The Rain may be Netflix’s first Danish original series, but its premise will look somewhat familiar to anyone who watches The Walking Dead. No, The Rain does not contain any zombies. But within the first ten minutes, it becomes obvious that it will be another post-apocalyptic drama about a virus that devastates humanity, leaving precious few people behind to figure out how to scrap their way toward continued survival. If you’re into that sort of thing, it will grab your attention right away and, based on the initial three episodes made available to critics — most likely hold on to it. But if you’re at all fatigued of dramas about the demise of humanity, you may find it hard to soldier through, especially if you try to swallow all eight episodes in a sitting or two.
Created by Danish filmmakers Jannik Tai Mosholt, Christian Potalivo, and Esben Toft Jacobsen, The Rain wastes absolutely no time setting the scene or slowly introducing us to its principal characters. We’re immediately thrust into a tense situation that involves something fairly banal: a group of students preparing to take an oral final exam and freaking out because the one with the presentation, Simone (Alba August), is late and scurrying to make it to class on time. Seconds after she’s arrived and it seems like everyone can exhale, Simone’s father (Lars Simonsen) shows up in a panic and drags her away, insisting ominously that it’s going to rain and they can’t be there when it starts.
Simone is quickly shoved into a car with the rest of family, who wind up at a hidden bunker, somewhere outside of Denmark, that happens to be owned by her father’s company, Apollon. For different reasons, Mom and Dad are quickly removed from the picture, leaving behind only Simone and Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen). They remain in the bunker for six years, becoming young adults while subsisting on nonperishable food items. All we know, and all they know, is that the rain that fell carried some sort of virus that kills people. Through flashbacks, we also know that their father created the virus to cure a younger Rasmus of some unknown previous illness. But what’s happening outside and whether there’s any possibility of rejoining the world aboveground is a mystery. They eventually explore that mystery, of course, and it puts them in contact with another small group of survivors who — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — aren’t sure if they can trust Simone and Rasmus and vice versa.
The Rain, whose color palette is as bright and cheery as Netflix’s Dark, which is to say, not at all bright and cheery, is very efficient in the way it unspools its plot, only sharing as much information as viewers need to understand what’s happening in front of them while withholding key details. That makes it ideal for this platform, where unanswered questions invite streamers to keep bingeing until they finally get some answers.
Although the series increasingly becomes an ensemble piece, at least in the early episodes, Simone serves as its anchor. August plays that role convincingly, occasionally showing flashes of fear but still moving forward with resourcefulness and a determination to protect her brother and confirm whether one of their parents is still alive. The fact that she passingly resembles another gutsy but conflicted young woman who is currently having a moment on television — that would be Holly Taylor, who plays Paige Jennings on The Americans — only bolsters the sense that Simone has reserves of strength.
Various moments during the first three episodes call to mind scenes from other similarly themed recent shows and films, including not only the Walking Dead franchise but movies like Annihilation and 10 Cloverfield Lane. That’s my biggest issue with The Rain, at least based on roughly the first half of this season: It has a been-there, done-that vibe that made it hard for me to want to keep watching.
Of course, your mileage may vary on that point. The popularity of post-apocalyptic fare over the past decade suggests that plenty of people may become instantly addicted to The Rain, and I can understand why. It’s a well-done show if you’re in the proper mood to give yourself over to its universe. Having just read a lot lately about killer romaine lettuce, and the fact that Bill Gates believes the U.S. is completely unprepared for an actual pandemic that could wipe out 33 million people, I may not have been in the right mood. But I can’t necessarily blame that on The Rain.