[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about “The Rain” Season 1, including the finale.]
In Netflix’s post-apocalyptic series “The Rain,” the pernicious precipitation is deadly to most of Scandinavia and has a massive impact on anyone else who’s survived. For Rasmus Andersen (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen), living through the (un)natural disaster has a traumatic effect on him, especially when he understands that although he’s resistant to the virus that’s carried in the raindrops, and therefore he could be the key to developing a vaccine, he’s also a carrier of a mutated strain that is even more devastating than the original.
In the series’ sixth episode, viewers get their first clue that not all might be right with Rasmus. After spending an intimate night with Beatrice (Angela Bundalovic), he finds her lying dead next to him in the morning. It’s not entirely clear what may have caused this. The rain that dripped on her from a hole in the ceiling? The dog that licked her face? The truth is far more disturbing.
“It was Rasmus. He was contaminated at that point,” co-creator Jannik Tai Mosholt said in an interview with IndieWire. “We also, I think, dive deeper into this hopefully later on, but what we were working from and what adapted through some illnesses like that, is the minute that he got the knife cut and he got a bacterial infection from the knife cut, that woke the virus. It went from being dormant to being aggressive and that has created that mutation and the hostility of the virus towards others or towards the world around him. So the knife cut and the bacterial infection created the mutation.”
Although Rasmus couldn’t have known he was the cause of Beatrice’s death — he doesn’t learn he’s carrying a virulent strain until the finale two episodes later — he is despondent that the woman he lost his virginity to has died so quickly after their night together. Perhaps he intuited his part in her death, but he spirals into despair and unsuccessfully tries to kill himself. It’s not hard to understand his confusion and inability to cope. When the rain started falling, he was only 10 and lived out the next six formative years in an underground bunker. To go from childhood to suddenly dealing with all of these harsh realities would be tough for anyone, not to mention one filled with roiling teenage hormones.
“We really wanted Rasmus, at the beginning of the season, to be the bearer of hope because he has so much youth taken away from him when he gets locked inside the bunker. We really wanted the world to hit him hard,” said Mosholt. “we’ve experienced that for ourselves and also talking to the young adults that a lot of us, in certain points in our lives, we’re very burdened by the thought that so much of the things we’re experiencing, so much of the world around us is not created by us and we feel that we have no control over it. He just has to deal with the consequences of them.”
Co-creator Christian Potalivo added, “Rasmus is one of the characters that we really love and want to explore because what he’s going through is basically like … what life as a teenager is, that you clearly have that scarlet letter on you that you’re the odd one out. The rest of the world is looking upon you in some way and how do you cope with that? …Here it’s all about transition within a very short amount of time coming out of this, like he’s a young guy that just really wants to explore life. So he gets to live life very fast.”
Check out the rest of IndieWire’s interview with the co-creators, who discussed where the show could go next and some of the science behind the show’s most intriguing elements.
Blame It on the Rain
The premise for “The Rain” came about when the creators decided to upend to dearly held concepts.
“We just started talking about that it would be interesting to try to make a post-apocalyptic show set in Scandinavia,” said Mosholt. “We found it interesting to take this whole very ideal Scandinavian society where we take pride in our welfare system and the way that our system works, and just took all of that away to see if we were still the civilized Scandinavians that we think ourselves to be or if there was a more animalistic side to us.
“We started talking about water being the source of life. We found it interesting to turn that into the source of death. We also just talked about that some of the things that we find to be most scary are the things that we don’t understand, where something just suddenly happens and you deal with it without becoming too challenged with what it actually is. We found that perception of it’s suddenly raining death, so very frightening and also in a way kind of difficult. To just go into that whole sensation of the world suddenly changing around you, and most of the characters involved in this universe having had no real idea about why or how, but they just needed to learn to survive in it.”
Dealing With Disease
The rain could’ve contained any number of toxic elements, including chemicals from pollution and waste. But research led the creators in another direction.
“First of all, I think that [co-creator Esben Toft Jacobsen], Jannik, and myself are a bit of what you call germophobes. We’re really afraid of getting sick,” said Potalivo. “And then we read these articles about how lately all the news that the world is running out of penicillin. More diseases are immune to penicillin. We found out in the States, 30,000 people a year die because they have diseases that are resistant to penicillin. So the whole creation of the backstory in this was that we know that most of the companies that research… are going down these paths to find something that can take over for penicillin.
“Apparently viruses is the best way to kill other viruses. Then we just took a spin off of that and found out all these stories about every time man has tried to do something in control within that, it always turns out different when we release it into nature. That was one of the big things that we were inspired from because it was well connected to the theme about man wanting to control and create nature, and at one point nature will always fight back. It has done that always and will continue to do so.”
