I’m not a connoisseur of science-fiction and fantasy; I’m a glutton. Connoisseurs consume only the finest examples of a product. Gluttons will take whatever and as much as they can get. That’s how I consume sci-fi/fantasy. If it has dragons or spaceships or robots, I’ll probably find it at least somewhat entertaining. Remember the horrible Eragon movie based on the also horrible Eragon book? I enjoyed them both. I watch so much foreign science-fiction on Netflix that I might pick up a little Turkish before too long. Which brings me to Tribes of Europa on Netflix. The show is actually pretty good, but it’s also predictable.
If you’re also a big sci-fi fan, you can probably identify the tropes. Tropes get something of a bad rap, but they provide a stability and predictability to fiction. Subverting them can be exciting because they’re so popular. Bran Stark, the young noble who dreams of becoming a knight, falling out of a window and being paralyzed is an example of the successful subversion of a fantasy trope. Everything from seasons seven and eight of Game of Thrones is an example of trying way too hard to subvert expectations with no real reason. I like chicken tikka masala a lot, but if I order a cheeseburger and get tikka masala, I’m going to be at least a little annoyed.
Tribes of Europa delivers what you ordered.
The story takes place in 2074 after a catastrophe destroyed Europe, and presumably the whole world, in 2029. (Incidentally, that’s the year Kyle Reese travels back in time to save Sarah Connor from a terminator. I choose to believe they’re related.) After the catastrophe destroyed Europe, society devolved into tribal micro-states. I found myself thinking that 45 years wasn’t enough time for all of society to completely devolve and entirely new societies with new traditions to have formed so fully. However, I believe it’s set only 45 years after “Black December” so that older characters pining for the lost Europe can still reasonably expect to restore society.
The story follows three siblings from the Origines, a peaceful forest tribe. As with all good fantasy, they go on a terrifying quest through hostile territories, meeting a host of strange societies. The Crows, BDSM euro-punk types, are the bad guys. They wear black latex, enslave other tribes, and fight in a death arena. It’s all pretty standard post-apocalyptic bad guy fare. There is a military state that promises a return to civility with the might of arms. Lastly, there’s a mysterious macguffin that can solve all of their problems.
If this sounds like Lord of the Rings, a few seasons of Game of Thrones, or the forgettable Terminator with Christian Bale, that’s because it is. At no point while watching the six episodes of Tribes of Europa did I think “wow, I haven’t seen that before.” This is purely comfort food for a scifi/fantasy glutton. If you are a critical viewer who only likes the most thoughtful science-fiction, this one might not be for you. If you’re just looking for six hours to spend on something that you don’t have to think about too much, this is your series.
As is to be expected, it really picks up at episode four. Season one ends on three cliffhangers, but it feels safe to assume it will be picked up for another season.