Review: “The Rain” (Netflix)

Some stories are like favorite family vacation spots. They promise a certain kind of experience and, even though you’ve done it before, it doesn’t diminish your enjoyment. On the contrary, the good-time guarantee is what keeps you coming back. The Netflix original series The Rain is a summer-vacation kind of story, familiar narrative territory with few surprises but plenty of fun. **No spoilers**

The_RainThe pilot’s first minutes are a brilliantly concise piece of cinema, a short-film version of a YA dystopia novel. Teenaged Simone has it all–good grades, friends, even a pending date with a cute classmate–until her scientist father wrests her from school without explanation and chivvies the entire family out of town. Dark clouds gather in the rearview mirror. When a traffic accident blocks their route, the storm catches up and chaos rains. Deadly droplets kill anyone they touch. Separated from their parents, Simone and her younger brother Rasmus find themselves confined to a hidden bunker. And that’s all before the opening credits

Six years later, the siblings emerge into a drastically altered world and journey through classic disaster tropes–derelict cities, quarantine zones, mysterious militias in armored trucks–in search of their father, who might hold answers about the pandemic. (They ultimately find a lot more questions, since Netflix already renewed The Rain for a second season.) Stark and suspenseful, the show excels at cultivating dread, letting it swell like thunderheads on the horizon. That tension kept me watching, even though my familiarity with the genre made the outcomes obvious. After a few episodes, however, suspense alone became a little unsatisfying.  I expected more science behind the sci-fi aesthetic, but The Rain only hints at the plague’s origin and nature, focusing instead on the societal impact.

Human drama, wrapped in a gritty post-apocalyptic mantle, drives the story. Compelling performances from the young actors almost overcome the plot flaws that widened with each episode. The characters take some astonishingly stupid actions to advance the narrative, trying my patience by the finale. (Honestly, if you’re going to jeopardize your friends’ lives with immature selfishness, maybe you don’t deserve to survive.) Even the central ship feels perfunctory and underdeveloped, so that its culmination lacks punch.

That’s the show in microcosm: likable but predictable, never quite achieving its potential but entertaining nonetheless. If you don’t expect any brilliant genre reinventions, The Rain makes a perfect binge-watch for that inevitable drizzly day on your summer beach vacation.

Have you watched The Rain? What did you think? Let me know in the comments (please flag any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet.)

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