The Russians did it!

On Wednesday night, as Stew and I settled in for another dose of the serial Occupied, a terrific thriller on Netflix, something very odd happened. The critically acclaimed Norwegian-produced show that by now had us hooked, disappeared from the Netflix streaming menu with no warning or explanation. Fans of the show are already flapping their wings on the internet. 

Stew, my personal electronic trouble-shooter, tried some of his usual solutions such as randomly plugging and unplugging every wire in the TV cabinet, turning the TV set on and off, cursing our internet provider and Mexican Netflix, and came close to the ultimate solution: punching the TV screen. 

I smell some rotten lutefisk here. As a matter of fact, I suspect Russia, who is not portrayed very favorably on the show, may have lobbied Netflix to put the kibosh on the show. My suspicions rest on thin evidence, but so do most of the plots swirling around on the internet these days. So read on. 

Occupied is the most expensive TV show ever produced in Norway (about $11 million), and its story line is as convoluted as a bowl of spaghetti. The subtitled dialogue is mostly Norwegian, but with some Russian, English and French conversations thrown in for added spice. Oi vey.

The plot imagines a “soft glove” Russian invasion of Norway—with the help of the European Union—over its decision to shut down its enormous oil production, on account of its commitment to cleaner energy and the threat of an imminent climate crisis. 

Russia’s pressure on Norway is not a Hungary-style tanks-and-guns operation but a gradual throttling and undermining of the country’s political system.  

The story, set on the present day, at first sounds preposterous but don’t change the channel, because soon it soon becomes very plausible, even frightening. 

On the one hand, Russia has a history of ruthlessly bullying its neighbors, most recently Ukraine. And under President Vlad Putin, nothing is off the table. To silence opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year, for example, Russian agents sprinkled the lethal agent Novichok in his underwear. As Ina Garten would say: How weird is that?

Also, keep in mind that Norwegians can be stubborn, independent and no pushover even against adversaries as formidable as Russia. They can be weirdly counterintuitive too: For example, despite its small size (pop. 5.2 million), Norway is one of the world’s largest producers of oil, yet also an avid consumers of electric vehicles and a leader in the environmental movement for renewable energy sources to fight climate change. It’s not inconceivable Norway would shut down oil production for the sake of saving the world from a climate catastrophe. 

Norwegian macho man Hans Martin Djupvik: Who needs James Bond?

At some junctures, the actions of some Norwegian leaders too eager to defuse an all-out war with Russia might evoke memories of Quisling, who headed a puppet regime on behalf of the Germans during World War II. 

The Russian ambassador in Oslo, Irina Sidorova, an unsmiling robotic apparatchik, seems genuinely trying to work with the Norwegians to keep the volatile situation from blowing up.  

By the end of the second season all hell has broken loose. Norway’s prime minister, Jesper Berg, leaves the country and attempts to form a government in exile. The new prime minister, an attractive redhead who at one time was Berg’s lover, is murdered at a triumphal rally in Oslo to celebrate Berg’s return to Norway. 

And in a most unexpected twist, the Russian ambassador turns out to be a lesbian having a torrid romance with a younger woman. 

At this moment of peak dramatic entropy, Netflix cruelly pulled the plug and left viewers stranded. 

When the show premiered in 2017, the Russian embassy in Oslo issued an official protest: “It is certainly regretful that in the year when the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War is celebrated, the series’s creators decided to scare Norwegian viewers with the non-existing threat from the East in the worst of Cold War traditions.”

On January 2020, Netflix also abruptly suspended the series because of “technical difficulties,” but the series returned after a hiatus.  

I don’t trust the Russians or Netflix. For all I know, the Russians might have contacted their orange-haired amigo, now ensconced at Mar-a-Loco, to put the touch on some Republican higher-up at Netflix.  

It all makes some sense, doesn’t it? I does, at least to me. 

And hey, in an age when someone claims that the Covid vaccine contains a microchip that will allow Bill Gates to track recipients, or something like that—and tens of thousands of Americans believe it—my theory is not that far-fetched after all. 

I say the Russians killed my favorite show on Netflix and Donald Trump had something to do with it. I’ll let other enraged fans of Occupied fill in the gaps in my plot line. 

Let the hubbub begin. 


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