Beforeigners on HBO (open spoilers for first two seasons after OP)

A recent episode of the Imaginary Worlds podcast clued me on to Beforeigners, a Norwegian sci-fi/fantasy show I had previously heard nothing of. It sounded intriguing, so I basically binged the first two seasons. And wow. Love it.

Anyone watching this? It is made by the same outfit that made Lillyhammer with Steven Van Zandt, but this is much, much better.

For newcomers, it is set up as a police drama set in Oslo. In a roughly contemporary time period, one day, all of a sudden, all around the world, people from all periods of the past start appearing. In Norway, you have ice age people, Stone Age people, Viking age people, a Victorian age people, etc.

This is originally set up as an allegory for immigration and refugees as society adjusts to the arrival of large numbers of strangers. There are of course anti-beforeigner movements (“Norway is for nowadays people”), and movements of people who wish they were from the past.

It’s an amazing world they built. If you watch the backgrounds of many scenes, it’s just packed with hints of things going on in the world.

The main characters are:

  • Alfhildr Enginnsdóttir, a young a Viking warrior (shield maiden), who has attended the police training academy and is the first Beforeigner to be hired by the Oslo police department. She is played by Finnish actor Krista Kosonen, who, apparently spoke no Norwegian (modern or ancient) before taking this role. Which is fine for someone learning modern Norwegian as a second language I suppose. Anyway, I find her riveting, physically and otherwise. There’s something wild about her, but she is clearly a promising detective.

  • Lara Haaland, her partner, a veteran detective who has experienced some personal and professional trouble since the arrivals began and is only just returning to the force full time.

The initial story begins with Alfhildr and Lars investigating the murder of a Beforeigner but quickly spirals into all kinds of directions.

I’d love to discuss this show with folks.

Open Spoilers for Seasons 1-2 after this OP.

I really enjoyed season one and anxiously waited for season two which I found a little disappointing. There seemed to be a lot more humor and fun exploration of an absurd premise in the first season. I think season two made the mistake of taking the whole thing too seriously. And I really hate that every piece of fiction involving Victorian time travelers inevitably has to shoehorn Jack the Ripper into the story.

I watched it and thought it was an interesting diversion, but don’t have much new to add. Season 1 was good. Season 2 was okay but silly with some of the Jack the Ripper and alternate dimension stuff. I’ll watch more because it’s an interesting foreign series, but I’ll keep my expectations low.

I love this show. I did think Season 1 was a little better but I really loved the Viking king storyline and I didn’t mind the Jack the Ripper stuff . “The King yields to no one!” Comic gold…

It has several mentions in this thread:

And I thank that thread for that as that was got me watching it!

Agreed that S1 was wonderful and S2 not as much so. To me it seemed like S1 was building somewhere and then S2 just veered off into completely different directions that did not seem too compatible with what had been before and never really explored well the new directions they created. It is one thing when things don’t make sense but the story brings it together by the end; another when it doesn’t make sense because it failed to hold a consistent view of what the world’s reality was or where the story was going to end up going. S2 seemed like a hodgepodge of different story ideas glued together with no matter to how they fit. It could have been just a fun riff on a very unusual buddy cop match up with immigration issues heavily satirized, but they seemed to try to improvise an overarching arc … and then, nevermind, changed what that arc would be several times.

I’d still give an S3 a chance if it happens!

Yeah, I wonder if the writers were familiar with that South Park episode:

Have the cavemen been central to any of the episodes? Their stories really seem to have been neglected by the writers.

Yes, one was a significant figure in season one. Have you forgotten his penis?

I think I have. It’s been a couple years.

Was celebrity. Walked around naked at home. Hunted rabbits with a rock. Had an encounter with a Neoluddite drone.

I enjoy this show very much and Krista Kosonen’s character is indeed fantastic and funny. The juxtaposition of old cultures into modern technology amuses me to no end.

“Seat belts are for pussies.”

“You know what’s for sissies? Having to pay a fine of several thousand.”

As Roger Ebert used to say, it’s not what it’s about it’s about how it’s about it. For a story with cops and time travel, Jack the Ripper is always going to be an irresistible choice because it’s one of the most famous unsolved crimes.

I mean, that guy’s penis got enough screen time to earn an acting credit on IMDB.

He also was much more than his body part. The character was interesting and fun. I was very disappointed that his storyline ended so relatively quickly. And S2 really left the 10,000 year ago group out of the story completely, focusing in pretty much functionally independent story lines on the 1000 and 100 year ago group and multiverse just because everyone who is anyone does multiverse lines now.

To be fair, you can shoehorn in Jack the Ripper without time travel, too. ST TOS, anyone?

I can’t believe that no one has mentioned the big reveal in the season 2 finale. I’d watch season 3 just to see how that plays out.

But yeah, loved season 1, liked season 2 except how did the idea of alternate universes make its way into this show, and then was blown away by the reveal.

Because a reveal works when it fits with what was before but makes us have to reinterpret. Like those figure ground illusions where it’s suddenly not a vase but two faces, or not an old lady’s face but a young woman? This reveal doesn’t do that. It’s just throwing another crazy coincidence into the story that pulls out of suspension of disbelief. Clearly writers making it up as they go on the fly with no arc preplanned.

Well, if you listen to the Imaginary Worlds podcast episode (Episode 192: Beforeigners — Imaginary Worlds), co-creator Anne Bjørnstad said they’re not just making it up as they go along.

According to her, they pre-planned a lot of it, with several options or “branches” that the story direction might go in. She said they have several possible endings for the series planned out, depending on which branches they choose to take. So, if you believe her, it’s not just all on the fly.

Glad to hear it. Maybe somehow it will click together. Right now though? Hard for me to believe.

Still no question that I’d watch an S3.