Life happens. It’s why I only just finished watching the incredible The Day, which features life happening in myriad ways to innocent people and criminals alike.
The Day (De Dag) — a Best Series (2018 Biografilm Festival), Best European Fiction (2018 Festival de la Fiction TV), and Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best TV Series (2019 Film Festival Oostende) awards winner — is not your typical crime thriller.
For one, it follows a hostage crisis, a subject that doesn’t tend to be the focus of most shows in this genre. It follows, then, that the lead law enforcement characters are negotiators and other crisis intervention team members rather than detectives and prosecutors. What really sets this series apart, though, is how the narrative is structured.
Set during the one-day period in which the hostage situation occurs, the twelve-part drama is broken into six chapters, and each chapter is divided into two episodes: “Outside” tells the story from the point of view of the police and the relatives of those involved in the hostage situation; “Inside,” which follows the same time line as “Outside,” tracks the events from the perspective of the hostage takers and the hostages.
The Day opens at 07:55 in a small Flemish town. In less than an hour, a police inspector arrives at the local bank, located on a residential square, where a crisis situation is unfolding. Soon thereafter, a young police negotiator answers the first call from the hostage taker. Roughly an hour later comes the unmistakable sound of a single gunshot.
Earlier that morning, the criminals make their preparations as couples and families get ready to start their day. In less than two hours, some amongst them — including children — become hostages.
As the drama unfolds, it reveals key characters’ backstories, the crisis intervention team’s and the criminals’ strategies, and the ways in which life happens to everyone involved in the hostage situation.
I don’t need to go out on a limb to say that The Day is one of the best Euro TV premieres in the US this year. It is utterly riveting, and will keep your heart pounding, contribute to your nails getting shorter (if you’re prone to biting them when on the edge of your seat), and mess with your mind in a really smart way. (I recommend watching it hours earlier than your bedtime, lest the anxieties it can evoke keep you awake like they did me.)
The alternating outside-inside episode structure is brilliant. Not only does it let viewers in on both sides of the story, it serves as a strategy for delivering narrative twists and turns and red herrings. Believe me when I say there are plot twists that you will not see coming and that make the story that. much. richer.
Key actors in the “Outside” episodes include Sophie Decleir (13 Commandments), Lukas De Wolf (Undercover), Willy Thomas (Callboys), Jeroen Perceval (Tabula Rasa), Johan van Assche (Hotel Beau Séjour), Liesa Van der Aa (Cordon), Michel Bauwens (Professor T), Zouzou Ben Chikha (The Twelve), Ruth Becquart (Amigos), Serge-Henri Valcke (Baantjer Mysteries), Marijke Pinoy (The Team), and Katelijne Verbeke (Cordon).
Those in the “Inside” episodes include Titus De Voogdt (The Missing), Bert Haelvoet (The Score), Maaike Neuville (The Twelve), Jelle De Beule (Callboys), Geert Van Rampelberg (Code 37), Bob Snijers (Tabula Rasa), and Imani De Caestecker (The Natives).
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