Netflix’s “The Rain” Season 1 – a Biologist’s Review

Image result for the rain

Minor Spoiler Warning for “The Rain” Season 1 Episode 1

A killer virus lurks in the water in the fictional universe of Netflix’s new post-apocalyptic show “The Rain”. It’s a classic end of the world story – a disease wipes out most of humanity and we watch as they pick up the pieces.

It’s clear from the start that Apollon, a fictitious biotechnology company which employs Simone’s dad Frederik, has caused the apocalypse. Frederik researches a virus which he hopes will cure his sick son’s disease, and breaking all protocol, injecting his son Rasmus with the virus. Rasmus is saved from near-certain death, with Frederik deciding to release the virus to save others. In doing so, Frederik breaks science’s major rule: repeat your results, a failure that brings about the end of the world as we know it.

Diseases, particularly viruses, are easy targets for producers of thriller TV series. Viruses cause death and suffering to millions of people – from Ebola to HIV. For this reason, our fear of viruses is understandable. However, the show also introduces the idea of viruses being used to cure other diseases. Currently viruses called bacteriophages are being explored as a potential replacement for antibiotics. Bacteriophage treatment shares many similarities with the Apollon treatment – injecting viruses into the body to help treat a disease. Whilst the show doesn’t elaborate what the virus is targeting, it still instils the fear of virus-based medicinal treatments.

We shouldn’t be worried about bacteriophages. 

YouTube channel Kurzgesagt best summarises bacteriophage misconceptions in their video – click to watch

“The Rain” Verdict

With antibiotic resistance becoming more prevalent, alternatives to antibiotics, including bacteriophage treatments, need to be developed to help prevent further deaths. By painting scientists at Apollon as the bad guys – at best incompetent, and at worst evil, and by toying with society’s distrust in scientists and fear of viruses, Netflix have created the perfect environment for bacteriophage treatments to be rejected by the public.

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