Following the trail of the Money (Heist)

Which European Netflix series will you watch next?

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Open your list of series “to-watch”. By the time you finish reading this article you should have added 3-5 new European series to it. Guaranteed, or we’ll give you back your money!

In this article we will cover the first Netflix original series in each European language, the new studios built at Madrid Content City, we will focus on Polish series and Black actresses, and we will finally deliver a diagram with our selection of 57 european series for you to choose what to watch next.

Let’s dive in!

The European Netflix wave

The American company Netflix is boosting European TV series.

Netflix’s commercial model is based on keeping the spectator hooked to their programmes for as long as possible. To achieve this, they need a never-ending stream of content flowing in. To increase that flow, they are creating their own content.

Some years ago Netflix started to engage local creators in several countries. This meant, for instance, hitting the jackpot with the Spanish “Money Heist”, and producing its third part in 2018.

Then they expanded into many European languages. We will now review the first Netflix series in each of them. Which one is suitable for you? We have sorted them out depending on the type of spectator that you might be.

ARE YOU THE MAFIA TYPE?

You secretly admire an organisation capable of running parallel to the state. You believe that the city should be divided in four (as in four quarters, or quartiers), and each of them be attributed to a different gang. Stepping out of the quartier should be punished mercilessly. ☠️

If that’s your point of view, these are the series you can’t miss: 

🇫🇷 Marseille (French), 2016. Gérard Depardieu has been the mayor of Marseille during 20 years. He has now chosen a replacement, but things go sideways and they will end up competing for the post. Watch the trailer of Marseille. 2 seasons, 8 episodes each, 40’ running time.

🇮🇹 Suburra (Italian), 2017. “Rome can’t be ruled; at most, it can be administrated.” Politicians, Church, and Mafia clash in this series inspired by real events. Watch the trailer of Suburra. 3 seasons, 8 episodes each, 45’ running time.

ARE YOU THE NON-COMPLICATED TYPE?

You have had a full day at work and with the family. When you’re going to bed, the last thing you want is MORE DRAMA. You rather watch a soft story, sufficiently interesting so that you don’t fall asleep, but not as intense so as to sneak into your dreams. 🎭

If this is how you roll, here is the perfect combination of seemingly soft topics with complex backgrounds: joining the revolution and defending women’s rights, asserting your influence on a court which is against you and govern an empire, or inviting your boyfriend to dinner with your family in Christmas…

🇪🇸 Cable girls (Spanish), 2017. Four women start to work in the central telephone office in Madrid, in 1928. They wanted to be independent, but freedom seemed a dream out of reach. Watch the trailer of Cable Girls. 5 seasons, 8 episodes each, 50’ running time.

🇳🇴 Home for Christmas (Norwegian), 2019. 30-year-old Johanne feels pressured by her family to say she has a boyfriend. But she doesn’t have one. She jumps online for match-making, but will she make it on time for Christmas dinner? Watch the trailer of Home for Christmas2 seasons, 6 episodes each, 30’ running time.

🇦🇹 The Empress (Austria), 2022. Sisi moves to Vienna to become empress of Austria and queen of Hungary. This is the story of the court politics around one of the best known characters of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Watch the trailer of The Empress1 season, 6 episodes, 55’ running time.

Note: watch out if you’re in bed with an anti-social type. If that’s the case, chances are you won’t reach consensus about what to watch together!

ARE YOU THE ANTI-SOCIAL  TYPE?

We’re all going to die, sooner or later. Actually SOONER rather than later. Or better, let’s hope everyone else dies sooner. When you hear about the epidemic spread of diseases, you can’t avoid thinking of the Zombie apocalypse and how long it would take them to infect the whole population (you might have run computer simulations about this yourself!). If the world deserves anything, is to be rebuilt from scratch. 💥

If your have been nodding while reading the previous paragraph, you’re lucky. European screenwriters allow you to enjoy the world wrecking in four different fashions:

🇩🇪 Dark (German), 2017. Children start vanishing from a German town. Families become aware of a wormhole near the local nuclear plant, connecting 5 different time lines. Watch the trailer of Dark. 3 seasons, 8-10 episodes each, 60’ running time.

