A review of the TV series Sløborn: Between fantasy and reality – a fine line

Sløborn is a successful (post-)apocalyptic TV series by Christian Alvart who acted as producer, film director, screenwriter, and even as the cameraman. It proved to have extraordinarily good timing as the initial season underwent post-production during the first lockdown of the Corona pandemic in Germany. Consequently, it gained international attention and the Guardian even called it “the German-Danish series that foresaw COVID-19”.

WHAT'S THE SERIES ABOUT? Season 1 starts out with the depiction of life on the small island which, inevitably, takes a sudden turn with the outbreak of the pandemic and culminates in a state of emergency along with the following devastating consequences for the community of islanders. Seen as if in fast-forward, it carefully sets the individual reactions to the pandemic in scene and shows, as if from under a burning magnifying glass, what damage an even deadlier disease than COVID-19 could cause to a community.

While Season 1 centres around the events that unfold immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic, Season 2 shifts the focus to a post-apocalyptic setting. In its first scene, we see a romantic bird’s-eye view of Sløborn, but then move on to its empty beaches and deserted streets, where we once again meet the pregnant teenager Evelin Kern (impersonated by Emily Kusche) on her bicycle. Towards the end of season 1, Evelin, who is immune to the pigeon-flu, had increasingly become a leading character. In season 2, we follow her fate and that of her three brothers as well as a couple of different small groups that evaded the evacuation to one of the camps on the mainland.

The fate of mainland Germany remains unclear until the end of season 2, when there is first contact with the outside world such as radio contact with a mainland hospital and the intrusion of pirates who systematically plunder the houses of the island. Season 2 ends with the arrival of a small group at the hospital on the mainland, which Evelin needs to reach due to an expected complication with her pregnancy. Having moved away from the focus of the island to the mainland at the end of season 2, viewers are, of course, curious about the fate of the mainland, which we may learn more about in season 3 of the ZDF Neo original series.

Sløborn is not always entirely convincing and has been criticized for its theatrics. Evelin Kern’s self-diagnosis of a placenta previa via an ultrasound examination in the deserted office of the island’s doctor at the beginning of season 2 is certainly one of the most unrealistic episodes of the series. Still, Alvart’s TV show is entertaining and, especially in view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it makes one wonder: what if COVID-19 was, and continues to be, even deadlier than it is?