“Asa” merges the past with the present as old weirdnesses overlap new ones in another slow, mysterious chapter.
This recap of Netflix’s Katla season 1, episode 2, “Asa”, contains spoilers.
I don’t recall the last show I watched that didn’t include a flashback, so it stands to reason that Katla episode 2 opens with one. It’s brief, though, giving a glimpse into the earliest moments of Katla’s eruption, which is fitting since it also includes Asa’s initial disappearance, and the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode revealed Asa to be alive — though not necessarily well. Asa is covered in the same layer of ash and clay as Gunhild was. She’s similarly hypothermic and has a similarly selective memory. She recalls being on the glacier on the snowmobiles, trying to clear out tourists — this is what we saw in the opening flashback — and someone injecting her with a hypodermic needle, although that might have been when she got back to the hospital. Is this a criminal case? Has someone been holding her and Gunhild captive this entire time?
“Asa” isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. It’s full of somber scenes set to choral music; Grima bathing in dirty water, her mother being swept out to sea, a horse distressedly writhing on the beach. But that isn’t to say there are no developments at all. Gunhild, it turns out, is pregnant, which she is told just as the older Gunhild arrives in Vik. This is all interspersed with more worrying readings from the volcano. In light of all this obvious weirdness, it’s hard to buy into the whole kidnapping theory, which seems far too mundane. Bergrun at the Hotel Vik recognizes the older Gunhild when she checks in there, but she’s suspiciously cagey.
There’s a clear theme in Katla episode 2 of Vik no longer being the same as anyone left it. Gunhild’s conversation with Bergrun is to that effect, and Asa questions Thor about her memorial. Both Gunhilds meet and the older version is very concerned to hear that the younger is apparently pregnant with Thor’s child. Asa visits her own memorial. The past is confronting the present quite literally in all these instances. The same can be said of the older Gunhild meeting with Thor at his farm. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in 20 years. He’s shocked to learn that he might be the father of younger Gunhild’s child, but it seems obvious at this point that there’s some element of time travel occurring here.
Bergrun tells Gisli’s wife during a reading about an earlier eruption of Katla that apparently caused the same phenomenon of people disappearing and then reappearing years later. Again, past meets present; old meets new; cycles repeat. The local wildlife seems equally, ominously prominent. Squawking black birds and shivering, mangy sheep never seem far away from local weirdnesses. Katla season 1, episode 2 even recycles the first episode’s cliffhanger when Darri finds his dead son suddenly alive, once again covered in ash and clay.