TL;DR – This is a fascinating world that I think that we have only just scratched the surface of.
Warning – Depicts scenes of abuse
Tribes of Europa Review –
When you think of post-apocalyptic shows or movies, you think of drab banner expanses of nothing where only the best like Mad Max Fury Road can make shine. But that is one of the many different pallets of the world could take. In Tribes of Europa, we get a very different type of post-apocalypse, even if there are some familiar elements.
So to set the scene, in 2029, a worldwide blackout called Black December destroyed civilization as we know it on the planet. The Nation-State as we know it today crashed a burned with thousands of micro-states emerging in their wake. In 2074, those micro-states have started to war over the former lands of Europe or, as it is now called, Europa. It is here where Liv (Henriette Confurius) and her family Kiano (Emilio Sakraya) and Elja (David Ali Rashed) see a plane crash while out hunting an event that would shift the balance of the continent.
Most of the first episode shows how close every member of the core family is and their key differences. Of course, which means by the end of that first episode, they were all split up and sent on different stories. But this would not have worked if we had not spent time inhabiting the world and the town to be grounded in their world. It also helps that they put a lot of work into the set dressing to build this world and give it texture. There are also the little things like how everyone still uses English as a lingua franca even though most of the show is set in what is current Germany, which does make sense when you are thinking about a fractured world that still needed to communicate with each other as they become more and more isolated. Indeed, this production value spreads to most of the series, with Clinton Shorter giving another stellar performance and what must have been an excellent set of location scouts as we jump from Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, and South Africa as filming locations.
We get three different stories running in tandem throughout the show as we chart the three siblings’ paths. Elja fled to Little Praha, not knowing The Crows had already destroyed it, and he was walking into a trap. He would have died, but he ran into Moses (Oliver Masucci), a tinkerer and probably a bit of a conman but maybe the only person who can help fix the Atlantian Cube. Kiano, with his father Jakob (Benjamin Sadler), was captured by The Crows and taken to Bratok (Berlin). Here he is made a slave forced to work in the factories until he dies, which might be sooner rather than later. Finally, Liv was thought dead in the attack on their home, but she awakes to find all of her tribe dead or missing. After capturing one of the Bozers Grieta (Ana Ularu), she is taken back to a Crimson Republic camp where David Voss (Robert Finster) lets her take the mercenary home to Bratok with the promise that she will share and tactical information she finds.
One of the things that this three-pronged story allows is that it gives a narrative framework for the shows wildly different tones. With Alja and Moses, we get an almost farcical romp across the destroyed continent of Europa. At the same time, Kiano is dragged to Bratok to work as a slave as his humanity is stripped away from him. While others are slaughtered around him and fed to the pigs. The tonal difference can be quite severe when you cut from people joking around to Kiano being raped by Lord Varvara (Melika Foroutan). This is a show that gets incredible dark when Vavara uses violence and sex to manipulate and control people. All of this leads to some profoundly uncomfortable and downright unpleasant scenes to sit through as Kiano is suffered abuse after abuse.
One of the things that I found fascinating was how each of the factions inhabits parts of modern-day Europe or at least some of its issues. The Crows have a propensity for empire, the hedonistic lifestyle, and the self-centred nature of screw everyone else. The Crimson Republic has all the desire to recapture the past glory of Europe and see themselves as the successors of the European Union. But they fall into all the same traps currently befalling the Union through both lack of action and then also over action. All of this means that you can kind of see how the conflict will play out before it happens. Some of this is predictable like two characters are slaves and know each other, so of course, they are the ones who end up duelling to the death. Or indeed, who does and does not betray people.
In the end, do we recommend the first season of Tribes of Europa? In some respects, I would recommend it on the production values and performances alone. As well as this, there is an interesting mystery here that I think we only just scratched the surface of before the end. I will say that there are many scenes in this series that are difficult to watch, which could be a very understandable deal-breaker for people.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Tribes of Europa
Directed by – Philip Koch & Florian Baxmeyer
Written by – Philip Koch, Jana Burbach & Benjamin Seiler
Created by – Philip Koch
Production/Distribution Companies – W&B Television and Netflix
Starring – Henriette Confurius, Emilio Sakraya, David Ali Rashed, Oliver Masucci, Melika Foroutan, Ana Ularu and Robert Finster with Benjamin Sadler, Sebastian Blomberg, Jeanette Hain, James Faulkner, Johann Myers, Adriana Ugarte & Jannik Schümann
Episodes Covered – Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 & Chapter 6