Ares: Ares
January 26, 2020 5:18 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Rosa Steenwijk, a biracial first-year medical student in Amsterdam, discovers her best friend is in a mysterious "student group."

What begins as a fairly conventional "secret society show" goes unexpected places. You have to hang until the last episode to really appreciate it.
posted by miss-lapin (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
(avoided certain tags to prevent spoilers)
posted by miss-lapin at 5:24 AM on January 26, 2020

Just to be clear the set up is conventional.

Struggling medical student Rosa is trying to balance her coursework and care taking for her mother, who is mentally ill. Jacob, a friend since childhood, comes to see her and reveals he is a novice in a super elite secret society. Rosa become intrigued. As she joins, Jacob begins to discover the roots of society including how Rosa is connected.

The sets and costume design are beautiful and very intentional. Nothing in the show is accidental.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:30 AM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

The creators of the show talk about how there's a bit of a blind spot in Dutch media when it comes to history; everything is produced and conceived of as as biographical or as a memorial, but never really adapted or played with. Add to that the fact that a nuanced treatment of Dutch colonialism isn't really present in most classrooms and it's easy for Dutch people to end up with a sense that Dutch history isn't remarkable, when it's really quite remarkable that the country managed to amass such wealth and influence given extremely humble origins. It's not a coincidence that the symbol of the student society resembles the logo of the United East Indies Company.

There's some symbolism that doesn't really resolve itself coherently, which is a fair criticism of the show. Still, I think some of the reviews I've read either missed some pretty clear explanations or didn't want to think about what they were watching. The reaction on Twitter seems to be "I don't know what I just watched or how I should feel," which isn't that surprising, I guess. It's a lot of strange imagery and kind of stilted dialogue (honestly I have kind of a hard time taking Dutch seriously in dramatic/ominous situations like this), so I'm not shocked people were put off by how "unrealistic" it was. Of course, not everything needs to be realistic, but I don't know if the Dutch market is open to that much ambiguity in a domestically produced show.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, and it'll give me some things to think about the next time I'm at the Rijksmuseum.
posted by wakannai at 6:41 AM on January 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ares is streaming via Netflix in the U.S.
posted by Etrigan at 9:55 AM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Binged this a week ago. Thank you for posting it! I read a lot of reviews that dismissed it as predictable and slow, which it was, up to a point. But I felt the last episode was unexpectedly powerful and very satisfying.

It was also quite nice to look at, visually, and I think that kept me on through the slower, less on point material.
posted by dragstroke at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2020

I liked:

1. The half-hour episodes
2. The costumes and set direction
3. The increasing specificity of the assembled guilt
4. The general style focus of the show

I didn’t like:

1. It’s not style over substance, but it’s definitely style over character. Most of the cast has to struggle to be 2D. This may not matter given the evident focus on style.
2. Not sure if the show will survive a second season; I’m thinking two more episodes might have made a very satisfying one season show.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 PM on January 26, 2020

I'm not sure what a second season would even be. This feels kind of like they wrapped everything up. Although Rosa opening her eyes at the end could mean a second season.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:21 PM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was a good series and I don't mean to disparage it by saying the following: this series peaked three minutes into the first episode.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:16 PM on February 23, 2020

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