Tribes of Europa, from the producers of Dark, is an action-packed, surprisingly heartfelt, at times funny, and bizarrely sexual apocalypse story.
Netflix’s latest series, Tribes of Europa, is a fantastically realistic look at a bombed-out future world. What began as a cathartic thought exercise following the 2016 Brexit vote, Philip Koch developed a dynamic world where anything is possible. It feels plausible and not too far removed from our reality. That relatability is what allows the characters and their stories to shine. Part action sci-fi thriller, BDSM free for all, blood-splattered political drama, and buddy caper, Tribes Of Europa has it all.
In 2047 following a world-ending disaster, the countries of Europe have been destroyed, leaving people tribes of communities. There are the Origines, a passive group of people who believe technology brought about the end of the world. The Crows are a violent tribe of warriors led by a dictatorial hierarchy. The only thing they love more than killing is having wild sex. As brutal as they seem, they live by a fiercely rigid moral code that demands honesty. Additionally, the Crimson Republic is the last remnant of a militarized political system, and like any government, they aren’t afraid to get blood on their hands and lie. Lastly, the Atlantians are a group that largely survived the cataclysmic event unscathed. These elusive people have amazing technology and remain shrouded in mystery.
Tribes of Europa follows three siblings of the Origines tribe separated and forced to forge their own path in three very different tribes. Their fight for their survival and the fate of Europa brings each of them into dangerous situations and compels them to do things they never thought possible. All three have an essential role to play, but Elja may be the most vital. A pilot who crashes at the beginning of the series gave Elja an Atlantian cube. He made him promise to find Atlantia and return it. It holds information vital to save humanity. The Crimson Republic finds a very injured Liv(Henriette Confurius) and offers to help. Liv’s sole purpose is to find the Crows and rescue her family. She must navigate the deception that comes with political intrigue while Kiana finds himself a plaything for a Crow leader.
The set design by Julian R. Wagner is stunning. This is a richly layered place of filth, decay, and ornate beauty peeking out from the dust and dirt. Locations included Croatia’s Tito-government museum for the Yugoslavian resistance during World War II as the Crimson Republic’s headquarters, the overhead railway at Möckernbrücke, and the Crows’ fighting arena was a once flooded theater in Prague. These are places you won’t soon forget yet will instantly recognize. The Crows’ capitol is distinctly Berlin, and yet one step removed.
The costume design by Thomas Oláh is indulgent and spectacular, especially with regard to the Crows costuming, which could easily become cartoonish. Cinematography by Christian Rein utilizing a “radical wide-angle” approach makes the most of unusual sets and lush natural settings. By giving the viewer so much to see, everything looks both alien and familiar at the same time. Layering textures and tones, make the clothing feel organic to the tribes and the environments. If a video game came to life you couldn’t do better.
Kiano, Emilio Sakraya, who you last saw in Warrior Nun, is incredibly soulful amid horrific savageness. He forms a close relationship with Varvara, played by Melika Foroutan, and their journey is easily the most complex of the series. Between the brutality, there is genuine tenderness. That view of the Crows society’s inner workings provides nuance to what could have been a one-dimensional group. If the barbarians from Mad Max were given a backstory and allowed to have feelings, you would come close to the Crows. They are hedonistic and ruled by the desire to dominate, and yet they adhere to a strict code of ethics. The first season hints at Varvara’s past. That glimpse is enough to intrigue. That’s the mark of the best writing. You never stop wanting more.
The hilarious relationship between Elja(David Ali Rashed) and Moses, Dark’s bad boy Ulrich, Oliver Masucci is a real standout. They are a winsome pair that manages to be both comic relief and the tender heart of the series. Like the best kid hero movies from the 80s, Elja is plucky and endearing, and Moses is a reluctant protector. They are enjoyable to watch, and their arc, especially in the final two episodes, is a highlight of the season.
The series is decidedly German in feel yet global in scale. For all the bleak vistas and violent factions, it is optimistic. While Tribes of Europa isn’t Dark, it is ambitious and entertaining. It is an oddly more hopeful vision of a dystopian future. It represents a chance to start over. There are still good people trying to do good things and bad people trying to survive in this world. Scratch that; it isn’t all that different at all from the present. You can catch Tribes of Europa on Netflix on February 19th, 2021.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.