In riffing on the phrase commonly attributed to Julius Caesar, I fired up my HBO app, I watched the first episode of Beforeigners, I binged the rest of the season.
The premise of Beforeigners (Fremvandrerne) is novel, and its storyline is intriguing. And to get just how clever the writers were in crafting this high-concept drama, one must watch it through to the closing credits of the season finale. (I say season instead of series, as I am crossing my fingers really hard for more episodes.)
When the credits started to roll, I was like, “Wow.”
There are a few mysteries in the six-episode drama, the first of which is how people from the Stone Age, the Viking Age, and the late 1800s come to be in the 21st century. Teens hanging out at the Oslo Opera House are amongst the first to witness the extraordinary event — powerful flashes of light occurring in the fjord’s water, followed by humans of various ages being forced up to the surface, gasping for air and screaming for help. This isn’t an isolated incident in Oslo, but one being repeated across the globe.
Several years later, after tens of thousands of these people from the past began appearing in (a near-future) present day, life in Oslo, called its earlier name of Christiania by some, has changed — in some ways drastically, in other ways barely noticeable. On the streets are commuters traveling by horse and buggy, and in homes are beforeigners with their respective-age trappings, not the least of which is livestock. Beforeigners’ “migration day” parties are as common as everyone else’s birthday celebrations. And inter-temporal relationships are a thing now, such as the one between Gregers, a Briton from the 19th-century, and Marie, the 21st-century ex-wife of Oslo detective Lars Haaland (Nicolai Cleve Broch, Acquitted, The Half Brother).
Which brings us to the second mystery — the death of a woman that might have been a hate crime against a beforeigner. The case is assigned to Lars, who ends up working on it with new partner Alfhildr Enginsdottir (Krista Kosonen, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, Second Chance), a Norse woman and newly-minted police officer, the first on the Oslo force with a “multi-temporal background.”
More mysteries and seemingly unanswerable questions follow, and each step forward that Lars and Alfhildr make on the case takes us deeper into the criminal underworld and further down the time travel rabbit hole.
Beforeigners is an allegory in which the beforeigners serve as stand-ins for any kind of foreigners today in any part of the world — the targets of “timesist” attacks and xenophobic “beforeigners go home” graffiti. It is a sign of our times in other ways too, from drug addicts hiding in plain sight, to the millennia-old and still-ongoing battles between Christians and non-Christians, to supportive communities for trans individuals (“trans-temporal” in the show). Everything modern is ancient again and vice versa, including people.
Add to all that the murder and time travel mysteries and you’ve got yourself a stunning, totally binge-worthy series.
Created by Eilif Skodvin and Anne Bjørnstad, the duo who created Lilyhammer, Beforeigners costars Stig R. Amdam (Occupied), Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir (Jar City), Ragnhild Gudbrandsen (Occupied), Nader Khademi (Home Ground), Jeppe Beck Laursen (Ragnarok), and Ingunn Beate Øyen (The Innocents).
Also featuring in the series are Mikkel Bratt Silset (Norsemen), Morten Svartveit (Borderliner), Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (The Court), Marit Andreassen (Unni Lindell), Øystein Røger (Acquitted), Kyrre Haugen Sydness (Varg Veum), Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin (Ragnarok), and Oddgeir Thune (Home for Christmas).
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