Netflix's 'The Rain' Has the Crack-Like Addictive Qualities of Post-Apocalyptic YA Fiction
The new series Rain — a Danish series that premiered over the weekend on Netflix — wastes no time jumping into its premise. A storm is coming, and a man who seems to know about the deadly effects of the rain, Frederik (Lars Simonsen), grabs his family, speeds ahead of the storm clouds, and secures them in a bunker before the rain falls. The rain, as we soon learn, kills everyone with whom it comes in contact. They die quick deaths accompanied by violent body convulsions and vomiting.
Frederick, however, gets his family to safety inside the bunker, only to throw on a hazmat suit and leave his wife and two children behind, promising to return for them once he’s helped prevent the extinction of humanity. Within hours, the mother — who jumps out into the rain to save her son — is dead, leaving Simone (the terrific Alba August) and her younger brother, Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen), alone in the bunker.
They remain there, alone, for six years, until their food supply runs out.
When they re-emerge, they confront a new, post-apocalyptic world where nearly everyone is dead. However, they come upon a group of people scavenging for food, and after a stand-off, Simone and Rasmus join this group, as they struggle to find sustenance, avoid the rain, and journey in search of Simone’s dad, who they believe holds the key to finding a vaccine against the rain. In the midst of all this, there is also a shadowy group of men called The Strangers, who kill almost everyone with whom they come in contact.
That’s the setup for The Rain.
Like The Walking Dead, The Rain follows a group of people trying to survive, going on supply runs, and confronting new enemies while dodging The Strangers (who fill the role of zombies in The Rain). Like The Leftovers, the series also meditates on grief and loss and the need to find a way forward, create new bonds, and carve out meaning in their new existences.
Like Lost, however, the episodes also turn their focus on one character at a time and provide context about their story using flashbacks to their pre-apocalyptic days, and this is where The Rain is often most effective. It’s a surprisingly powerful and often searing character drama built upon a compelling premise that teases just enough mystery to keep viewers hooked without frustrating us by keeping the ball hidden for too long. I completely understand why Netflix would pick up this series: It’s perfect for their model. It’s engaging, not too dense, and wildly addictive. (In fact, I stayed up until 6 a.m. to finish it). It has the same appeal as one of those page-turning post-apocalyptic YA novels, except that the violence can occasionally be startling and graphic, and a few of the deaths are painfully devastating (Jean’s little sister, GOD!).
The performances, likewise, are terrific, particularly that of its lead, Alba August, and Jessica Dinnage, who has the most heartbreaking ugly cry I’ve ever seen (she’s like the Danish Carrie Coon). She’s the scene-stealing heart of The Rain, and her featured episode nearly broke me.
The series, however, has received some harsh criticism for its horrible English dub, which I can attest to. I could only stomach about 10 minutes of the dub before I turned on subtitles, which makes for a strikingly better series.
The eight-episode show also leaves several questions unanswered, setting up a possible second season, which has not yet been announced by Netflix. The streamer has been quicker to cancel series of late, regardless of quality (see Everything Sucks), and if the ratings aren’t there to support it, Netflix may pull the plug on The Rain, too. However, there’s a lot of worldwide appeal in this one, but it may ultimately come down to whether American audiences are willing to turn off the English dub and read subtitles. If you’re into post-apocalyptic sci-fi, it is absolutely worth it.