KATLA (2021, Netflix) is an Icelandic sci-fi drama about a small town depopulated and devastated by the previous year’s eruption of the Katla volcano. The eight-part series is about loss, second chances, and redemption. I quite liked it, mainly for its likeable characters and its brooding, almost apocalyptic atmosphere.
Vik was once a thriving seaside town near the volcana Katla, but its eruption the previous year, which is still active, resulted in most of it being evacuated and off limits to visitors. On the glacier, a scientific team studies the eruption. In the town, a skeleton crew of people watch over the place and provide emergency services. When a woman appears on the glacier covered in ash, they take her to a clinic, where she appears to be a woman who once lived in the town 15 years ago… Soon, more people come from the volcano’s ash.
Are they real? Do they have a purpose? And what created them? These are the mysteries explored by KATLA.
This show was enjoyable for me, largely because I connected with the people in it, but honestly mostly because life in the town in the shadow of an active volcano is so engaging. The volcano looms over the beautiful if haunting landscape. Everything is iced over, ash covers the town, you can simply take abandoned cars, and the buildings are largely abandoned and empty of people. It’s fairly apocalyptic, giving the setting an almost ghost town vibe, a story you could easily imagine in the Old West as much as modern Iceland.
The characters are for the large part engaging, though one or two are pretty frustrating, and they react to what’s happening to them with a terrific mix of realism and drama. It’s a show that takes its sci-fi premise very seriously, an approach that pays off. Those who like all the answers laid out for them may be a little frustrated by the end, though I thought it was handled well, particularly one plot line conclusion that was actually fairly shocking.
Check it out if you dig foreign sci-fi, particularly if you’re looking for something a little philosophical and strange.