“One problem at a time.” It’s an oft-repeated line from Into the Night, a new Belgian original series featuring French and English-speaking characters, based on a Polish novel The Old Axolotl. There are way too many problems for the main characters to deal with. What if the earth’s primary source of nourishment turns into its ultimate threat? The six main characters, who are about to embark on their nighttime flight, are told that the sun has been suddenly killing off people on continents where it is not night. Panic and chaos ensue.
The messenger of the bad news is an Italian army officer who forces his way into a plane wielding a machine gun. In a different film or series, he would be the dreaded terrorist with a demand. But this man simply wants to survive. He claims to know about the disturbing cosmic event. But Is he telling the truth? Is he really who he says he is? What if he has any other intention? You’ll have to wait until the finale to know that.
But what about the other passengers? Everyone is going through something: A young woman who pondered suicide after her husband’s untimely demise; a mother who hopes to be in Moscow for her sick son’s surgery; a pilot who has to fly while enduring a bullet injury; and a tough-looking gangster who may have a softer side to him. One of the impressive qualities of the series is how it manages to get a lot done in very little time. All the episodes are timed below 40 mins.
The pulse-quickening drama often comes at the expense of character development, and this may seem inadequate for those looking for the incredible depth of a Breaking Bad or an Ozark. But the talented cast manages to sell their characters convincingly. Each episode is named after a character, and we get a brief background of that individual in that episode. Its method of character revelation evokes
the very popular LOST, which also told a similar story. That show was influenced by the work of Stephen King, and one can find the same influence here too.Despite the abundance of anxiety-inducing scenarios, nothing in Into the Night seems forced or incoherent. Being a science fiction tale, it may have a loophole or two—it would be surprising if there aren’t any —but when everything is moving at a such a breakneck speed and each cliffhanger gets us reaching for the next episode, does it really matter?
In addition to combining two different sub-categories of the disaster genre, it also occasionally ventures into Agatha Christie territory, especially when it’s revealed that three of the passengers are murderers. Occasionally, a few characters’ religious differences and racist mentality threatens to play spoilsport. And the stakes are further raised when it is learned that something is happening to their food and fuel.
However, no matter how many anxiety-inducing scenarios it throws at us (you can find at least one in each episode), there is an oddly comforting quality about it. The whole time I was thinking: Man, I wouldn’t want to be caught in that situation. It’s incredible how this show establishes a rhythm in its first episode and maintains it until the finale. Showrunner Jason George seems to have picked up some valuable lessons from his work on Narcos.
I finished Into the Night in one sitting, which is something I can’t say for even the shows I regard very highly. By this, I don’t mean it’s the greatest thing ever written. What I mean is if you’re looking for instant ‘airport novel’ thrills, then Into the Night should satisfy you plenty.
Series: Into the Night (Season 1)
Creator: Jason George
Starring: Jan Bijvoet, Nabil Mallat, Pauline Etienne, Laurent Capelluto, Stéfano Cassetti
Streaming on: Netflix