There are a number of shows out there blending soapy drama with high-stake professions. Whether it be nurses, police officers or prison wardens, there’s a healthy selection to choose from. Even with firefighting, we have both Station 19 and Chicago Fire operating in this field. Belgium drama Under Fire (Onder Vuur) immediately feels under fire to try and keep up with those two shows and in many ways, it both excels and underwhelms at the same time.
On the one hand, there’s a lot of drama here and the episodic conflicts, ranging from an explosion to car crashes and even a hot air balloon suspended across a crane, are really well shot and certainly dramatic. On the other hand, we’re dealing with a soapy, melodramatic show armed with cliched characters that slot nicely into the usual tropes you’d expect from a series like this.
East Bank Station is our setting and we learn early on that the fire department is supposed to be the best in the country. Unfortunately, the firm has a bad PR image so a new social media liaison is brought on to try and change that. Furthermore, Patrick – the current lieutenant – is promoted up to Captain, leaving the position open to rookie Dominique.
It’s immediately clear that she and Orlando (the second in command) do not share the same values and early on the duo clash over the best way of tackling different incidents.
Complicating matters further are the supporting players, although to be fair each firefighter has a chance to take the spotlight over the 10 episodes. There’s Nina, a brave and determined firefighter who’s plagued with issues at home. These involve fellow firefighter Steve, who has a drinking problem and hasn’t been showing up at work. This really takes on a dramatic turn around the middle of the series, and Steve’s presence is a constant thorn in the side of East Bank for most of the run-time.
There’s also Vincent, who has his own rivalry with Orlando, centering around an assistant exam that Dominique suggests Vincent take. Gio starts off as abrupt and cocky before being faced with some harrowing choices, while Tom – the new guy at East Bank – has more than a few secrets lurking away in his past.
There are a lot of characters and even more drama to contend with, although the 10 episode run-time does give us a chance to get to know all the different players. The actual development of these arcs is pretty straightforward and there are not really many surprises here. In fact, the only surprise is perhaps what happens to Orlando during the final episode, although I’m not about to spoil that here!
Visually, Under Fire tries to be clever with a consistent motif of orange running through the night-time scenes which, of course, links back to the colour of fire. While this does help to visually tie everything together, it actually has an adverse effect at times, as some of these scenes are crying out for more depth and a bit more vibrancy. Likewise, the soundtrack is pretty run of the mill for a series of this nature.
Under Fire isn’t a bad show but it’s not a particularly great one either. This is nowhere near the level of something like Grey’s Anatomy during its earlier seasons but it’s certainly a step up from Station 19 (although that’s not exactly difficult!) If you’re in the mood for some soapy drama mixed in with firefighting, you should find enough to like here.
Verdict - 6/10