Chosen is imperfect, but it’s a breezy, genre-blending coming-of-age tale worth a quick binge.
This review of Chosen Season 1 is spoiler-free.
Coming-of-age teen dramas have an alchemical relationship with Netflix, the transmutation of narrative lead into viewership gold. “It’s a teen drama, but…” must lead so many pitch meetings at the streaming giant that it’s a wonder anything else gets made. Chosen is a teen drama, but also a small-town sci-fi mystery. See how easy that was? Your interest is already piqued, and I haven’t even told you about the aliens yet.
That doesn’t constitute a spoiler, since the show, despite a laborious first episode, can’t wait to unravel a thoroughly bonkers conspiracy at the heart of Middelbo, a no-account Danish shipping town that fell on bad fortunes and was rejuvenated by the sudden crash-landing of a meteor 17 years prior. Since then, Middelbo has been a tourist hotspot. But determined outsider Emma (Malaika Berenth Mosendane) believes something is amiss, and before long she has fallen in with several similarly aged outcasts who think so too.
Finding out what’s going on with the town is, for these kids, an analogy for finding out what’s going on with themselves. Are they happy with their little lives in this tiny place, or do they want more? Are they okay being loners, or do they want healthy companionship? What might that companionship look like? And so on, and so forth.
The sci-fi genre has always been a way to mirror or comment on real-life issues, and Chosen isn’t any different. A story about extra-terrestrial imposters is threaded with ideas about identity and belonging, and a young girl who doesn’t know who she wants to be, or even who she wants to sleep with, is an ideal way to make that story’s points. Emma soon meets and befriends others in similar predicaments, from 99% vampire Marie (Andre Heick Gadeberg) to the obsessive Mads (Albert Rudbeck Lindthardt) and the impulsive love interest Frederik (Andreas Dittmer). They make an interesting enough gang to sustain six breezy episodes, but they’re not what’ll keep you invested – that would be the violence and mystery stemming from the sci-fi elements, introduced in the second episode by a creepy biology teacher (Henrik Prip) and only gathering steam from there.
This is also, by the way, a very nice-looking show. It manages to sneak strong color into the dour industrial backdrop and frames some nicely-designed otherworldly elements to maximize their weirdness. There’s some surprising violence, a helping of foul language, and some sex on the agenda too – this is a show about teenagers, but it doesn’t always feel especially tame, which is a welcome break from edgeless young-adult entertainment that presumes young-adult viewers can’t handle grown-up material.
After last year’s black comedy Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes, Denmark is putting more points on the board with Chosen. It’s imperfect, but it’s a watchable, genre-bending small-town mystery that’s worth a binge.