Ragnarok: Where It All Begins

Movie poster for Netflix series Ragnarok (2020).

Erik (teacher): Why is it of particular interest to talk about the old Norse gods? Especially right here in Edda? Gry?

Gry: Because was Edda was the last town in Norway to become Christian. Ah, and to give up faith in the Norse gods.

Erik: Yes, that is correct. One could say it all happened right here. Ragnarok. The end of the world. The final clash between the gods and the giants.

If I had seen the promotional tagline you see on the poster above, “This is where it all begins,” I might have watched Ragnarok, Netflix’s new six-episode series, in anticipation of an open, unfinished story — a part one. The series does have good character arcs and bring things together at the end, but it doesn’t wrap them up nearly as I was expecting. I kept thinking our hero would have to really lower the hammer in the next episode, but the final showdown isn’t, you know, the end of the world.

Norse myth fans will easily recognize names and characters as they appear: Odin and Frigg, Thor and Loki are represented in the old man with an eyepatch with the oddly serene, oddly prophetic wife, the mischievous brother, and the kind, justice-minded son. And the villain is named Vidar (Lars can tell us what that means).

Ragnarok is set in Edda, another nod to the myths, but it moves as methodically as any high-school superhero origin story might. Magne arrives with his family in this new town, which is his hometown but they had moved away after his father’s death several years ago; his mother’s new job at the undefined industry that supports Edda has brought them back. He befriends the “greenpeace” girl, Isolde, and learns that official accounts of the pristine nature of their town and country don’t fit the evidence they draw from the river.

Kids cause trouble, sure, and Vidar is a vengeful and bloodthirsty, but nothing puts Magne on his list quite like being run over by a snowplow and surviving. While the rest of the town thinks, “How lucky to have good genes that like!” Vidar’s family thinks Magne is one of the old gods.

It’s a good series (with medium content warnings), but I’m worried they will fall into the usual trap for season two by pretending the cat is still in the bag. In this season Magne comes of age as Thor. Vidar even calls him out with that name at one point. Let’s hope the writers won’t try to roll back the clock and have Magne refuse to admit who he is, take his medication like a good kid, and let the world handle its own problems. He will have trouble understanding who he is and knowing what he should do, sure, but that’s quite different from refusing to remember anything from season one.

Monster: "You have made a grave mistake, Odinson."
Thor: "I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out."

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