Rita: Season 1/ Episode 1 “The Idealist” [Series Premiere] – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

Shows like this are why I’m a proud Netflix subscriber. For while Rita may not be an original property, Netflix uses its platform to expose you to some of the best non-English programming the world has to offer. The Introduction Rita (Mille Dinesen) is a middle school/ high school instructor. Like many characters on television,…

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Mille Dinesen as Rita

Shows like this are why I’m a proud Netflix subscriber. For while Rita may not be an original property, Netflix uses its platform to expose you to some of the best non-English programming the world has to offer.

The Introduction

Rita (Mille Dinesen) is a middle school/ high school instructor. Like many characters on television, she is lovable but her life is very messy. From messing around with the principal Rasmus (Carsten Bjørnlund) to telling off 14-year-old Rosa (Lea Høyer) and her parents, she isn’t a saint. However, none of what she says is malicious. She speaks to Rosa like she would to any of her three kids. Be it Ricco (Morten Vang Simonsen) when it comes to his fiancée Bitten (Lykke Sand), Molly (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) who clearly is her mother’s daughter or Jeppe (Nikolaj Groth) who is just coming to terms with his sexuality. Something his family has figured out who knows how long ago.

So join us on Rita’s journey to perhaps grow up a little. Remain herself at her core, but learn how to turn that person into a functioning, slightly less complicated, adult.


Rita & Her Family

Rita's youngest son Jeppe (Nikolaj Groth), Rita, eldest son Ricco (Morten Van Simonsen), his fiancee Bitten (Lykke Sand), and Rita's only daughter Molly (Sara Hjory Ditlevsen).
(Left to Right) Rita’s youngest son Jeppe (Nikolaj Groth), Rita, eldest son Ricco (Morten Van Simonsen), his fiancee Bitten (Lykke Sand), and Rita’s only daughter Molly (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen).

The heart of any show is who are lead goes to when they need to not be on anymore. You know, the people they have their wig off around, who they don’t need to be comical around, those people. For Rita, that’s her family. For while Rita at home and Rita at work doesn’t necessarily seem different, you have to take note she has to walk on eggshells less. Take the whole Jeppe being gay thing. She can’t be that raw with someone else’s kid. As seen with Rosa, being direct sometimes can threaten your employment. However, her kids are at that age, and have been around her enough to know what she says is out of love.

So even though Rita isn’t fond of Bitten, and thinks Ricco is too young to be married [note]He is 22[/note], she still supports him. And he gets that while his mom may seem critical, it isn’t like she is doing it to get a rise out of him or anything like that. It is just her way of showing love.

Though, as can be seen, it doesn’t necessarily mean they all open up and use her shoulder to cry on. Molly just broke up with her boyfriend Kim and while she puts on a strong face, pulls out the “Thin and Horny” and will bounce back line, afterwards she breaks down alone. Showing that as open as these kids know they can be with their mom, there are some things she perhaps can’t be their go-to for.

The School Staff

Rita (Mille Dinesen) giving some advice to Hjordis (Kise Baastrup)

Friends and family are what ground the character and reveal them. However, it is their work associates which challenge them, threaten them, and show what they are made of. Which is kind of the case when it comes to the school staff. Now, with some experience working at a school, you can understand the us vs. them mentality of how schools work. Take how Rita runs her class with her experience vs. how she advises Hjordis (Lise Baastrup).

Rita is shown as able to curse, hush them quickly and easily, and Hjordis has stuff thrown at her. A hope of mine is, through Hjordis, we may see how Rita became the teacher she is. For you can see Hjordis to Rita is sort of like a Zoey to Jackie, assuming any of you watched Nurse Jackie back in the day.

As for principal Rasmus? Well, with him sleeping with Rita causes a complication. However, it doesn’t necessarily seem like she is going to pull a sexual harassment suit to take him down with her. Yet, who knows. Plus, considering she is single, maybe getting fired or quitting and working somewhere else could do wonders for them.

The Complicated Relationship Between Students, The Teacher, and The Student’s Parents

Rosa (Lea Høyer)
Who thought she could pass for 14?

It’s weird to be around students. Whether they are minors or adults in the eyes of the law, you have to remind yourself they aren’t your co-workers. In one way or another, you are supposed to model for them, mentor them, and put up with their occasional, or consistent, BS. Which, as Rita shows, is hard to so. Especially when dealing with those like Rosa.

Rosa is bright, but also arrogant. Is mature but, as Rita says, wants child privileges. She wants respect yet desires to be babied, consistently complimented and coddled. To the point where when she doesn’t get it, she brings her mom in. Someone who, as she should, goes to bat for her kid. Yet, Rita takes each pitch and hits a home run. Revealing that Rosa’s parents know she is a little $h!t. That they get why she doesn’t have friends. However, the complicated part is Rosa knows why too. Problem is, she is 14 and doesn’t know how to change herself.

Yet, there comes the problem again. How do you advise a 14-year-old to be someone else for the sake of having friends? Much less not offend them when you hit a nerve?

On The Fence

I Do Worry About The Drama

Rita talking to Rosa's parents.
Rita talking to Rosa’s parents.

Outside of The Wire and The Fosters, I can’t quickly think of a show which dealt with the internal workings of a school, its staff, and focusing on the various students. So with that rarity comes some caution for I don’t really know what to expect. Pair that with this show focusing on a culture completely foreign to me, and I must admit I worry I may not get some things.

But perhaps the biggest issue is with this being a school, that means characters coming and going. Take Rosa. Eventually, after all the time we see Rita put into her, and maybe other students, she’ll graduate. Hjordis could discover she isn’t cut out for teaching and leaves. A scandal could hit Rasmus and of course, Rita could get fired herself. Thus bringing the threat of those who seemed essentially being cut off when Rita meets fate or karma.

Overall: Positive (Watch This)

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I’m not sure how I’m going to watch season 4, whenever it comes out, but I shall find a way. Until then, I’m planning on covering one episode a week, maybe more, for I definitely want to catch up. Much less I think this is the type of show which can hold even with some scrutiny. Something which surely can’t be said about a lot of the things on Netflix.

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  1. It’s great that this TV series is still being discovered by people outside Denmark, even though the DVDs came out in 2012 and 2013. I discovered the series for myself last year on my quest to study Danish society. Obviously, this is fiction but, as with all good authors, Christian Torpe wants to show a slice of Danish society on screen. The three seasons in total tackle different social issues which are universal and some which are aimed at Danish society today. I suspect the author wants to show a different side to the Danish character played out on screen, exaggerated of course in order to make the point. One point to be made is probably that Danes are not always super happy all the time and they do not walk around all day with a big grin on their face. Another point is perhaps that Danes face the same problems as everyone the whole world over – the difference is perhaps how they deal with the problems. And probably a last point the author wants to make is that it is just fiction at the end of the day – light entertainment which is not to be taken too seriously or used to analyse Danish society with any depth.

    A fascinating series.

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