Watching stories of grief, particularly those that follow the loss of a loved one, like in Tore, always has us feeling a particular way about things. Empathy is a huge part of how we understand such stories, but it always conflicts with our view of our own process of how we would act if we were in that situation.
Tore is a drama, and the writers deeply understand the inner workings of its main character. Usually, with such stories, we see the characters walk a path of self-destruction, and as the audience, it feels immensely frustrating because, for some reason, ‘grief’ feels like too short an explanation for their actions. But with Tore, we knew what was up with that kid right from the beginning, and that hugely impacted the audience’s perception of him and his journey. With that one particular scene in episode 1 itself, this show was set apart from many others like it, and it made sure that the audience’s engagement never wavered till the end. It makes sense since the writer of the show, William Spetz, is also the person who enacted the titular role of Tore.
First of all, we always appreciate when the runtime of any movie or series is crisp. It shows an understanding of the audience’s intelligence and their emotional range. Once we understood how Tore was as a person at the beginning of the series, we did not need long-winded episodes to give us more insight into it. Secondly, we love how the imperfection of well-meaning characters is represented. Tore was someone who needed help, but even Linn, with her independence and willingness to be there for her friend, failed to understand him many times. That may have been imperfect and extreme, but it felt like a truer representation of ‘opposite best friends’ than we have seen in years. Usually, the best friend in most stories is only presented as a contrast to highlight the qualities of the protagonist. But the reality is that friendship, like any other relationship, needs communication and commitment to make it work, and it was interesting to see Linn and Tore find their way to each other. But there was also one particular character whose arc stood out for us. Viggo, as the guy who wanted to do the right thing but struggled to understand what it was, gave us an unexpected character arc in the show. We had easily categorized him as a villain, but to see how he understood and re-evaluated himself while trying to do the right thing placed him in higher esteem. Finally, there was Bosse himself. He was the sweetest person we saw in the show, but later on, he left us questioning whether he made the most sensible choices regarding his son.
Finally, one of the best things (it’s a low bar) about the show is that the grieving character is not shown to be ‘quirky’. We absolutely hate it when a grieving character is shown as using their ‘quirks’ to justify escapism to avoid what they are feeling. It is a plot device to make the audience like them whenever they feel frustrated by their actions. The absence of that in Tore is what made the protagonist’s journey more honest and authentic, and it was a breath of fresh air.
While we are on the subject, we would also like to comment on the humor of the show. It is not the most obvious part of the story and only starts making itself known in the later episodes, when the empathy of the audience is not being demanded so much by the character of Tore. But it is only through this comedy, when Tore is able to make a joke and participate in the fun of a situation, that we understand that the boy has finally made progress. Tore had always come across as someone who was emotionally stunted. But his ability to make and take a dark joke in the finale is what showed his emotional growth, and that his father had one of his last wishes answered. However, on a closer look, we also realize that some of the comedy in the earlier episodes had more tragic notes to it, and that difference just showed how Tore went from a person running from his troubles to someone who could finally face them and see the lighter side of it.
We can praise the show a lot, but there is one part that felt a little off to us. In the finale, when Tore took the stage, we understood what that moment was supposed to mean, but some very important discussions seemed to be missing along the way. We saw an interview by the creator where he addressed his desire for representation of complex queer stories, ones that don’t just center around the coming-out aspect of their lives. There is no debate from our end about the motive and probably, we are jumping the gun with our apprehensions, but it felt like Tore had been abruptly pushed into an unfamiliar space in the final episode. There is a difference between being openly gay and adopting ‘drag’ as part of your identity or your performance. We admit that we are probably approaching this from a cis-het perspective, so we could be wrong, but it would have been nice to see Tore give an indication at least once that he wanted to do what Shady Meat pushed him to.
Finally, coming to the ending itself, many people may have felt a sense of things being incomplete. However, we beg to differ because the point was that Tore needed to become a person who learned to be vulnerable instead of shutting himself off from the world. As for his sadness, if there is one thing we know about grief, it is that it never goes away and eventually just becomes something that we don’t mind carrying with us. Therefore, that six-episode mark was a logical end to his journey, and it was a good choice to wrap things up there. We just hope that Tore sets a benchmark in terms of what we can expect from such stories, and in the future, when someone decides to once again explore the nature of grief through their characters, they remember that honesty plays a huge role in the story.