Netflix’s Ragnarök: An Epic Review
From fabled giants to industrial pollution, class inequality to straight-up murder, Netflix’s Scandanavian epic; Ragnarok has it all.
When you hear the word ‘Ragnarok’ you might think about the historic mythical event that saw the fall of Asgard. You might even think about the numerous “Thor” movie titles created by Marvel that popularised Norse mythology in recent years. However, there is another phenomenon the word ‘Ragnarok’ should make you think about.
Ragnarok is a six-part series that re-imagines the classic good versus evil apocalyptic tale of Norse mythology in present-day Norway.
The series begins with a Norwegian family moving back to their home town of Edda where the eldest son, Magne, is gifted with powers after a chance meeting with a mysterious old crone.
He soon discovers he is capable of strange and incredible god-like feats – throwing a hammer 1.5 kilometers, running faster than any person before him and even summoning lightning.
It soon becomes evident that Ragnarok is the story of the reincarnation of Thor in the modern world. The parallels drawn between the effects of pollution and the show’s namesake event are clear from the start. The small Norwegian mountain-village of Edda has a problem, the water is poisoned and the icecaps are melting. The demise of Edda is imminent – unless Magne can uncover the origin of the town’s problems.
Netflix has done something remarkable in my eyes. They have taken a contemporary issue and merged it with myth and legend to bring the viewer a tale that will keep them glued to their seats until the end of each episode.
As the main characters are introduced throughout the series it’s clear that Magne, the protagonist, is a misguided and neglected young adult. He is innocent of the world and often suffers from episodes of rage when he is misunderstood. His mother, Turid, tries to shield him from the world but this only isolates him further.
In the first episode, he makes friends with a young woman at his new school, Isolde, a local environmentalist. She tells Magne about the pollution that’s killing off the town’s fish supply, and possibly its people; but before anymore is revealed Isolde tragically dies in suspicious circumstances. This makes Magne determined to continue her work on the town’s pollution issue.
Now then, where is the bad guy in all of this? Wasn’t there mention of Giants? Indeed, the main antagonists are the Jutul family. A family of wealthy Giants, hundreds of years old, living among the humans of Edda. There is Vidar (the father), Ran (the mother), Fjor (the son), and Saxa (the daughter). The head of the family, Vidar is a greedy industrialist who puts profits before anything else, and is prepared to do whatever or kill whoever to keep it that way.
Vidar is the head of ‘Jutul Industries’. He owns and operates the industrial factories that are responsible for the town’s pollution problem, but is also responsible for keeping most of the town employed – including Turid, who is Vidar’s secretary.
The show’s adolescent characters, Magne, Gry (the show’s sweetheart love-interest), Isolde, Fjor, Saxa, and even Laurits, the younger brother of Magne (who looks and acts an awful lot like Loki), go to the same school where Ran (the Giant-mother) is the principle.
The close proximity that the residents of Edda have to one another magnifies the daily issues that they face, and we learn throughout the series that the characters are deeper and more complex then they first seem, even if they are evil Giants! Fjor’s (Vidar’s son) transformation from an antagonist to an almost pitiful young boy who is caught up in his father’s mess is emblematic of this.
This is what the show does extremely well. It shows that human interaction is complicated and issues are not resolved in a small amount of time. Relationships evolve and change, even if you are a Giant or a flying thunder god.
This back and forth, the intertwining of both good and evil characters represents the complexity of issues that we face in the real world regarding pollution and our personal lives. While industry is necessary for providing materials and jobs, it also plays a big part in how we are killing our planet.
The way we form relationships and try to maintain those relationships often acts as a catalyst for change in our lives. Magne’s enlightenment to pollution, Fjor’s changing opinion of humans; these are all a result of the close personal relationships the characters have throughout the show.
Now if you asked me if I think Ragnarok does a good job representing the issue of pollution, I would say…sort of.
Ragnarok uses the town’s pollution issue as narrative driver to create tension between Magne and Vidar, but the show is no eye-opener to the atrocities we commit every day by driving our car to work or burning coal for electricity.
Pollution and giants aside, the show is about the personal connections that all of the characters have to one another. In many ways the show has all the tropes of a teen drama; high school angst, social hierarchies and adults being jerks. But it’s the thunder and lightning that keeps the show captivating.
This is why the struggle between Magne, a reincarnated god, and the Jutul Giant-family is essential. Without the narrative provided by Norse mythology this show would have become a dull and uninteresting teen flick.
Ragnarok gives the viewer a lot to deal with; the epic century-old conflict between the Gods of Asgard and the Frost-Giants of Jotunheim, the struggle between industry and the environment and a town full of teenagers trying to find their place in the world.
If you are looking for the next Marvel movie, this is not it. This show makes the story of Thor about the nitty-gritty inter-human politics, which the big screen does not give you (although there is a good deal of lighting and explosions if that’s your thing).
But if you’re after a different perspective on the Thor narrative, filled with broody teenagers and environmental activism you should absolutely give your time to this show and check it out.