Late last year, ahead of its second season, I wrote that HBO Max’s Beforeigners was the best show you didn’t watch during the pandemic. Now that the second season of the Norwegian-language series has wrapped, I feel compelled to follow up and say that it was … fine. It was intriguing in some ways, but a letdown in others.
What I liked so much about the first season was the simplicity of the premise. The first season was about a worldwide phenomenon in which thousands of people from the Stone Age, the Viking Age, and the 19th century — and those specific periods, only — suddenly arrive in the present. The series is set a few years after the time migrants began to appear, after the world had become accustomed to seeing 13,000 new arrivals from the past each year. In the series, Lars Haaland (Nicolai Cleve Broch) is paired with the first Beforeigner on the police force, Alfhildr Enginnsdóttir (Krista Kosonen), formerly a shield-maiden in the 11th century. They investigate murders. It was a neat combination of police procedural and The Odd Couple, but aside from the existence of time migrants, it remained fairly grounded.
The first-season finale pointed toward a bigger conspiracy, and for better or worse (worse, in my opinion), that’s the direction the second season goes in. The second season incorporates more sci-fi elements, and the investigation centers on Jack the Ripper, who not only migrates from 19th century London but inexplicably finds himself in Norway. The once simple show about mismatched cops pulls out its Rimbaldi far too soon and gets mired in timey-wimey sci-fi elements and alternate realities that bury even the Jack the Ripper investigation. Moreover, the big reveal at the end of the first season — that a major figure from Norway’s history, Thorir Hund, appears in the present — largely amounts to nothing in the second season. For a six-episode season, there’s also an unnecessary amount of wheel-spinning.
All is not lost, however. Krista Kosonen remains as transfixing as ever in the lead role, even if Nicolai Cleve Broch — who plays her partner — is saddled with a thankless storyline involving a drug-induced hallucination. There’s also a mammoth twist in the end (no spoilers) that guarantees, should it return for a third season — no renewal announcement has yet been made — that I’ll happily continue to watch.