Occupied is a Nordic political thriller series set in Norway in the very near future.
Climate change has destroyed peace in Europe – America is now energy self-sufficient and war in the Middle-East has shut down access to oil. In Norway a new political surge has swept an ecological party, led by Prime Minister Jasper Berg (Henrik Mestad) with bold policies to power. That party has just shut down all oil and gas production in Norway, with an aim to encourage others internationally to follow their lead. They want the rest of the world to look into energy policies which will help prevent climate change. But the rest of the world aren’t happy with having their access to fuel removed. Not happy at all.
At the request of the European Union, Russia begins to conduct an invasion of Norway through diplomatic means. Jasper Berg is informed by a computer link with a European Union representative that Russian crews will be entering the country to begin supervising the reopening of the gas lines and oil wells and there is nothing he can do about it. Norway has a small standing army and is militarily completely out-numbered. Russia assures the Norwegian government that once production is back to previous levels they will leave. But things aren’t that simple.
Occupied is based on an idea by the novelist Jo Nesbø, who initiated the project back in 2008. It is a Norwegian/ French/ Swedish co-production which features for the majority Norwegian and Russian dialogue (subtitled) – when figures from different countries are speaking to each other they communicate in English.
The level of plausibility in the story is not really an issue, as the story is conducted with enough gusto and verve to paper over any cracks. It’s a truly thrilling watch and the idea of a shadow government taking over is compellingly insidious and quickly draws you in. Who knows how likely this is? Well the real Russian ambassador in Norway has publicly spoken about how disappointed he was about it. A nerve has clearly been touched.
For the most part each episode of Occupied takes place a month apart and as such the storyline cranks up quickly and the pacing is taught and the story telling spare. There’s not much room for humour in a story such as this though, and it is a terribly serious affair. What’s particularly fascinating is watching how a new popular Prime Minister finds himself having to maintain an outside persona of strength while internally floundering. Berg is clearly out of his depth from the first moment and it’s not long before we see him crumbling like a rabbit in the headlights. The slow disillusionment of his assistant Anita Rygg, played by Janne Heltberg, is properly heart-breaking.
There is a broad spread of characters and the performances are all great. The action hero of the piece is Hans Martin Djupvik played by Eldar Skar, who is the figure we see on the cover, but in fact he is simply a pawn in the political games. Journalist Thomas Eriksen played by Vegar Hoel is impetuous and on the side of right, and his wife, the restauranter Bente Norum played by Ane Dahl Torp shows clearly how an attractive, powerful and generous set of invaders can appeal to a public unaware they are being subjugated. The most interesting character is Wenche Arnesen, the conflicted Chief of Norwegian Police Security Service (Ragnhild Gudbrandsen) who is tasked with protecting the invading Russians.
The ten episodes of Occupied speed by, incredibly easy to binge watch, and the final episode leaves us on a moment which it would be criminal not to resolve. I’m already looking forward to finding what happens next.
Occupied comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD on the 21st March, and is worth your time.