🇩🇰 The Rain (Danish), 2018. The rain killed almost everyone. Those who didn’t die infected a lot of people. 6 years after this event, two siblings emerge from a bunker where they were hidden to confront what’s left of this world. Watch the trailer of The Rain. 3 seasons, 8-10 episodes each, 45’ running time.

🇧🇪 Into the Night (Belgium), 2020. As the sun rises, people that receive sunlight, die. Their only chance is to keep flying in that plane westwards, into the night. The diversity of the people on board will not make it easy to survive, but anything is better than being stranded at Brussels International Airport. Watch the trailer of Into the Night2 seasons, 6 episodes each, 45’ running time

🇮🇸 Katla (Icelandic), 2021. A volcano (in Iceland of all places) starts spitting out people that disappeared years ago, to the surprise of the local population. Watch the trailer of Katla1 season, 8 episodes, 45’ running time.

ARE YOU THE DYSTOPIAN TYPE?

As if the world we live in is not weird enough, you like to imagine how it would be to break yet another piece of the social machinery and see how the world collapses. You are a fan of Aldous Huxley, and have a love-hate relationship with the concept of Big Brother. Black Mirror used to be scary but now it’s business as usual. 👾

These are the alternative realities in which we suggest you step in:

🇵🇱 1983 (Polish), 2018. What if Communist Poland had not fallen? In 1983 a terrorist attack changes the course of history. Forward to 2003, when the protagonists start to discover a resistance movement. Watch the trailer of 1983. 1 season, 8 episodes, 55’ running time

🇳🇱 Ares (Dutch), 2020. A student of medicine joins a secret society. When she realises there’s a dark side of it, it’s too late to pull out. Watch the trailer of Ares1 season, 8 episodes, 30’ running time.

ARE YOU THE TWO-FACES TYPE?

Have you practised recently your poker face? Are you ready to go to your partner’s family Christmas dinner and pretend (successfully) that you’re having a good time? Can you say NO while you nod? 😠😊

If living in two worlds is a given for you, then you’ll enjoy the following series where things are what they seem and also what they don’t, and maybe something in between.

🇹🇷 The Protector (Turkish), 2018. Istanbul’s destiny and future depend on The Protector. But he’s not yet aware of this. He will discover it with the support from his loyal people. Watch the trailer of The Protector. 4 seasons, 8 episodes each, 40’ running time.

🇸🇪 Quicksand (Swedish), 2019. “Maja Norberg, you’re suspect of murder”. Maja is 18, and the event was a school shooting. Her mind is clouded with flashbacks from the previous months. Watch the trailer of Quicksand1 season, 6 episodes, 45’ running time.

🇵🇹 Glória (Portuguese), 2021. It’s 1968. In a Portuguese intelligence station cooperating with the CIA they suspect there’s an infiltrate from KGB. In this story, no one is innocent. Watch the trailer of Glória. 1 season, 10 episodes, 45’ running time.

If we’re fulfilling our promise, by now you should have added at least two new items to your list. But we’re not finished. Before coming back to the series, let’s find out how Netflix is navigating this wave of European creativity.

Madrid Content City

Indoor scenes of the third and fourth part of Money Heist were shot in what is known as Netflix first European production hub: “Madrid Content City”. These studios, located in the municipality of Tres Cantos, have grown from 3 to 10 in the last two years. There are as well 23 post-production studios, notably allowing remote post-production. Quoting from the official press release, “The expansion at Tres Cantos will enable Netflix to bring original stories ‘made in Spain’ to the world“.

For instance, they record the series “Criminal”, that has several localised versions. All of them use the same studio and set, adapted. First the UK team will record, then the Spanish one, and finally the French one, using the same set.

Netflix studios in Tres Cantos, Madrid, as seen by Google Street View
Netflix studios in Tres Cantos, Madrid, as seen by Google Street View

A private university is part of the same project. Called “The Core – Entertainment Science School”, it is built on the same location as the studios. Its vision is to follow closely the industry requirements and translate them into academic contents. “The Core” offers three degrees and several masters on Communication, Multimedia, and Management, from classic Journalism to the more innovative “E-sports management”. A bit of criticism: although the institution has an English name, the studies are only offered in Spanish.

