Occasionally even I, a TV obsessive who likes he’s on top of seeing the best of what TV has to offer can miss something. So when I received a few tweets telling me I was really missing out by not watching the latest Walter Presents offering Ride Upon the Storm I was immediately intrigued. The arrival of acclaimed Danish series from Borgen creator Adam Price had, I’ll admit, completely past me by. To defend myself slightly, Walter doesn’t always advertise when his impressive raft of foreign drama gets a new addition, and even though Channel 4 is airing this one, they’ve cruelly hidden it away after midnight.
The entire first series of this complex and fascinating family drama is available for you to gorge on on All4 and having it seen it all I can confirm those pesky followers of mine were right: this is easily one of the best foreign dramas I’ve seen since Borgen. The series focuses on a family of priests led by the ever-charismatic Lars Mikkelsen as Johannes. Like his father and his father before him, Johannes is a respected priest. When we first meet him he’s fighting it out to become Bishop a battle it loses quite early on in the first episode. His defeat sends this man of faith down a destructive path. Much like Walter White before him, Johannes is a complex creature who is wrapped up in contradictions. He’s a man of deep faith, but he’s also an alcoholic with a spiteful tongue and a sense of entitlement. It’s down to the brilliance of the script and the masterful performance from Mikkelsen that as an audience member you still empathise with him even when he’s being incredibly foul.
Johannes is the head of the family and the drama focuses on how growing up with him as a father has shaped/damaged his sons and wife. Wife Elisabeth (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen) is weary of Johannes’s many vices. She’s lost within her marriage but when her husband is at his best, she idolises him and quickly falls back under his spell. When she meets a young Norwegian female violinist she is tempted to stray.
The joy of the series, and what Price and his team are so skilled at is that everyone in the family has an equally compelling and interesting story which but up against each other over the course of the ten episodes. Son August (Morten Hee Andersen) is his father’s golden child after following in his footsteps in the priesthood. August can do no wrong. He’s happily married with wife Emilie (Fanny Louise Bernth) and secure in his faith. He too idolises father, though he’s aware of his fiery tendencies. August is wide-eyed and will anyone in need. When he’s offered the chance to work as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan is life is changed forever. His story is so compelling and has such on an impact on the family and it’s one of the reasons I became so entranced and ultimately obsessed with the series.
Then there’s Christian the other son and black sheep of the family because he didn’t show interest in the family line of work. Christian is the person who sees his Johannes for the man he really is. The pair have a passive-aggressive dynamic with one tolerating the other to prevent the family from splitting. Like everyone in the series, the Christian we meet at the start of the series is unrecognisable from the person he’s become by the end. Initially, he appears to have inherited his father’s sense of entitlement and his never-ending cup of self-confidence as he starts a business with best friend Mark. A friendship which is quickly put under strain when Mark discovers Christian has cheated on his business exam. His friendship with Mark and their subsequent falling out is the catalyst for Christian’s story. It’s a fascinating ‘journey’ (I hate that phrase, I can only apologise) that I’d never seen tackled on screen before. That’s the brilliance of the series. There are four stories going on, each as an engrossing and thought-provoking as each other with each one strong enough to carry a series of their own, but the fact it’s going on within one fascinating and complex family dynamic makes it even more special.
Much like he did with his political drama Borgen, Price has delivered another character-driven drama that put its characters is fascinating situations and asks important questions of its audience. A second series has already aired in Denmark and I can’t wait for that to pop up. I truly fell under the spell of this series. It stands next to the best of the Nordic offerings and it will stick with me for a long long time. I could talk about it for ages, it’s many twists and the complexities of its characters but I want you to have the same viewing experience I did: knowing only the basic building blocks of the series. Watch it, let it wash over you, you’ll feel better for it.
Ride Upon the Storm is on Walter Presents on All 4 now.