northern rescue

"Northern Rescue" follows a family mourning the loss of their mother.

Netflix’s newest original series “Northern Rescue” is an emotional family drama focused on the lamentation and struggles of a family after the death of their mother. Billy Baldwin, actor Alec Baldwin’s brother, stars as grieving father John West. He works to keep his family together after they move away from their urban life to a small town in an attempt to accept and come to terms with their recent loss.

The series is a sad, relatable story spread across a satisfying and complete 10-episode arc, but it ultimately misses a cohesive tone. It appears as though “Northern Rescue” struggled with what story it wanted to tell, and while it provided some emotional moments and gripping scenes, it was difficult to connect well with the characters and their battles with grief.

The beginning of the series opens with an expository voiceover from Maddie, the oldest of the three West children, as she explains the family dynamic prior to the death of her mother. She characterizes her dad as a “real-life action hero,” saving people every day working on a search-and-rescue team. She then describes her brother Scout to be the “typical middle child” who deals with his own angst while struggling to live in his father’s shadow. Her youngest sister, Taylor, is a genius who’s always working on a new project, tinkering around with different objects as she invents and discovers new material every day.

From her expressions and tone discussing her other family members, it comes across that Maddie feels as though she’s the odd one out and is unable to make serious, deep connections with her family members. Lastly, Maddie paints her mother Sarah to be the rock of the family. This of course bleeds into the upcoming brokenness of the family, as they won’t know how to lean on each other for support following her death.

The family moves to John’s old hometown at the end of the pilot, and that’s where the rest of the story takes place. Additionally, Sarah’s sister Charlie (Kathleen Robertson) lives with the family after they move. She tries to help them deal with their grief as she attempts to deal with her own. John takes command of a search-and-rescue service there, and each episode follows him working on a new operation.

While it turns into somewhat of a procedural, this gives the show chances to add tension and dramatic scenes while also including stories following the adjustments of the three kids in their new lives. This format is where the series seems to struggle, as the focus seems to lack proper balance between John and the individual subplots of each kid.

On a positive note, “Northern Rescue” gives a great spin on modern parenting through John’s relationship with his children. While he certainly was never estranged from them prior to Sarah’s death, he definitely bonds with them on a new level as he takes on different responsibilities and an even stronger role in their lives. Charlie certainly tries to help fill somewhat of a maternal void, but the bulk of the parenting rests on John’s shoulders.The series does a marvelous job at showing some of the hardships of a single parent.

While it seems as though Netflix was aiming for the sort of drama tonally similar to shows such as HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and NBC’s “This Is Us” and “Parenthood,” the execution falls short. “Northern Rescue” doesn’t reach the emotional heights that it potentially could have. It is by no means a bad show and is definitely enjoyable at times, but it isn’t one that seems as if it can stick with audiences after they finish it.

Of course, a second season could eventually come and the show could introduce new and exciting storylines, as the story presumably won’t be as focused on the grief of the family. For example, John could develop a relationship with a new love interest and the show could explore how the children feel about him dating.

Though lackluster in several areas, the series still has the potential to be a great Netflix success. Regardless of any growing pains the show experienced, “Northern Rescue” was a pleasant drama that includes relatable moments for anyone to enjoy.

Contact Kira Baldau at baldaukb@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.