TV review: Occupied – fantasy or reality?


Photo credit: TV 2 Norge.

By Anders Lorenzen

A catastrophic climate change related weather event, Hurricane Maria, devastates Norway; the Norwegian Green Party takes over power and sets an agenda that sees the end of fossil fuel. The EU is threatened by the country’s decision and asks for Russia’s help to ‘diplomatically’ invade Norway.

This is the scenario in the Norwegian political thriller TV series Occupied (Okkupert). The plot plays out in the near future, in a world in which the US has reached energy independence and withdrawn from NATO, while the Middle East is in complete turmoil and fails to supply energy to the world.

The leader of the Green Party – Jesper Berg – is at first the hero of the story. As the new Prime Minister, he immediately ceases fossil fuel energy production and opens a new state of the art thorium power plant, thereby adhering to his election promise. of ending fossil fuel production. His actions, though, prompt an energy crisis as EU countries depend on oil and gas from Norway. In response, the EU makes a deal with Russia for them to invade Norway in order to restore oil and gas production. This plays out via the kidnapping of Berg, who –  at gunpoint – caves into demands and allows Russia to re-start Norway’s oil and gas production under the condition that once production has reached full capacity, Russia would withdraw. Meanwhile, the Norwegian government does its best to keep a lid on what is happening and insists that Russia has not occupied Norway. The public is no fool, it soon starts demanding answers from the government as Russia’s presence in Norway increases. A resistance group – Frit Norge (Free Norway) – emerges, and an investigative journalist, Thomas Eriksen, starts looking for the truth while the tension in the country increases.

This all happens in the very first episode!

While this is fiction and there are many unlikely events being played out, the overall scenario is worthy of consideration. The world is changing fast: Brexit, Trump, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the turmoil of the Middle East. Refreshing, if somewhat naive, is the portrayal of Norwegians who believe that their neighbours are trustworthy. One can also trace some similarities of how Green Party policies are often being perceived. When Berg, the Prime Minister, is kidnapped, he gives in to demands to avoid citizens being hurt. Quite often Green Party policies seem to avoid conflict at any cost, thinking that there is always a peaceful solution. In my opinion, it is not always that simple: anyone who has been in government would tell you that sometimes there is a need for difficult decisions and there is never any perfect scenario, it is just a question of what is the least bad option.

As we progress throughout the series, Berg starts realising that Russia might not leave, that there might be a full occupation underway and at one point conflict is not avoidable.

The tension never drops a second throughout the series. You can find it streaming on Netflix.

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