HBO Europe can’t be accused of playing it safe in their first Norwegian language production. The Beforeigners TV series is entertaining and thought-provoking.
If you’re looking for a new binge-worthy series, the six-episode first season of Beforeigners could be just what you’re looking for.
In Norway, it's streaming now on HBO Nordic. In the rest of the world, you'll have to check your own listings as it varies.
The show falls somewhere between crime drama, historical fiction and science-fiction. Yes, a show really can be all of those things!
But that’s also why this isn’t a series for everyone. If you like crime dramas rooted in reality, this isn’t for you. It is more likely to appeal to sci-fi fans who value escapist entertainment and a thought-provoking premise above reality.
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So, if it sounds like your kind of thing, let’s take a closer look at the wonderful world of Beforeigners!
The premise of Beforeigners
The show is the brainchild of Lilyhammer creators Anne Bjørnstad and Eilif Skodvin.
When exploring concepts for a new science fiction show, Skodvik suggested “what if refugees arrived not from a different location but from different times” and the kernel of Beforeigners was born. The duo expanded the concept and then threw a crime drama into the middle of it.
Bjørnstad and Skodvin have cited District 9 and The Leftovers among their influences, and classic science fiction novels including Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984.
The trailer below gives you a great introduction to the premise. Scroll down to read more about what happens, some of the characters, and my thoughts on the series.
The plot: What happens in Beforeigners?
It should go without saying, but from this point on a mild spoiler alert applies!
Beforeigners opens with a series of bright flashing lights appearing in Oslo’s Bjørvika, just offshore from the Opera House. People from different time periods begin to appear in the water. There’s people from the Stone Age, the Viking Age and the 19th-century.
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Rather than dwell on the arrival, the show then jumps forward in time. The ‘beforeigners’–as the groups of new arrivals have become known–are in various stages of integration.
Many of the 19th-century temporal immigrants have found work, while the Old Norse speaking Vikings spend much of their drinking mead in their own bars. The Stone Age travellers have mostly fled to the forest. Producers make no attempt at subtlety when it comes to examining the parallels with some of the immgiration challenges of today.
The series follows the fortunes of a pair of Oslo detectives investigating a murder. Twists? Of course, there are many! The murder victim is an unidentified beforeigner. The detectives? One of them is the first Oslo police officer with a ‘multi-temporal background’, while the other is a modern-day cop with a substance addiction.
Why Beforeigners is worth watching
For me, the premise of Beforeigners is fantastic and very much a show for now. Over time, more and more beforeigners arrive, overwhelming the Norwegian system.
Although the show follows the two detectives, it also spends plenty of time examining their relationship as they struggle to understand the worldview of each other, and the Norwegian response to mass temporal immigration.
While (mild spoiler alert) the crime is solved, there are many questions that remain unanswered. That could be frustrating for anyone who likes a series to wrap everything up, but it leaves the door open for a fascinating and potentially much more complex second season.
The cast of Beforeigners
Norweigan actor Nicolai Cleve Broch plays the co-lead, the detective Lars. Finnish actress Krista Kosonen plays his partner and Viking beforeigner Alfhildr. For the role, Alfhildr had to learn both Norwegian and Old Norse.
The supporting cast is the expected mix of brilliance and run-of-the-mill. My favourite characters are without doubt those from the Viking Age, who know how to have fun and don’t care who knows it. They must have had great fun filming some of the partying scenes!
What others thought about the show
Here's a selection of what others thought of the show, both TV pundits and “ordinary people”:
“It is often ancestors that anti-immigration parties use as a justification for kicking out ‘new’ immigrants. Yet here we are, we find out our ancestors even more different from their host country than, let’s say real foreigners from our time. But the satire in the show is never in your face, or even judging our society, it is just putting us in front of our own values and social norms and challenging them” – Lorelou, A Frog in the Fjord
“They've peopled this world with a rich array of complex, imperfect characters that capture our hearts and imaginations as they struggle to live and work with others from very different time periods and cultures” – Ars Technica
“This show pokes fun at the domesticated practices of modern day as it juxtaposes this with the raw barbarism of the early Norse and the pretentiousness of of early civilized culture” – review on Rotten Tomatoes
“I can’t say enough about how much I loved Beforeigners. It’s funny, touching and thought-provoking with an intriguing sci-fi set up and a compelling mystery. It will definitely be one of our favorites of 2020″ – Foreign Crime Drama
“These visual gags are inherently funny, but they’re also imbued with a deeper sense of meaning — a Viking warrior delivering food by bicycle is also a refugee trying to assimilate into a new culture. In that sense, the show’s high-concept premise also functions as a metaphor for the European migrant crisis” – Tell-Tale TV