In Review: The Barrier (S1-Ep 1) – Another World

"Supposedly installed to ensure stability, military dictatorships are the new normal . . ."

Synopsis: World War III took place in 2025. As a result of it already scarce resources (fuel, electricity, etc.) were decimated. The environment was also devastated, leaving a bare and broken world. Now, twenty years later in 2045, a new order has risen. Supposedly installed to ensure stability, military dictatorships are the new normal . . .

 

The Story

Julia (Ilana Turner) and her identical twin sister, Sara, were separated as children. The reasons and circumstances aren’t fully revealed. All that’s shown is soldiers breaking into their house and their parents being taken. This is in Madrid 2025, in the immediate aftermath of WWIII.

Most of this initial episode takes place in 2045. We see Julia now as an adult. She is working as a servant in a brothel (not as a sex worker). She sees what appears to be a young teenage girl who has presumably been raped by one of the brothel’s customers (who turns out to be a high-ranking government/militia powerful figure of influence). Julia attempts to take the girl to safety, or at least away from the brothel. The customer fights her. She stabs him with a piece of glass and then escapes. This shows so much of the new way of life, as now, it’s a struggle for survival, with previous law and order broken down. It does this realistically and in a way that explores themes scarily close to home right now.

Hugo (Jamison Jones) is the mother of Marta (Lisbeth Andresen) and is on the way to the Spanish capital, Madrid. Marta believes her mother is coming soon, but the truth is she died from some unknown virus. As he is unemployed, he has few rights in the current regime. His worth is absolutely reduced to that of economic value. because of this, his daughter is taken away to a place she’ll be looked after . . . Of course, that isn’t what’s going on at all. Little is revealed, but the atmosphere screams out she’s far from safe. He must get a job, anything, to try and be allowed to be reunited.  As it turns out, Julia is Marta’s auntie and the sister in law of Hugo. Her mother is Emilia (Dagmar Dreke). She still has a friendship with a government minister, Luis (Achim Buch). She tries to get him to help, and he agrees to try and get Hugo a job, and therefore move him closer to reuniting with Marta.

By the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the woman Hugo will be working for is in charge at the facility housing Marta and other children. This really works to underpin everything and sets up a great plot. The show looks incredible, stark, and grey. The feel of it is so realistic and the world it is set in assumes that because of environmental breakdown and an end to mass scale sanitation, the disease has spread. The current world situation really hits home and you really feel involved and invested in this show, immediately.

 

Acting and Characters

It’s clear that this show is going for a character-driven plot. No super technology or absolute heroics, just normal people. The acting is top-notch and really feasible. Seeing many unknown actors (as this is a Spanish show) only helps to add to the atmosphere. Jamison Jones’ Hugo is absolutely convincing as the father who has had their child taken. His emotional outburst must be controlled if he has to have any chance of getting Marta back. This scene is harrowing to see, and he makes it all the more powerful with his delivery.

Julia’s scene when she fights the man who is much larger than her is gritty and violent. There’s no heroics, just her doing what she has to do. What’s great is that you get the feeling that this isn’t the first time she’s had to do this. Ilana Turner really seems to know the character and have gotten into the role right from the off. You know that she’s one of the good people, as the act has meant she is well and truly in danger. A great way to portray someone who acts out of humanity, despite the potentially dire consequences.

Lisbeth Andresen is inspirational as a young actor. She’s so believable and allows viewers to see the world of this show through the eyes of a child. She accepts everything that is with ease, and that’s frightening to see. She shows how resilient children are, and how they simply don’t miss what they’ve never known.

CGI & Action

 

The setting and the costume/make-up design is what makes this show so strong. The world looks bleak and the people are made to seem older, and the fact their lives have been hard is obvious. This is really well thought out. The plain clothing and lack of cosmetics on show, the dirt in peoples’ faces and even the broken look in their eyes really come through. This is an intelligent show that paints a world similar to the one in Children of Men, or The Road. 

The fight scene and the costumes of the Spanish authorities were particularly impressive. No fancy theatrical stunts or over the top designs. Everything is so understated and that’s why it’s gritty. This looks like a world that has collapsed. Even the lack of trees and a general sense of doom are loudly sensed, because of their absence. It may look like this was easy to create, but it’s obvious that a very specific idea has been aimed for. It’s been attained and looks terrifying due to it being so close to what we all know, but yet so far from it too. That’s the genius of it. The weaponry is the guns that we have today. Seeing how quick those who wield them are to use it is what’s the scary part. The psychology of the show is expressed by the way it has been made to look. It’s smart and sparse, terrifying and taut.

Overall (including Incidental Music)

There was nothing to firmly put this show in the realm of sci-fi. Yet, that’s what we think of it as. As this was only episode one there may yet be technologies that have come available that are used. The children being taken strongly suggested that they may well what part of what makes it sci-fi. We know they’re being experimented on, just not to what extent and why. It was refreshing seeing a show that didn’t rely on a central plot device to work, from the off. The circumstances are the plot. Watching the show felt eerily relatable at times. Whilst we’re currently not living this way, the reality of it didn’t seem only the stuff of speculative fiction. The themes of the show were strong and that made for compelling viewing. Those that are natives were treated like immigrants and asylum seekers are today. Turning the tables like this was a fantastic way of exploring how privilege and fortune are only ever really down to circumstances. From this theme stems others, like poverty, desperation, and distrust of others.

The music of the show was also understated and weaved in flawlessly. The instrumental pieces added to the atmosphere. Again, a great choice to keep the show’s tone as understated. Not using known songs or ones from pop culture kept the realism going. When the children sang the hymn it really hit home how totalitarian it was. Spain was under a Fascist dictatorship into the 1970s, which many viewers may not know, or have forgotten. Using this history is powerful and lets people see a story that is written by those who clearly haven’t forgotten. With this wonderful first episode under its belt, this is a really promising start. A show for grown-ups that’s smart, character-driven and visually innovative. Great stuff. After “The Boys” this is the new priority for Friday’s, as new episodes drop weekly. We’ll be on hand to review them and very much look forward to it.

 

 

 

9.5
In Review: The Barrier (S1-Ep 1) - Another World
  • Story
    9.7
  • Acting
    9.1
  • CGI&Action
    9.2
  • Incidental Music & Overall
    9.8
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