[EDITOR'S NOTE: This DVD set from Australia will not play on a standard U.S. DVD player; watching it requires an international player.]
The recent Madman Entertainment Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2015 first season of the Norwegian drama "Occupied" shows that Nordic Noir TV series extend beyond the (Unreal TV reviewed) original versions of "The Killing" and "The Bridge." Aside from being the only program in this trifecta of suspense dramas set in Norway and not yet having a North American version, centering around events other than a police investigation of a series of killing further distinguishes "Occupied" from the other two procedurals.
"Occupied" does follow the formula of the other programs by having a highly significant event in the season premiere expand into complex related developments that involve characters who represent various segments of society. The primary variation regarding this in "Occupied" is that this often is a family affair.
Another variation is centering each "Occupied" episode around a month in the titular Russian presence in Norway; this differs from episodes in "Bridge" and "Killing" typically focusing on a day in the investigation of the crime spree on which each season focuses.
The "Occupied" cred. includes genuinely acclaimed Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbro as a creator and writer and the show coming from the same folks behind the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Occupied" awesomely highlights the "24" style suspense and intensity that are integral to the program.
Prime Minister Jesper Berg fills the role of the politician-in-crisis that is an element of these noir offerings. In this case, he is more central to the plot than his "Bridge" and "Killing" counterparts. The series begins with Berg announcing at a press conference in the Norway of the near future that technology regarding the real-life element thorium is at a stage that allows having that energy source completely replace oil and gas. This announcement is in the context of sharing that Norway is shutting down its production and distribution of the traditional energy sources.
The rapidly ensuing drama leads to a complacent Berg announcing that Norway is resuming oil and gas production under the proverbial watchful eye of the Russians. This statement adds that this oversight will continue until said production reaches full capacity.
These developments lead to the noir staple of the central politician facing serious fallout related to the central events of the series. The twists this time include surprising support from a powerful source.
The initial drama prompts dedicated bodyguard Hans Martin Djupvik, who plays the role of the law-enforcement hero in this noir program, having an integral role in those events. His subsequent involvement in early season drama leads to his being tasked with protecting the not-so-popular Russians in Norway. The nature and extent of his loyalties sometimes being uncertain contributes good drama.
Djupvik spouse Andrea being a judge is one of many of the aforementioned familial elements of "Occupied." The public perception of Hans Martin being a Russian lover becomes an element in undermining the authority of his wife.
Quasi-renegade newspaperman Thomas Eriksen, who fills the noir role of the reporter whose meddling plays a significant role in the triggering events of the series, witnessing the crucial early incidents put him on the scent of the true story. This also puts him at odds with wife restauranteur Bente Norum. The dire state of her upscale eating establishment reverses on the Russians making it one of their favorites in their home-away-from-home.
Chechen immigrant Elbek Musajev and his clan, which includes teen son Iljas, play the noir role of the typical family who initially do not seem to have anything to do with the aforementioned central chaos. In this case, evidence that includes the activities of Elbek in his native land leads to his being arrested regarding an incident involving a Russian official. The fallout from all that radicalizes Iljas. One spoiler is that the idealistic angry young man is not alone.
All of this escalates to fairly intense chaos late in the season in a manner that is very true to the Nordic Noir genre (and our modern reality). The Free Norway resistance group is fully up and running, the Russians are responding in kind, and Berg is losing his patience with the uninvited house guests who have long overstayed their welcome.
S1 ends on a note that is true to American shows; the final episode makes an equally good series finale and cliffhanger if granted a second season. At this point, the prospect of more episodes is as uncertain as the additional time that the Russians will occupy this fictional version of Norway.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Occupied" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.