Stateless Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – what happened in “The Circumstances in Which They Come”?

By Daniel Hart
Published: July 8, 2020 (Last updated: November 24, 2023)
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Netflix limited series Stateless episode 1 - The Circumstances in Which They Come


Episode 1 was written to demonstrate how easy it is to become stateless and in a precarious position.

This recap of Netflix limited series Stateless Season 1 Episode 1, “The Circumstances in Which They Come” contains spoilers.

Access all the episode recaps.

How does Stateless episode 1, “The Circumstances in Which They Come” open?

Episode 1 was written to demonstrate how easy it is to become stateless and in a precarious position. It’s a good opener to the series. Episode 1 opens up with a woman running through desert land, absolutely breathless. It then flits to the same woman working for a flight company, strutting through the airport with her suitcase — she’s called Sofie. She visits her family for Christmas — she travelled from Dubai. Sofie clearly has tension with her mother who dismisses her travel stories at Christmas dinner. In the kitchen, Sofie’s mother tells Sofie that all the flying takes a toll and Sofie shuts her down. This story becomes clearer later in the chapter as to the reasons why this relationship appears fractured.

Getting to Australia

We are then introduced to a man trying to find a place to sleep for his family. The man is called Ameer and he and his family are trying to get to Australia. In the middle of the night, they join a group of people for a briefing. The man at the front discusses how they will get on the boat — it’s suggested that they will get a knock in the middle of the night and they will be transported to a boat.

Escaping through the bathroom window

Back at the Christmas dinner, Sofie is struggling to be at home and she heads into the bathroom to take a few deep breaths. Her sister Margot checks up on her but Sofie has escaped through the window.

Sofie gets in a car and drives off, drinking at the wheel. Sofie heads to a dance night group led by people called Pat and Gordon who come across as spiritual and inspirational. The group is called GOPA and it’s like a theatre dance group. Gordon gives a speech about being the “perfect you” and it impacts her. Gordon talks about how we make our own prisons that stop us from being loved and fulfilling their destinies. She’s clearly inspired by Gordon. Sofie continues attending the dance sessions. Meanwhile, one of Ameer’s daughters has a fever — they still haven’t gone on the boat yet so this is concerning for the family.

Get a new job

While out with his baby, Cam joins his friend for drinks with his colleagues — they work at an immigration facility and they suggest that Cam takes a job at the detention center. It’s clear in this scene how much disrespect they have for the people who end up at the facility and Cam seems uncomfortable with the conversation. Episode 1 demonstrates how an abuse of power can easily be formed in these scenarios against refugees and immigrants.

Be who you want to be

At the midway point of Stateless episode 1, “The Circumstances in Which They Come”, Sofie sits with Pat and Gordon and he wants to get out all the negative energy. She tells her story of when she was 13 years old at an ice skating competition and her sister Margot got her exam results on the same day — she won the grand final but no-one attended as her parents celebrated with Margot. Sofie sobs and admits her parents want her to be like her sister. Gordon and Pat tell her not to be the person she doesn’t want to be — “Here you can be whatever you want to be”.

A lead role

The next day at GOPA, Sofie is given a lead role and she’s excited but then her sister Margot pays a visit. Margot is wondering why Sofie isn’t returning her calls and attending a dance studio for $400 a week. Margot thinks she is being childish and walks off and Sofie shouts after Margot saying she’s never taken a risk in her life — “You’re dead inside and when I’m around you I feel dead inside too”.

Ameer and her family are packing for the boat after they get the knock on the door. Ameer notices that Sadiqa, one of the daughters, is missing, but they find her in the pool. On the bus, the leader of the group tells all the families to remove their identities and arrive as a refugee. The leader then takes all their passports and drops them off but there is no boat — they are then chased off by guards. They were scammed and episode 1 demonstrates how people in these situations can be easily taken advantage of — these are desperate scenarios and it’s chilling to see this in narrative form.

Sofie’s stage fright

When Sofie arrives at the airport, her manager is annoyed that she’s late for work and he tells her that HR has received complaints about dancing on the plane. Sofie quits her job and tells GOPA that she’s fully committed to doing her lead role and she’ll find a way to pay the weekly fee. Pat tells her it isn’t all about the money and she has a meeting in a locked room with Gordon for what she believes is a meditation session. Gordon tells her she has to be completely vulnerable and it’s obvious that she’s sexually assaulting her.

It then flits to the stage show she is the lead dancer for. As Sofie dances, she starts crying. Gordon stops the dance and starts embarrassing Sofie in front of the audience, calling her incapable and bringing dirty negative energy and then kicks her out. Sofie walks out devastated. Pat’s face also signifies that she is abused as part of this group as well — this scene was evidence of systematic abuse within the dance group.

Sofie runs through the town and ends up in a police cell. Margot arrives to pick her up. Sofie tells Margot that she’s a good dancer and that she was going to win the Trophy of Transformation. Margot suggests that she sees a doctor.

How does Stateless episode 1, “The Circumstances in Which They Come” end?

Ameer walks through a village looking for food and water for his daughter who is getting sicker. His wife asks him to get the money back as his daughter has malaria and she will not survive. Ameer grabs a knife from one of the markets and finds the man who stole his money and tells the group he is talking to that he’s a crook. Ameer and a few men take his money.

Margot tells her mother that Sofie is very vulnerable. The mother wonders why she can’t look after herself. Sofie overhears the conversation and flees the house and ends up in the sea.

Ameer sends his family on a boat to Australia but before he can get on, he is captured.

Episode 1 ends with Cam driven into the detention facility for immigration and he is briefed — he decided to take a job. He is told that immigrants must keep their dignity. Sofie ends up at the detention facility and is going by the name Evie.

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