Series review: Ragnarok
- The Danish miniseries combines an environmental message with Norse mythology and superhero adventures
When extreme weather conditions seem to herald the apocalypse, extraordinary warriors are needed in order to fight back against the end of the world: at least this is the stance of the new Danish miniseries Ragnarok, released on Netflix on the last day of January. Although it has pace issues and makes some dubious screenplay choices, this hybrid between a coming-of-age story and a superhero adventure has some aces up its sleeve.
The show takes a moment to give the audience the definition of Ragnarok, the apocalypse in Norse mythology, which starts “with natural disasters and culminates in the great battle between the gods and the giants”. Then, from the very first shot, it introduces our hero, Magne (a rather too contemplative David Stakston), who returns to his native town of Edda with his mother and brother. A kind gesture later, Magne is unexpectedly and mysteriously given the powers of Thor, and as all of this happens three minutes into the story, the audience may be hoping that this promising alternation of revelations and twists will be a constant throughout. Unfortunately, creator Adam Price (also behind the Danish megahit Borgen) suddenly remembers the age of his protagonist, and Ragnarok becomes riddled with rather stereotypical high-school coming-of-age tropes.
Of course, Ragnarok is not only a high-school drama with brooding teenagers, romantic innuendos and shattered love stories (although we do have our rather generous share of that), but also a story that is deeply connected with very timely topics such as global warming and unsustainable, irresponsible living. At its core, we have a message that is more than encouraging for teenagers (but not only for them): a good heart can indeed save the world. And it’s not at all difficult to understand that, even if the characters in the story will at some point find themselves involved in a larger-than-life battle between the forces of good and evil, a certain lack of powers is not at all an issue when one wants to make the world a better place. Or at least a less bad place for the next generations…
Before writing this review, we watched all of the five (out of the season’s six) episodes available for preview, and it’s safe to say that we’ve had a continuous and frustrating sensation that these episodes are only a preamble to the big fight in the series finale. It takes too long to get there, and while we continued the journey with patience and goodwill, too many of the things happening along the way were just too familiar. For example, Gry, the character played by Emma Bones, Magne’s colleague and love interest, is extremely similar to the actress’s character from the extremely watchable sports drama Heimebane. These familiar elements and slow pace are all the more frustrating when the trailer of Ragnarok overly stresses the action-packed parts of the show.
We don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there is a redeeming aspect of Ragnarok – mainly its stern stance against corporations that do not hesitate to poison even the most pristine areas of the world, bragging about their “green” philosophy while bribing decision makers to bring about more relaxed environmental regulations. This discrepancy between reality and PR is at the centre of the story, teaching the young audience that profit and sustainability don’t usually go hand in hand and that being involved in a green movement is much more important than it seems.
Ragnarok was produced by Danish production company Sam Productions.
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