The Rain is the latest post-apocalyptic offering from Netflix, this time a Netflix Original made in Denmark and created by Jannik Tai Mosholt, Esben Toft Jacobsen and Christian Potalivo. The story takes place in the present day, 6 years after a plague carried by rainwater wiped out almost everyone in Scandinavia. A young brother and sister, Rasmus and Simone, survived alone in an emergency bunker, but now they’ve run out of stores and have to rejoin the world.
They join up with a threatening band of survivors in order to search for food and to find out what happened to Simone and Rasmus’ father, who disappeared at the beginning of the plague. He was somehow involved in the beginning of the disaster, and claimed to know how to stop it. He said he’d return for them, but they’re running out of hope that he’s still alive. He charged Simone with protecting Rasmus, who is somehow the key to curing the plague.
The show is a well-paced mix of The Walking Dead and The 100, with each episode focussing on a different character, as well as having its own plot and furthering the season long arc. There are no zombies, but in the early stages of the disease the infected are contagious yet look normal. As in the Walking Dead’s early seasons, a ragtag group of survivors wanders the countryside, learning how to work together to survive. Like The 100, they are all young, and the earth itself throws dangers at them at unexpected moments. A couple of leaders emerge from within the group, who are often at odds with each other, but also balance each other out. Outsiders are one source of enemies, but water is also the enemy, and Denmark is far from a desert.
I’ve seen the first two episodes so far, and the story is compelling, if a bit predictable. These 2 episodes are the origin story for the plague apocalypse, though some specifics about the cause are held back, as is standard. Rasmus and Simone grow up innocent and naive in the bunker, so that they’re fish out of water when they come back up to the surface. They represent the hope that’s been lost by the others, but also a dangerous idealism that could be out of place in a lawless world with few resources.
The Rain starts out with a scene that couldn’t be more normal. A group of high school students are anxiously waiting for their missing member to bring the updates to the oral presentation they’re about to give. Simone (Alba Albright) races through the corridor just in time for the exam. The students laugh and joke in relief. The cute boy even asks Simone out on a date for that night.
It all falls apart when Simone’s dad, Frederick (Lars Simonsen), rushes into the lounge and drags her out, saying they need to evacuate before it starts raining. That’s right, he’s afraid of the rain. Simone’s mom and her younger brother, Rasmus, are already in the car. Frederick drives like a madman to get them to shelter, talking on the phone with his boss, Sten, as he drives. Sten is afraid that Frederick won’t make it to the shelter in time. Frederick insists to Sten that he doesn’t know what will happen when it rains- how far “it” will spread.
A radio announcer brings news from the area where the unusual storm has already started: “We have reports from Vordingborg where people are experiencing acute allergic reactions and respiratory problems, especially among older citizens. Eyewitnesses report that the symptoms appeared after heavy rainfall.”
The family is distracted, with everyone yelling and asking questions about what’s happening, while Rasmus unbuckles his seatbelt and climbs through the car. Frederick is distracted by the commotion, and they end up in a minor multicar pile up. They are unharmed. Frederick asks everyone to quickly move their cars, because if they don’t get going again before the rain comes, they’ll all die.
The other drivers are confused and don’t respond immediately, so Frederick grabs the family and their supplies, then takes off running. Then run through the woods until they find a hidden underground bunker labelled “Apollon”, that Frederick uses his palmprint to access. It’s beginning to rain.
Frederick tells the kids that Apollon, the company he works for, built the bunkers for disasters and they’re fully supplied. They pass through a mandatory decontamination chamber on their way in. Frederick hands them an electronic tablet and says it’s the bunker’s manual, with everything they need to know.
Then he and the mom step into a closet with hazmat suits so that Frederick can prepare to leave again. When they come back out, Frederick says that he has to go get something, and he doesn’t know how long it will take. It sounds like he expects it to be weeks or months.
Before he leaves, Frederick pulls Simone aside without Rasmus and tells her that a deadly virus is in the rain. He has to leave because he’s the only one who knows how to cure it. He makes her responsible for protecting Rasmus. It’s important that Rasmus survive because, “He’s the key to it all.” No one knows they are in the bunker, so they’ll be safe there.
Then he leaves.
