It could very well be that Erik Skjoldbjærg, creator/director of Scandinavia TV’s “Occupied” is a genius. This television series has everything going for it: intense drama, love, sex, betrayal and loyalty, and most alluring of all, political intrigue. You will find yourself addicted to the story, to the characters’ dilemmas, to the “real life” feeling of it. But you will also find yourself thinking, “Could this really happen?”.
In this new Trumpian world we live in, it often feels like anything can happen, and often it does. But not being Scandinavian myself and being educated in America, I sometimes forget the rest of the world exists. It turns out it does and it’s just as scary as the U.S. right now.
The premise of the story revolves around Norway having found a clean alternative fuel that can completely replace their need for oil. They begin shutting down their oil refineries which boarder Russia, and supply Europe with readily available gas. Norway’s Prime Minister has been elected on the wave of a “clean energy” platform, and the pressure is on to produce results.
(Somewhat of a spoiler) What started out as a celebration of the hopes and dreams of a society, ends in terrifying confusion as the Prime Minister is kidnapped just after giving an opening day speech to the entire country. What makes matters much worse is that the kidnappers aren’t a rogue group of terrorists, but a tactical team from Russia, France, Great Britain, and who knows what other EU members. Yes, believe it or not, the Russians collude with European countries to control the flow of oil throughout eastern and western Europe! And then they refuse to leave Norway. Of course this stirs the pot of nationalist sensibilities to straight on panic. From the reaction the series has gotten in Scandinavia, this isn’t the first time this thought has occurred to someone.
Hugely popular, the series examines what could really happen if something like this were to occur. From a pro-nationalist terrorist group to a seemingly rational, moderate government response, we experience what the citizens do, the choices they make, and the complicated mechanisms of government, and alligences, both personal and professional.
With some introspection, you’ll probably find yourself asking what you would do as a citizen, and what a nation should do. Would you join a “Norway First” group, and push for a military response? Would you join a pro nationalist terrorist group, and seek a violent resolution? Or would you rationalize your government’s concessions to an occupying force, or even welcome them in a politically correct calculation? You don’t know until you’re living it, and that is what is so compelling. Everyone is forced to make difficult decisions.
I found myself feeling even less secure about the fate of our world, but that’s no reason not to watch. It’s just really well written and acted. Chances are these actors are unknown to most Americans. The Prime Minister played by Henrik Mestad dances to the tune of the Russians and the EU with excruciating reasonableness. His outwardly calm exterior, despite his inability to blink, masks his truly terrified emotional roil. He is the perfect stunned deer.
And yet his character undergoes a tumult of moral change, and soon this Pacifist transforms into a leader involved with the terrorists he was once fighting against.
Interestingly, his assistant, played by Janne Heltberg undergoes her own transformation from mousy, lovesick Girl Friday to incredibly competent, ass kicking buerocrat. While that’s a dichotomy not easily achieved, Heltberg pulls it off with admirable skill.
The entire cast brings it to the table in this series, with quiet intensity combined with emotional reserve. You will not regret loosing a few days to this binge worthy show.