Tech

Netflix’s Tribes of Europa review: Games of Thrones, but with Brexit

Elja is given a strange cube in Tribes of Europa

Netflix

Tribes of Europa
Netflix, from 19 February

What would it take to completely destroy our society, and how long would it take? In Netflix’s series Tribes of Europa, the world as we know it has collapsed in a mere 45 years, following a catastrophe in 2029. Writer Philip Koch was inspired to write about the dissolution of Europe following the Brexit vote, and today’s viewers don’t have to look very far to see how much the world can change in a short space of time.

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Set in 2074, Tribes of Europa doesn’t give us a full explanation for how its post-apocalyptic world came to be, but alludes to a mysterious collapse of technology known as “Black December” that led to “Lights off and darkness. And that was it. Middle Ages.”

The series was produced by the German team behind the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, and Netflix’s first original German series, Dark. In this latest dystopian future, the world is divided into a number of distinct factions, or tribes, as referenced in the title.

We follow three young siblings – Kiano, Liv, and Elja – from the forest-dwelling Origine tribe, whose peaceful existence is disrupted when an advanced aircraft is shot from the sky above their village.

Power of the cube

Visiting the crash site, they quickly realize this isn’t technology from “the old world”, but something more modern. The ship’s ailing pilot reveals himself to be from the Atlantian tribe (the only one apparently unaffected by the technology blackout) and he hands a mysterious cube to the young Elja.

The cube holds an important message about coming danger, and Elja is entrusted to bring it to the pilot’s homeland to help them make sense of it. Lured by the promise of answers to his questions about Black December, Elja agrees, but it puts him in danger because the violent Crows tribe is also seeking the cube as a key to power, and will kill anyone who gets in their way.

As the lives of the Origines are threatened, older siblings Kiano and Liv are caught in the crossfire, setting them off on separate paths. Kiano and his father are captured by the Crows, while Liv escapes and tries to find her family by bargaining with another tribe, the militaristic Crimsons, who also seek the cube’s power

The idea of people vying for control of a mysterious powerful object isn’t hugely original, and we aren’t given many unexpected plot twists in the first three episodes, but fantastic world-building and hints of bigger, more exciting puzzles to solve make this a big-budget production that seems worth sticking with.

Technology nightmare

Halfway through the series, plenty of questions remain. How extensive was the historic technology blackout, and why are the otherwise villainous Crows somehow unable to lie?

Having a group of siblings pursuing separate quests in a hyper-violent world evokes Game of Thrones, and the show matches it in cinematic scope, with production designer Julian R. Wagner referencing Blade Runner and Children of Men, and creating an epic, gritty feel, especially in the cut-throat world of the Crows.

It might be a very apt time to release a Brexit-inspired show about the collapse of society. Not only are the effects of the UK’s exit from the European Union starting to become clear, but we are now also living in the shadow of a world-changing pandemic and leaning on technology more than ever.

As socially distanced lives in Europe mean a constant reliance on video calls, streaming and instant messaging to maintain a sense of normality, Tribes of Europa brings us a nightmare future – a world without technology.

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