Simone checks her phone. There are reports of people dying all over the region. The rain is killing them. If it doesn’t kill them right away, they become contagious and infect everyone who comes near them.
Their mom is trying to keep things calm by acting as normal as possible, even though she’s clearly upset and shaking. Rasmus asks a lot of questions, so Simone gives her mom a break and tries to distract him.
Soon someone is pounding on the door, trying to get in. Their mother insists that they need to leave the door closed, because their father would be able to let himself in, and they can’t let anyone else in. The kids don’t understand why their mother is being so selfish, and sneak out of the room to open the door anyway.
There’s a strange man outside the door, stuck out in the pouring, toxic rain. He’s dying already, and grabs at Rasmus’ shirt when the door opens. The mom realizes where they’ve gone almost immediately, but has to wait for the decon cycle before she can get to them. By then, the man has almost pulled Rasmus out into the rain. The mom barrels up the stairs and out the door, knocking the stranger away from Rasmus. She falls outside into the rain, effectively killing herself, at the same time. Simone pulls Rasmus safely back inside as they watch their mother writhe and spasm from the virus.
Later, the kids cry together over their mother’s death and their father’s abandonment. Simone tries to phone her father, but there’s no answer. She goes into the hazmat suit closet, alone, to break down. She feels responsible for her mother’s death, and now she has to raise her brother in a strange, lonely place, with no escape in sight. She cries for help, but in the underground plague-proof bunker, no one can hear you scream.
After Rasmus is asleep, Simone remembers a scene from the past, when Rasmus was ill and dying. Frederick had created a treatment that involved an experimental virus. The mom wanted him to go ahead and use it before Rasmus died, but Frederick didn’t think it had been tested enough. Mom argued that Rasmus would be dead by the time they were done testing. They’d done enough simulations to be sure of the treatment’s efficacy and safety.
In the bunker, Rasmus discovers a map of more bunkers on the tablet. Simone tries to establish a connection with them through the bunkers’ electronic system, but the communications system doesn’t work. They search the supply room, and find a radio.
Someone named Phillip answers their radio call, but the connection is weak. Rasmus brings the antenna closer to the door. Phillip tells them that someone is trying to set up pick up locations to get the people out who aren’t sick. He thinks the phone networks are all down, and has no idea how far the virus has spread. Simone gives him Frederick’s name and phone number so that he can try to get a message through.
Later that night, Rasmus dreams that a man is in the bunker who stands over his bed and stares at him. In his sleep, he thinks it’s his dad and gets up to look for him. Phillip calls back to tell Simone that he can’t find her dad, but he does have a little info about the hospital pick up site. They are evacuating survivors in a nearby hospital site. The power in the bunker goes out while she’s talking to Phillip.
Simone decides to leave the bunker and Rasmus to search for information on their father at the hospital pick up site. Rasmus is horrified at the idea of being left completely alone in the bunker. Simone waits until he’s asleep, then puts on a hazmat suit and makes it as far as the door. She can’t bring herself to go back outside after everything they’ve seen.
She puts the hazmat suit away, and talks to it as if it’s her father, telling him that she accepts her responsibility to take care of her brother, since their mother is gone. But her father has to live up to his end of the deal and come back for them. You can see Simone mature about 5 years in that moment.
The two kids settle into the bunker, doing what they can to make it their home. They plant bean plants and tell each other hopeful stories. They discover the bunker’s music library and dance to it for exercise and to lift their spirits. They learn everything there is to know about the bunker.
Six years later, Simone has cut her long hair into a bob. Rasmus has grown tall and into a teenager who almost needs to shave. He’s still a handful emotionally. Simone still has the patience of a saint. The bunker’s supplies are almost gone.
Simone has another talk with her dad/hazmat suit. They’re running out of food, so it’s time to consider leaving the bunker. Once they know what it’s like out in the world, either they’ll rejoin society or go to the closest bunker. She’s going to put on a suit and go for a walk after Rasmus is asleep.
This time, she makes herself open the door. The forest is thriving. A deer walks right up to her. But there are no signs of humans having been there since they went underground. Everyplace is derelict and deserted.
