Katla (Netflix, 8 episodes):
The story takes place in Iceland and revolves around a small town that’s virtually deserted because of the ongoing eruption of the volcano, Katla. The few remaining hardy souls and some scientists linger in what has become a blasted, ash-covered landscape that’s about as bleak as I’ve seen. The land, buildings, cars look like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb detonation.
Against this somber and depressing backdrop, a strange phenomenon occurs. Ash-sludge covered people begin walking into town and mingling with the locals. Who are these people? In some cases, they’re people who have been missing or dead for some time and
seemingly have resurrected. In other cases, the ash people are doppelgangers of existing people. What do these “clone” people want? What the heck is going on here? That’s the hook for this series. The clone people make this series a science fiction story of sorts, but the sci-fi aspect is pretty muted. This is essentially a story about an ensemble of damaged, traumatized people coming to grips with their shortcomings, failures, and bad choices. Basically, the clone people force the characters to confront their crappy lives, and ultimately each faces some sort of showdown with the trauma they’ve suffered. The outcome is not terribly uplifting for anybody and pretty darn depressing in a number of cases.
The acting is first rate and the production values are quite good. The story is original and provocative, but it is also very dark, grim, painful, and sometimes quite disturbing. The show retained my interest through to the final episode, but the payoff at the end was a bit disappointing. When the final credits started to roll, I yelled at my TV, “That’s it?”
The problem people may have with this series is that it’s a real slow-burn drama, almost glacially slow at times. There’s a lot of standing around sprinkled with choppy dialogue and punctuated with dramatic pauses and angsty hand wringing. With a few exceptions, most of the action in this movie is people riding in cars. If you fall asleep easily during slow TV shows or need something to get your adrenalin pumping, this show ain’t for you.
In the end, we don’t learn all that much about these clone people, although a cursory explanation of sorts is tossed out in the final episode. The real focus is the various soap operas the townspeople are caught up in. I found these individual stories to be modestly interesting at best and just so-so at worst.
Do I regret watching this show? No, but it didn’t deliver the goods either. The premise is intriguing and the table is set for a really great meal, but instead of chateaubriand and a bottle of Margot, I got a Salisbury steak and a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.