Occupied With Dread

Occupied With Dread

Deep state is a term the Norwegians understand well as they demonstrate its true potential on TV.

Occupied, a Norwegian tv show, simmers with dread like a once dormant volcano. There are spits and spats throughout the show that are nothing more than the cauldron brewing. Those moments of violence however destructive are nothing compared to the foreshadowed anarchy the series promises.

Even now, weeks after having finished the first season, I can feel the tension Occupied has wound into its premise just waiting to be unleashed. Maybe it's because like the show I live in a country on the border with Russia, a country that is continually perceived as a literal bear not to be awoken and always kept at bay. But I do attribute that feeling largely to the creators’ ability to suffuse the show with a reasonable level of realism.

It doesn't hurt that like all good speculative stories the show reflects reality and our is prescient enough to be thematically relevant to the times. And Occupied is just that. Before Erdogan of Turkey or Trump of the United States started on about a deep state, Occupied gave us a clear look at what it means.

Of course Occupied did so in the name of independence, freedom and sovereignty. Whereas Erdogan and Trump bandy about the term to create a bogeyman. The show demonstrates the power and the need for resistance and rebellion. Real politicians are instead creating fear.

Courtesy of the Washington Post

Courtesy of the Washington Post

The danger in the show is ever-present, it's the occupation however mundane of Norway by Russia. There is no such occupation in Turkey or the US, and that's where the danger lies. Claims of a deep state are a matter of faith - one cannot prove that the deep state does not exist just as one cannot prove that god doesn't exist because one can always claim anything as proof of its existence. In Occupied the characters know the Russians are in Norway. In reality we don't know who is supposed to be a part of the deep state in either the US or Turkey.

To state there is a deep state is to brand any opposition, any difficulties faced in implementing policies or change with a hot iron. It forever mars. And the ease at which a politician like Erdogan or Trump can wield it is what is truly scary. Anyone who disagrees, voices a differing opinion or simply fails to fall in line fast enough can be branded as a member of the deep state. No further proof is necessary. Even if they aren’t occupied by a foreign force like in the TV show.

Occupied demonstrates how such a deep state could operate. And why one would want such an entity to exist given such a Russian occupation. What makes the dread so palpable is how normal everything is when Russian agents are operating with immunity on Norwegian soil, and how powerless the Norwegian authorities are to act overtly. Little changes for the public even as the tension increases over the course of the first season.

But surely they cannot remain so oblivious to the situation within their own country given the setup for the second season of Occupied. Unless of course they are watching something as gripping...

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