She walks to the hospital that was the designated evacuation pick up that Phillip told her about. There are bodies all over who clearly died from the virus. It looks like the authorities gave up on evacuation and put a quarantine in place, leaving everyone who was still uninfected to die.
Simone remembers snippets of overheard conversations between her parents as she explores the pick up site:
F: The world is sick. I can stop it. We can save millions of lives.
M: What do you mean? It’s a virus. You don’t know what the consequences are.
F: It’s time to release it.
M: That’s insane. You don’t know how it’ll change the world. What if you’re wrong?
F: He’s the key to it all.
M: What is it with him?
F: It kills multi-resistant bacteria. We can save millions.
M: Stop it!
A wolf lunges at Simone and breaks her reverie. She runs back to the bunker, and is there when Rasmus wakes up. Simone pours out the story all at once. There’s nothing left for them outside. They’ll have to go to the next bunker and live down there, even though it will be awful. Rasmus comforts her, reminding her that he’s not a little kid any more, and they can look after each other. She doesn’t have to shoulder the burdens alone any more. He’s excited to see the sky again. They plan to leave the next day.
During the night, the air supply to the bunker is blocked, and their oxygen level becomes critical. They almost don’t wake up before suffocating, but a disoriented Rasmus drags Simone upstairs and outside for the first time in 6 years. They are both in their pajamas, barefoot, fully exposed to the elements.
While Simone and Rasmus are still catching their breath, several figures begin to emerge from the forest. Their faces are covered and they have guns. The new arrivals drive Simone and Rasmus back down the stairs, then follow them in.
Thank Goddess I live in a desert. It hasn’t rained more than a few drops at a time in months, and probably won’t until July. 🌵 When the plagues carried by dust and cockroaches arrive, the metawitches are done for, but we’re safe from water-borne plagues! We also have our trusty guard chickens to protect us from plague carrying cockroaches. 😉
Jannik Tai Mosholt says “Civilisation is very fickle. It’s a thin layer spread out over thousands of years of basic survival. And now, after a sudden burst of inspiration, we humans believe that we have it all under control. I want to find out whether this is true. What is left of us when civilisation is stripped away in an instant. How do we survive? Do we go back to being animals or do we rise to the occasion, insisting on bringing humanity into an inhumane world. I am so thrilled to be making this show with Netflix and Miso Film, and I couldn’t be happier with the cast and can’t wait to put them in a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia, where all the straight lines of the controlled North have shattered, and let uncontrolled nature take over everything.”
In the pilot, they say they’ve lived alone in the bunker for 5 years when they leave it. For the rest of the season, they say it was six years. The show must have decided to change the number after they made the pilot. Maybe they wanted to make Rasmus a year older.
It seemed like Rasmus had to at least get splashed with some water when the stranger tried to pull him outside. Calling it now- he’s immune to the plague because his viral cure mutated into a killer virus outside of his body. It’s still close enough to the original that his antibodies protect him.
Rasmus gets upset while Simone is shaving him and smashes a mirror, sentencing them to seven years of bad luck. Haven’t they already had enough?
I like Alba August/Simone’s energy. She’s intelligent, calm, determined, resourceful, and optimistic. Some of those qualities are rare in dystopian heroines, especially having a patient, even temperament and a relatively optimistic outlook that isn’t unrealistically positive. She seems like someone who can take on any situation and find a way to make it work, then convince everyone around her that it will work for them, too. And she’d do it all with a quiet confidence.
I haven’t seen enough of older Rasmus yet to get a sense of how he’ll mature as their new life tests him, but he does seem ready to grow up and start being more than the over-protected kid brother. Being out in the world will do him good.
It probably says a lot about their will to survive that both kids were able to make it for so long alone in the bunker together without going crazy or killing each other. Rasmus was shown to be an impatient, very active little boy, while Simone was no where near ready to raise a child alone. Being confined to a small space with only each other and very little entertainment or variation in routine would drive most people nuts.
Poisonous rain is a real thing. In Scandinavia, as in my original home of the northeastern US, acid rain is a serious issue, caused by burning fossil fuels, which kills forests, lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and the wildlife who live there.
Then there was the radioactive rain that fell on Sweden and Norway after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. More than 30 years later, the indigenous people who live in the area are still affected, as are plants and wildlife.