War Sailor – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

1948 – Singapore: A man goes into a decrypt building looking for someone called Freddy, whom he eventually finds unconscious. But as he wakes up, he realizes who that man is. Freddy smashes a bottle on the man’s head and tries to run away but collapses outside on the street.

We then jump into 1939, Bergen, roughly seven months before the German occupation of Norway. Fredrik Olsen works on a ship in the dockyard. He is a daily wage worker but due to the war, the work is scarce.

Sigbjorn is a friend of his, while Fredrick is married to Cecilia. Sigbjorn asks Freddy to talk to her about the job he has been offered at a ship. Even though it will keep him away from his family for 18 months, it will be a real job. He needs to take care of his family financially and Freddy sees it fit in with his life. Cecilia sees the reason in his decision and agrees to it.

Maggie, his elder child, is unhappy about him leaving. William, the younger one isn’t as mature to understand things. In an incident at work, Freddy is almost buried under the weight of coal. He washes away the sins of his work with a dive into the open ocean portside, swimming like a free man with Sigbjørn and his children.

Freddy promises to write regularly to Maggie, trying to make the most of the two days he has with his family before leaving. Cecilia confides in Sigbjørn that Freddy is a cook, not a sailor, and would need his special attention. Sigbjørn says Freddy is his best friend and she’s got nothing to worry about.

On the morning Freddy is supposed to leave, Maggie wakes him up abruptly by smashing the newspaper in his face. The ship that was to arrive at Bergen hit a mine in the Netherlands… but Freddy is going to New York. He is late but Maggie has hidden the travelling papers Freddy needs to sail. She is fearful her father will die and throws emotional fits as he leaves.

We then make another time jump to 1940. The ship is in the Atlantic sea and the Germans have attacked Norway. Due to their naval might, Germany is gradually going through Norway’s limited resources, having already sunk 70 Norwegian merchant ships. Will Maggie’s prediction come true?

As we soon find out, Freddy’s boat is under attack. There is chaos all over the deck as some of the men from the crew have been thrown overboard. The captain is not prepared to stop as the German U-Boats are in close pursuit. Suddenly, the steam pipe in the engine room bursts, bringing the ship to a stop. Sigbjørn and the others repair it but Freddy asks them to stop in order to save the crew. The captain shouts that the Germans are shifting torpedoes and if they don’t set sail, they will all die. The workers decide to repair the ship and get it started.

Despite the best efforts of those on deck, the crew in the water are left behind. Aksel, one of those in the water, is saved. Freddy takes him under his wing. The Captain reprimands Freddy for what he did. They were able to save a total of three from the waters. The captain tells him that Norway is officially at war and will sail at the behest of the King of England. They need as many men as possible. He instructs Freddy to gather all off-duty crew for a meeting, where we learn that Freddy and three others have been posted on the MS Frostenak. A few will go ashore next.

Those going ashore will be branded as traitors and Freddy and Sigbjørn feel better on the sea. Freddy writes to his family and informs them of his new circumstances. Back home, things are getting desperate. Freddy hasn’t been able to send money for rent and food. The family have to make do somehow by cutting trees and selling wood.

Maggie is told that Freddy won’t be able to write due to the war. The smaller crew on Frostenak gets news that a larger crew on a Norwegian merchant ship died due to a German bombing. Aksel starts crying when he hears it but Hanna, one of the other crew, reprimands him.

The crew also has Monsen, Kjell, and Sigbjørn. Freddy asks Aksel and Hanna to back out if they want. To get over the blues, they have a night out. The year ticks to 1941 and WWII is in full swing. The Allies are fighting back the Axis powers gaining marginally.

A group of Norwegians get into a room and watch a dramatic representation of a film about German U-Boats being sunk. Freddy is told that the Germans are building a bunker in Bergen, near his house. We get some sort of reprieve from the gloom of war when a young man, who abandoned his military duty, shows off his ballet skills to a room full of people. All of them are present on a larger ship heading to Malta.

The year is 1942 and although the ship has docked at its destination, several men are lost. The ship has been blown open in half, presumably due to a torpedo. More than 334 Norwegian merchant ships have been lost till now. Just as the survivors get down, an air raid sends them underground. Freddy and his crew decide to send Hanna and Aksel back ashore by asking them to lie. Once they are gone, the rest of the crew urges Freddy to run away.

The Episode Review

Episode 1 escalates quite significantly in a short period of time. The focus is on following Freddy and Sigbjorn as they make an impossible journey. This is another story to come out from Norway about its tussle with the Germans and British in WWII. Many countries became the unfortunate middle ground between these two heavyweights and Norway suffered a lot. Netflix also recently released Narvik, which has a similar plot to War Sailor, too.

Norwegian merchant ships became sitting ducks for U-Boats. The former were defenceless and were almost sacrificed by the Allied powers for their benefit.

When it comes to the characters, Kristoffer Joner is the veteran here and a likeable central protagonist. Even though the import of the creators is more on the macro level, his character is a vessel for representing micro issues of tragedy and melancholy.

Episode 1 is a thoroughly impressive feat successfully marrying drama and the schematics of war. The admirable production scale gives the viewer a wholesome experience and sets up the series nicely.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for War Sailor here!


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