(Beforeigners Season 2 premieres on HBO Max on December 5th)
When the first season of Beforeigners premiered back in 2019, I was instantly smitten by the absurd and high-concept premise. Sometime in the early 2010s, people from the past appear unannounced in present-day Norway. Heralded by flashes of light and power outages, these travelers arrive without rhyme or reason, with no understanding of why the phenomena keep repeating. Years pass and the titular Beforeigners begin integrating into modern society with varying results.
As far as setups go, Beforeigners is up there with the best of them. So it was equally heartbreaking to see it waste that potential with a dire and muddled first season, which never quite knew what to do with the impressive buildup.
After a two-year hiatus and without the burden of backstory, season 2 starts off strong with an investigation into Jack the Ripper. No longer contained by his time, the infamous serial killer now roams the streets in the present. Once again, Beforeigners strikes gold with its premise.
Our returning heroes are equally compelling. Krista Kosonen and Nicolai Cleve Broch, as Alfhildr and Lars, are as charming as ever. Kosonen, in particular, settles into her part more comfortably this time around. As the warrior out of time, Kosonen consistently proves herself better than some of the ludicrous plot twists thrown her way.
As Lars, Broch once again grounds the series with his scruffy charisma that feels like it might unravel at any minute.
When the duo gets to solve crimes together, the series soars. It’s everything else that drags.
Most of that has to do with the supporting cast and their b-plots. While nobody is particularly bad, their stories feel superfluous to the main story. The ensuing drama over Lars’ daughter’s pregnancy, in particular, is tedious at best. Equally distracting is a tawdry soothsayer who can only see the past through cunnilingus.
These issues are much the same that plagued the first season. At its core, Beforeigners is a compelling thriller that satirically pokes equal fun at its time-travel tropes as it does the alt-right. But even at just six episodes, there’s so much filler amped in that the big picture suffers from it. This is the kind of show that benefits from a shorter, more concise season with fewer characters.
Especially as the second season grows wilder and more unhinged as it goes along. It wouldn’t be a lie to say the once low-key series with magical realism embraces hardcore anime tropes before the end. The problem is that smarter properties have struggled with time travel in the past, and Beforeigners, even at its best, has yet to catch up with them.
Instead, it muddies up the already incomprehensible waters even further. Leaving the series at a weird crossroads, lacking the vision or budget to pursue the more interesting path any further.
I want to like Beforeigners, I really do. I’m a sucker for any sci-fi series, good or bad, and I’m thrilled a Nordic series is aiming this high. Lofty ambitions are my jam, so to speak. But for every good episode and brilliant idea, Beforeigners splurges on a dozen terrible ones. It’s a maddening mess that can’t decide who it’s aimed for or what it wants to be.
Even so, here I am, watching every episode. I just wish it was from enthusiasm than obligation.