Story anthologies seem to work very well – they have done so in the past, and continue to do so. Usually, it’s because they don’t require much time to get into, and won’t need to watch or read a recap in case you’ve paused midway through a season for very long. Each episode deals with a different premise, topic and/or set of characters, and none of these elements will most likely repeat at any later point in the season. The Twilight Zone, in all its reboots, has been a popular such show, but the king of the genre during the past decade has undoubtedly been Black Mirror. With a similar idea in mind comes Bloodride, a Norwegian Netflix series that promises to deliver plot twist after plot twist.
Just to emphasise the fact that each episode contains some element of surprise, the very description of the show, posted on Netflix, mentions the fact that each episode will come with a twist. The need to point this out felt a bit off to me, but then again, coming with a unique logline for an anthology series is perhaps not so easy. So, I got over this slightly iffy decision, and started to watch it. What I immediately liked was the intro scene before each episode starts: it offers a few snapshots of passengers within a slighly gloomy bus in the middle of nowhere. Once you’ve watched at least two of the episodes, you’ll realise that all these passengers are characters from the various episodes – some you’ve already seen, others you will see at a later point. It’s a nice decision that seeks to thematically link all the various stories on display, and gives a brief sneak peek into what may come next.
Moving on to the episodes themselves, I would say the quality averages out somewhere at ok-ish. There’s neither a masterpiece nor an unwatchable episode in there, but the quality varies quite a bit. While I partly understand the decision to include what is arguably the best episode as the first one, it also means that the viewing experience only goes downhill from then on. And with the last two episodes being, in my opinion at least, the poorest, Bloodride doesn’t exactly make a dignified exit.
However, most of the episodes do an acceptable job at keeping the viewers entertained, and at delivering the plot twist. As far as the latter go, some are pretty good, but most are rather predictable, especially if you’ve watched similar stuff before – I correctly guessed 4 of the 6 twists, and partly guessed another one. Furthermore, the construction of a couple of episodes is smartly structured, but in other cases, it simply seems that they were reverse-engineered from the plot twist backwards. The weakest episode (The Old School) goes in a direction where I had hoped it wouldn’t go – and thankfully none of the others do – and also seems oblivious to the story arcs it keeps opening and leaves them hanging in the air. A bit more polish as far as the script is concern would have delivered more passable results in some situations.
Bloodride does get a number of things right, whether it’s the slighly offbeat atmosphere, the fresh setting and Norwegian language, or its general ability to entertain, even during its weaker moments. With an average episode duration of 28 minutes, it’s not particularly difficult to start watching the season in the same time as someone watching The Irishman, and still finish earlier. Would I recommend it? Not wholeheartedly, no. But does it make for an entertaining watch for a couple of evenings when you sit down to watch something you can easily get into, but would like to go to bed within 30 minutes? Yes, it does.