Potalivo credited Jacobsen for doing the necessary research to inform how the virus in “The Rain” would work. What was discovered was not very encouraging.
“Esben had long conversations with virus experts and chemical warfare experts about the situation both in Europe, but in the world of how diseases evolve and how people try to control diseases and use them as chemical warfare and stuff like that,” said Potalivo. “We have some interesting conversations with people that tell us stories that are far worse than what you could ever have imagined and we cherry-picked from that to find out what information is a theme and what we wanted to tell within our story. We had a lot of talks with both doctors and biologists and people like that, and also in connection with that rain.”
Much like Rasmus, the animals in “The Rain” are carriers and to be avoided.
“If you see Episode 2 when Martin (Mikkel Følsgaard) chased the woman who has her foot in the water and gets sick, people are like, ‘Why did she get sick from water?’ when they find out later [in the season] that the rain isn’t dangerous anymore,” said Potalivo. “But if you look at that close, there is actually a dead animal in the water. The virus has already transcended into animals. The story always goes that if you live in a society where you know what’s dangerous you might not find out if it’s not dangerous anymore. Because who takes a chance and the risk of exposing themselves to danger?”
When Martin and the rest of the gang arrive at Apollon at the end, they’re given pills that are supposedly “supplements” to balance out their poor diet due to their erratic, barely subsistence-level lifestyle they’ve been forced to lead over the past six years since the rain began. Since no one seemed to have a harmful reaction to swallowing the pills, they indeed seemed benign. Unfortunately, it was revealed that whatever they swallowed would create a fatal reaction if they tried to cross the border out of the quarantine area. They’ve been imprisoned by their own bodies.
“Basically, it’s taken from stories that we researched about nanotechnology, what we’re actually capable of with nanotechnology today,” said Potalivo. “We just found it very visual to use the solution where you don’t have to inject it, but you can just digest [it] into the system by taking these pills. But nanotechnology is quite a long ways further from what I think everybody thinks about. In our show, it’s been about if it works for good or evil. It is one of the things that is explored around the world by scientists to see how you can use that in connection with research or disease cures and stuff like that, but also in terms of being bad, it’s quite interesting what nanotechnology can do today.”
Episode 5’s Edible Complex
In the fifth episode, Rasmus, his sister Simone (Alba August) and the rest of the gang come upon a house that seems too good to be true. A bunch of people who wear pajamas and appear to be in a benevolent cult are welcoming of the group of friends and offer them food, shelter, and untainted water to shower with. It seems too good to be true for the wary Martin, whose suspicions are borne out when he discovers that the pajama-wearing disciples sacrifice one of their own each month so that they can have meat. The rest are able to depart at any time if they don’t want their name in the mix for the future.
“It’s quite interesting to think about everybody trying to cope in a society where you can’t explain what’s happening or it’s actually really hard to accept that you can’t change it and then pairing it with Lea’s (Jessica Dinnage) backstory about faith,” said Potalivo. “People always find ways of believing in something, saying ‘This is the right thing to do because this is the way that we can find meaning in this chaos.’”
“Then there’s also in some sense I think it was the way a socialistic, Scandinavian society is becoming like a cannibalistic nightmare that you become one with one another, with and we just start eating each other,” said Mosholt. “And being Danes, there was some sort of sadistic fun in making all the cannibals Swedish.”
Season 2 and Beyond
Netflix hasn’t announced that it’s renewed “The Rain” yet, but that hasn’t stopped the producers from thinking about what the bigger picture is for the problem world they’ve created.
“We have all the answers; we haven’t just given all of them yet,” said Potalivo. “It’s hard to explain because we don’t do plot spoilers if we have the chance to delve further into this universe, but there’s quite a good explanation on how the disease was used and why it was used the way it’s been done in Season 1.”
IndieWire had speculated that as Rasmus’ sister, Simone could also be resistant to the virus if they had ever tested her. Or perhaps she’s the key to counteracting Rasmus’ mutated strain. Again, the producers wouldn’t tip their hand either way, but said, “We can’t say what can happen with Simone. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone. Yes, they share similarities and genetic codes.”
Overall, Potalivo left the following tantalizing statement that could inspire viewers to go back and rewatch Season 1.
“Many of the clues that we’ve put out in the season are quite subtle. Also as we roll, it will be possible to explore much more if we are able to do a consecutive season,” he said. “But there are a lot of things that are actually where we know that the clue is there, but you really have to know something more to be able to use the clue more efficiently in your interpretation of the episodes. The clues are there, and I think that it would have the possibility to explain more, it will become much more clear for the audience what actually happened throughout the whole story.”
”The Rain” Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.