This article may contain spoilers (although I tried hard not to give any).
Imagine a super modern society, a country as industrialised as Norway. A country aiming on top of UN charts for human rights and gender equality. Think of its capital city, Oslo, where dads walk around the city centre pushing prams and drinking cafe lattes during their 4 months long paternity leave, and where even political debates are polite. A democracy which bans violence and is built on Christian morals and values. A society where alcohol sale is highly controlled by the State.
Imagine that suddenly hundreds of Vikings appear in this society, rising from the dead from over 1000 years ago. Vikings who could not care less about human rights, politically correctness, and who believe in what Christians would call “Pagan Gods”. Their hobbies are drinking beer from open skulls, skinning rabbits and burning crosses. Many of them died fighting one of the most violent christianisation processes in Europe: thus of Vikings. Imagine seeing them rise from the dead by appearing in the Oslo fjord and settle in one of the poshest area of the capital city of Oslo. There are some obvious opportunities for humour in this pitch, and that is the reason number 1 to watch HBO’s new show: Beforeigners.
Reason number 1 : it is funny and very entertaining.
But do not be mistaken, Beforeigners is not a humour show, nor is it a zombie show. It is before anything a drama show with a murder investigation and unexpected twists to what is a very well written story. In the context described above, you are quickly brought to 7 years later, when a Viking woman who has just resurrected is found dead, and the Norwegian police investigates (all this is in the plot given in the trailer and by HBO Nordic). The team is made of a regular 21st century Norwegian police officer, and a new recruit from the past, who has her own history and beliefs. And who is possibly the coolest woman of all times. That lady to the left.
Reason 2: The story is very well written and surprising.
Now you know why it is called “Beforeigners”: Before- Foreigners or the Foreigners from the past. Turns out there are more than Vikings coming back from the past. I am not giving out any spoilers so go and watch the show, it is worth it. I only watched the first three episodes, as the fourth one came during the night yesterday, but I expect a sensational ending to the first season after the 6 planned episodes.
3. You’ll learn about Vikings, languages and the rich history of Scandinavia
There has been an international increase of interest for everything Nordic and Viking, seen for example in the success of the show Vikings which was supposed to air only on History and then became an international phenomenon, later bought by HBO. I predict Beforeigners a huge success, because it is new and fresh and so interesting historically. You get to listen to ancient forms of Norwegian language, observe interesting customs from the past, as well as Sami language and traditions, which are rarely (never?) on screen internationally. You also learn about Norwegian society today, which is also a source of great interest internationally mainly due to its wealth, and for winning several years in a row the prize of happiest people on Earth.
4. It is a satire of our Western societies
There are many topics which we either take for granted in our Western societies, or see as “normal” which are challenged by people coming from the past. From how men and women act in today’s society to gluten-free diet, or respect for life (read not kill anyone you don’t like), these “new comers” look at our customs with an external eye which is very interesting.
Another interesting element here is that it challenges the debate on immigration where many say or think that “those who aren’t like us, aka foreigners, need to go home”. But where do your own ancestors go home to? It is often those 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.
5. Finally, you will get to know Oslo and Norway
Beforeigners is the first Norwegian show made international, and it sets place in Oslo but also in other places such as the North of Norway in Sami land and I predict even other places in Norway. Norwegians are not like New-Yorkers, we are not used to seeing our country on television in international shows, so this is kind of cool for us who live her to recognise our city, Oslo, where most of the show is shot.
For those of you who do not know Oslo, you will discover our beautiful city which is worth to watch and even visit. There are things which those who do not know Oslo will not see, as for example we know which area is poor, which area is rich, which area is supposed to look like this, and the show shows an organic change that would occur with these thousands of “new comers”. But in any case, totally worth it. Oslo has changed dramatically in the past 10 years and you will see what it looks like now. The show is shot in many historical and cultural landmarks, so representing the city quite well.
So forget about the initial strangeness fo the title and the unusual plot, WATCH THIS SHOW. It is great, in my top 3 this year (and believe me, since winters are long in Norway, I watch a lot of these shows). See link to the show here. Note that I have not been paid to write this review!