TV: Occupied (Season 3)

Occupied has always been a peculiar show, a complex skein of international intrigue set during a fictional quasi-annexation of Norway by Russia. I’ve found it, by turns, compelling and off-putting. Unfortunately, season three—which feels, in the absence of further information, like its final one—is more the latter than the former, a distancing, scattered affair that struggles to gather its loose ends into a coherent vision.

The occupation of Norway has ended, the Russians have withdrawn, and all that’s left is for EU forces to pull out, fully restoring the country’s sovereignty. Prime Minister Jesper Berg (Henrik Mestad) is still in the thick of things, working to restore his nation’s freedom while fending off new political challenges, as well as trying to keep the skeletons in his closet hidden. Alas, the end of the occupation doesn’t put all conflict to rest; there are still angry patriots on the home front, riling nationalist sentiment that endangers Russian immigrants and former “collaborators,” which includes police inspector Hans Martin Djupvik (Eldar Skar) and his wife, attorney Hilde Djupvik (Selome Emnetu). On the Russian side of things, former ambassador Irina Sidorova (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) is recalled to Russia, threatening her frowned-upon lesbian relationship with Lyubov (Darya Ekamasova). Meanwhile, expatriate restaurateur Bente Norum (Ane Dahl Torp) finds herself attempting an ambitious new life in Moscow. Both Irina and Bente find themselves embroiled with Russian mobsters and government officials hellbent on leveraging them against western democracy, and they’re not afraid to ruthlessly deploy kompromat to compel their cooperation.

Occupied caught my eye for its Nordic viewpoint, complicated intrigue, and ever-so-slight touches of alternate-path futurism. It escalated its game with a second season that leveraged those assets as a striking reflection of current real-world tribulations. But in season three, Occupied loses its speculative edge, feeling more like a dry technothriller. It also never quite manages to integrate its remaining components satisfyingly, so that when its final message is sent— n earnest, individualist call-to-duty to combat climate change—it feels like a clumsy attempt to make sense of itself. For a show that spent much of its run depicting self-involved political angling that leads to destructive governmental gridlock, this message feels worthy enough, but I’m not sure it was effectively earned. It remains a notable, interesting serial, but in a tough field of competitors this one falls a bit short.

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