Review: Season One of Ragnarok

By John Ruberry

“The whole world groaned beneath them. A storm, the likes of of which had never been seen, scorched the sky. Ragnarök was upon them, the twilight of the gods.” Nicholas Day, in the Netflix series Myths and Monsters.

Many religions have an end-time narrative, including the ancient Norse faith. If you are familiar with the movie Thor: Ragnorok, then you know that Ragnarök encompasses total destruction, only there are no space ships and no Incredible Hulk in those old tales.

A few weeks ago the Norwegian six-episode series Ragnarok began streaming on Netflix. On the surface it’s a teen angst drama. After many years away, teens Magne (David Stakston), Laurits (Jonas Strand Gravli), and their mother, Turid (Henriette Steenstrup), return to the small industrial town, Edda, that is adjacent to a fjord. By the way, “Edda” is the term scholars have given to the medieval collections of Norse mythology, the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.

As the family arrives in Edda, an old man riding a motorized scooter blocks their car as it stalls. Magne gets out and asks him, “Do you need help?” The old man oddly replies, “Do you know what a strange town this is?” Magne gets the scooter running and then the old man’s wife, who operates the local grocery, smiles at him and then tells Magne, “You’re a good kid” as she touches his forehead. Magne’s hazel eyes then flash with lightning. Magne’s hero journey has started.

Edda is indeed a strange town. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, the economic engine of the town Jutul Industries, owned by Jutuls, the fifth-richest family in Norway. Its factory sits right next to the fjord. If it is ever said what Jutul produces, other than toxins that end up in the drinking water, I missed it. Vidar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) is the patriarch and he runs the factory, his wife, Ran (Synnøve Macody Lund), is the principal of the high school Laurits and Magne attend. Their children are Saxa (Theresa Frostad Eggesbø) and Fjor (Herman Tømmeraas). They are all beautiful. Seemingly perfect. Too perfect because the are really jötunn, giants in Norse mythology, the enemies of the gods. And Saxa and Fjor aren’t really children.

Magne learns after his encounter with the grocer that he can run very fast, he has superhuman strength, he can speak Old Norse, and tellingly, he can throw a sledgehammer–Thor’s weapon was a hammer–an enormous distance. And Magne no longer needs his eyeglasses.

Like the young Clark Kent in Man of Steel, Magne has trouble fitting in with other kids, His only friend is Isolde (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin), another social misfit who is the school’s biggest green advocate. And there is plenty for Isolde to investigate in Edda.

Laurits, who is a bit of a prankster, has better luck working his way up the high school social ladder, which is of course dominated by the student Jutuls, and Ragnarok contains quite a bit of the distress that you find in most television shows centered on teenagers. Meanwhile Magne’s powers, which he barely comprehends, draw the attention of the entire Jutul family.

And Magne and Fjor fall for the same girl, Gry (Emma Bones).

Ragnarok was filmed in Norwegian, it is dubbed in English for Netflix, although the trailer posted here is in Norwegian with English subtitles.

The coronovirus pandemic will sadly find many people with lots of free time on their hands. Watching Ragnarok is a worthy way to fill that void. Although I’m still working, for now, and I viewed the series last week.

Netflix has already approved a second season.

Ragnarok is rated TV-MA. It contains brief nudity, violence, foul language, teen alcohol consumption, and sexual situations.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Russia’s next move: Svalbard

Abandoned Russian mining town on Svalbard
By Bjoertvedt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

We will continue to watch Russia divide up Ukraine into pieces until it is essentially Russian territory, and as I previously noted, don’t be surprised when Russia moves into Central Asia. But for anyone that thinks Russia will hesitate against a NATO ally, I say, look to Norway. Because it is here that Russia is beginning its information drumbeat to take territory.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide and Justic Minister Monica Maeland wrote an op-ed in VG titled “Svalbard Treaty 100 Years.” The discussion focused on a resource discussion, because while the treaty gave Svalbard to Norway, it allowed treaty signatories rights to fishing, hunting, and mineral resources. At the time, the Soviet Union continued to call the island Spitsbergen and kept repeating the claim they had discovered it first.

Flash forward, and Russia responded to the op-ed on the news site E24. First they claimed that Norway was ignoring their concerns over Spitsbergen. They also point out that Svalbard “is not originally Norwegian territory,” and that only Russia and Norway have commercial interests on the island. Russia operates a defunct coal mine on the island, which loses money every year, simply to maintain this claim.

If this sounds like Ukraine and Georgia, you’re catching on. While we might be a bit far away from a Russia land-grab on Svalbard, we are in the setup phase. I see Russia first making claims that Svalbard is a Russia-Norway issue. They don’t want NATO involved, and since the treaty was made before NATO, they’ll use that as a wedge to keep other countries out. Then we’ll start seeing stories about Norwegian “atrocities” against the approximately 400 Russians that live on the island. As a side bonus, we might see Russia make claims that the tourism is causing negative climate change, so only someone that cares about the environment like Russia should be in charge.

While not on the same level as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Russia has found an opening in Norway, and it will settle in for a long fight to take away territory and chip at the NATO alliance.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Norway: stuck in the middle

Norway is stuck in the middle. Russia has been pushing more aggressively past Norway. Recently Russia canceled a polar Norwegian Cruise Line entry into Russian waters, forcing the cruise company to reimburse passengers only two weeks before the cruise. Russia also surged naval forces off the Norwegian coast in its “Ocean Shield” exercise, causing a lot of consternation among the Norwegian populace.

But simply saddling up to the US isn’t in the cards, at least for some. Norwegian media is enthralled with President Trump, and not in a nice way. Norwegian media, namely Dagbladet and Klassekampen, regularly blast the US and President Trump in particular, and call for Norway to keep its distance from the US.

Norway is quickly entering into a forced choice. It’s military understands that NATO, and specifically the US, are critical to keeping it independent of Russia in any future conflict. The US is doubling down not just on NATO funding, but also on support for the Straits of Hormuz patrols. Iran’s foreign minister recently visited Norway, was met with significant protests, and told Norway to not support the patrols.

So now Norway, always content to play the middle, gets to choose between two forces. On one side, a resurging Russia and Iran, who are willing to use their muscle in critical maritime geography, and a US, which is using its forces to support the agreed-upon UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Choices have consequences, and the middle choice will likely become untenable before much longer.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.