Occupied, Sky Arts | reviews, news & interviews
Occupied, Sky Arts
Occupied, Sky Arts
Norwegian political thriller may be the real reality TV
Even the most glazed-eyed Europhile must have begun to notice that the EU's righteous halo is dimming a tiny bit. Against a backdrop of currency chaos and uncontrolled immigration, issues of sovereignty and national self-determination are beginning to loom large. This is the aiming point of this new drama series, created by Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbø, though it comes in at a slightly different angle.
The setup is that the Norwegian government, led by Prime Minister Jesper Berg (Henrik Mestad), has decided – for climate-aware ecological reasons – to cut off the nation's production of oil and gas, aiming instead to develop new-fangled Thorium nuclear power. However, Norway's European neighbours are horrified by this, since continuing uproar in the Middle East has played havoc with oil supplies and caused a European energy crisis. Obviously all those optimistic wind, solar and hydro-power initiatives have been a complete dead loss.
The EU, somewhat controversially, responds by inviting the Russians to invade Norway (which isn't an EU member, but is a trading partner), seize control of its energy resources and start them pumping again. This has been made possible by the fact that the USA has retreated across the Atlantic to its own self-sufficient energy supplies, and has withdrawn from NATO.
Occupied has provoked outrage in Russia, with Russia's ambassador to Norway protesting about the demonisation of his homeland as a monstrous aggressor. Interestingly, the EU doesn't appear to mind being portrayed as a bullying bureaucratic monolith riding roughshod over democratic principles.
In any event, this opening episode got proceedings off to a tense and fast-moving start. Prime Minister Berg and his security entourage, including loyal bodyguard Hans Djupvik (Eldar Skar, pictured above), helicoptered briskly in to the Thorium plant for a press conference, where Berg boldly declared that "the time for fossil fuel is past" and that the miracle of Thorium would be Norway's great gift to the world. Then, as he prepared to helicopter out again, the PM was seized by a squad of masked gunmen who'd hijacked the chopper and now whirled him away into the skies.
Fears for the PM's life proved unfounded, and the terrier-like Djupvik, having pursued the helicopter by car, eventually found Berg wandering alone through a forest. But the purpose of the kidnapping was gradually revealed – the helpless Berg had been browbeaten by Euro-bigwigs, including the treacherous Swedish Prime Minister, over a video link, and informed that "the Russian government has kindly agreed to assist Norway" in restarting its fossil fuel exports. Should Berg disagree, he would be taken out of the country by his captors (who were from Russian special forces) while the plan went ahead anyway (pictured above, Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė as Russian ambassador Irina Sidorova).
With Russian units already occupying Norwegian oil platforms, Berg was forced to play along and try to sell this fait accompli to his government. Over future episodes, Occupied will trace the fraught game of cat and mouse between Berg's cabinet, the Russian occupiers and a "Free Norway" independence group who mount a terror campaign against the invaders. Distant echoes of the situation in Ukraine are perhaps not accidental, as the various factions balance precariously on the brink of all-out war. Far-fetched? Over the top? Perhaps, but not as much as it would have been five or 10 years ago.
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