Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Tribes of Europa feels like a heady blend of many different shows. There are elements of Children of Men, Apple TV+’s See, Netflix’s The Rain and 3% as well as The Shannara Chronicles and The 100. All of these influences are squeezed together into one compelling but disappointingly short-lived fantasy offering.
Gorgeous cinematography, interesting characters and a simple but effective plot line do well but the show is held back by formulaic dialogue and some weak world-building that leaves more questions at the end of its 6 episode run than it began with.
The information we do receive however, comes very early on in the series. A catastrophe in 2029 led to a mysterious global blackout, paving way for decades of chaos and anarchy to reign supreme. Or, as one character aptly tells us, “back to the Middle Ages.”
The old country lines are blurred, nations undone and instead countless micro-states pop up, aptly known as the Tribes. This preceding event is ominously known as Black December. Far away from the wars and blackout, our tale takes place in 2074, with four predominant tribes coming to the foreground.
The first of these is the one we follow for most of the show, with the Origines seemingly reverting back to being hunter/gatherers. A peaceful nation, they mainly get by without incident. So naturally, they’re the ones who find their lives turned upside down for the worst.
While out hunting, our three main protagonists, Kiano, Liv and Elja, all marvel at a ship that crash lands not far from their location. This ship belongs to the Atlantians, the fabled advanced tribe that hold an ancient artifact called the cube.
When Elja snatches this treasure up and takes off, the war-mongering, BDSM-loving tribe called the Crows, led by the Kapitan and his right-hand-woman Lord Varvara, intend to harness its power for themselves.
The Crows are depicted as the big-bad of the series, with a third tribe playing the neutral field in the middle called the Crimson Guards. These guys occupy the old-way of thinking, wanting to unite Europa once more but under one red banner.
This forms the basic history which isn’t really elaborated on much further for most of the series. German and English is used inter-changeably between different tribes while differing level of technology and weaponry isn’t fully explained. For example, one tribe seems to have all the lights switched back on while galivanting off on horseback instead of cars.
There are also some tribe-specific lore that’s brought up but never fully explained, including how the Crows are made out to be merciless killers but are unable to lie as a pact of honour. The cube serves as the McGuffin to get everything moving and late on, as this becomes more central to the plot, essentially turns into the tribal version of Doctor’s Who’s sonic screwdriver.
The main action in this first season essentially splits between three distinct plots. The first, and most important, is surprisingly the one with the biggest injection of humour. Elja takes off with the cube on a quest to find answers and the fabled ark that could save them all from an ever-present threat lurking in the East. Along the way though he comes across some colourful characters that may or may not be wholly honest in their endeavours.
Meanwhile, Kiano finds himself captured by the Crows and follows a pretty similar storyline to that seen in Gladiator, beginning as a slave and working his way up the ranks to become a free man. Liv meanwhile, stumbles upon the Crimson guards and spends most of her time in their camp. These three stories do work quite well together, with a focus that constantly shifts to the different tribes and their ideologies which helps to keep things feeling fresh.
Adding an extra dimension to all this is that aforementioned growing threat from the East but beyond a few teasing glimmers during episode 5, don’t expect much more than that. Tribes Of Europa is a show that’s banking on a second season and given how trigger-happy Netflix are with their cancellations, that’s never a good sign. For the sake of this story, I hope it is renewed but it’ll be interesting to see how on-board people are with this one when the final credits roll.
At times Tribes Of Europa does feel like a bit of a mish-mash of influences, with the Crows and their sweaty clubs, techno music and phosphorescent lights contrasting against the Origines and the other tribes out in the woods.
Sometimes this brings up questions of its own, including the way the Crows interchange between using cars and horseback for no apparent reason. The Crimson Guards all seem to be stuck in convincing the tribes to their way of thinking but roam around in armoured jeeps and don semi-automatic weapons.
Some of these issues can be attributed to the length of the show, which clocks in at a measly 6 episodes at around 40 minutes or so a piece. A fantasy series like this feels like it needs at least 10 episodes, if not more, to explore some of the past and understand how these different tribes came to be.
There’s a lot of interesting ideas at play here, but none of them feel quite as fleshed out as they should. The only tribe that gets a good amount of screen-time to explore their way of life are the Crows, but even then this brings up more questions around their origin and how they descended into this hierarchical way of living.
Given how notoriously difficult fantasy is to write, there’s enough here to make Tribes Of Europa an enjoyable thrill-ride despite its flaws. This is nowhere near as richly detailed as something like Game of Thrones or The Expanse, nor does it slip as far down the fantasy rungs as the likes of Cursed or The Shannara Chronicles.
Tribes Of Europa Season 1 has enough aplomb to recommend but also carries more than a few flaws on its back, bruising its possibilities of becoming the excellent fantasy offering it so easily could have been.
Tribes Of Europa releases on Netflix worldwide on 19th February 2021!