Polished Polish Plots

In the fieldwork that led to the creation of this article (which has consisted basically on watching Netflix), we have particularly enjoyed the Polish creations. Here’s a quick “what to watch” focused on Polish series in the form of a one-sentence teaser (see the official trailer in the link):

  • The bride (Kaśka) arrives at the wedding late, reluctant, and seven months pregnant, but no one except her seems to know who the father is: Family Secrets.

  • In Wrocław, in 1997, Jaśmina warned them all that the floods were going to hit the city, but the local government, of which her ex was part, didn’t take her seriously enough: High Water.

  • To hide after a robbery, three retired women secure a place in a nursing home and end up realising that “we will have more work here than outside”: The Green Glove Gang.

  • Sylwester, a Polish old man who works in France as a tailor for a drag queen cabaret, travels back to Poland to meet his daughter for the first time: Queen.

Agnieszka Holland, director and screenwriter

The European Perspective is also about European people. We want to single out a director and screenwriter, involved in the creation of the Polish alternate reality series 1983. Agnieszka Holland directed it, together with her daughter Kasia Adamik, Olga Chajdas and Agnieszka Smoczyńska.

Katarzyna Adamik & Agnieszka Holland (2009) Picture by Kontrola, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Katarzyna Adamik & Agnieszka Holland (2009) Picture by Kontrola, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Holland had Jewish relatives. It’s no surprise that the theme of the Holocaust appears often in her movies (Angry Harvest, Europa Europa, In Darkness). She had to emigrate from Poland in 1981 due to the rise of the Polish People’s Republic, and this is precisely the topic she explores in “1983”.

This is Holland in a three-minute feature talking about her storytelling, how her films age, and giving an opinion on new movies.

Let’s hear her criticism: she believes that new films live in a bubble and are disconnected from the social reality. Looking back at the list of series that we have presented here, it seems that Holland’s words might be valid as well. Could we also say that for the series that she wrote, 1983?

Four European Black actresses

While most of the cast of European series is white, there are several performances of Black actors and actresses which are notable. France is the country where most of they are from, and the leading actor in this field is probably Omar Sy, playing Lupin. He is 45 and has an extensive career. But there are younger talents sprouting as well from other countries, such as Giuseppe Dave Seke, who plays Zero in the Italian series of the same name, and Khalil Ben Gharbia, playing Ismaël in “The seven lives of Lea”.

Among European Black actresses, these are four whose work we have enjoyed:

Godeliv van den Brandt
Godeliv van den Brandt

Godeliv van den Brandt appears in the Spanish series “The Girls at the Back”. She plays the character of Olga van den Brandt. It’s not by chance that the character has her own surname: the girls sat together at the back in school because their surnames were at the end of the alphabet and “van der Brandt” became handy for the fiction. Godeliv van den Brandt is 30, and has Belgian and Congolese nationalities.

Joy Delima
Joy Delima

Joy Delima plays in “Dirty Lines”. She is Marly, a student living at her parents’ in Amsterdam. She wants to be independent, and she’s looking for a job. The one she finds is to record audio tapes, for the phone sex line. This will not go down well at home. Joy Delima is Dutch and 28 years old.

Mariama Gueye
Mariama Gueye

Mariama Gueye is one of the leading characters in “Standing Up”. She plays Aïssatou Gambaré, a comedian raising to stardom after posting her latest sketch on Instagram. Her character faces the struggle between being true to her values and following the needs dictated by fame. In a way, this could be her own story or that of several other female Black comedians in Europe. Mariama Gueye is 33, French.

Lary (Larissa Sirah Herden)
Lary (Larissa Sirah Herden)

Larissa Sira Herden appears in “King of Stonks”. She is German, 36, and best known as a singer by her stage name: Lary. In the series she plays Sheila Williams, a short-seller. She makes her dollars by betting that some stock will crash. Her intervention will be crucial in the fate of the startup that’s about to go public.

Find the next European series you’ll watch on Netflix

We’re going now for the final round of suggestions offering the definitive tool for choosing a European series to watch.

We hope you have now some watching to do. Run the diagram several times and let us know of the results!

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Logo The European Perspective

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