Dinnage).
Speaking of vomit-y, feral death, the mystery behind the virus is what makes the Netflix original feel at home in the category of Nordic noir. Instead of the single, brutal, blood-splattered murder at the heart of many of those shows, the mystery is what caused the gruesome mass extinction of Denmark, and likely beyond, which we’re shown in detail. Bodies rot to the bone in hospitals, gore-drenched wild animals prowl the streets, and everything is shot in that ice-blue light we’ve all come to expect from Scandinavian pop culture like The Girl With The Dragan Tattoo, The Killing, and Borgen, which was written by Rain co-creator Jannik Tai Mosholt.
In the place of the traditional hard-nosed male detective is Simone, who is desperate to track down her father Frederik (Lars Simonsen), a scientist who works for Apollon, the shadowy mystery corporation at the center of the outbreak. As is the case with most Nordic mysteries, this small-scale problem — catching a murderer; finding an MIA dad — will seemingly lead to uncovering a much bigger conspiracy at hand, like an underground sex trafficking crime ring or, you know, a corporation whose advancements accidentally ended the world. Like so many in-genre series before it, we watch our heroine set out on the desolate, bleak, but still breathtakingly beautiful Scandinavian terrain to get her answers.
Only this time, there are just so many more teens making out than usual.
Looking for more theories, recaps, and insider info on all things TV? Join our Facebook group, Binge Club. The community is a space for you to share articles, discuss last night’s episode of your favorite show, or ask questions! Join here.
Read These Stories Next:

More from TV

R29 Original Series