Netflix’s new Norwegian-language series War Sailor is the story of two friends, Alfred “Freddy” Garnes (Kristoffer Joner) and Sigbjørn Kvalvåg (Pål Sverre Hagen), who take work on board a merchant ship at the height of World War II. In the first part of the three-part series, the two men accept the dangerous work knowing full well that there was fighting all throughout the North Atlantic as Germany tried to conquer Europe. Though both of the men’s strength and survival were tested, Freddy also suffered knowing that he had left his wife Cecilia (Ine Marie Wilmann) and three kids behind in Bergen, Norway to accept the job at sea.
While at sea, Germany invades Norway and Bergen is bombed. Cecilia and her children survive, but they’re shattered when they hear that the boat carrying Freddy and Sigbjørn has been torpedoed and the men are presumed dead. In reality, the two men are some of the few survivors, but word travels to them that back in Bergen, Cecilia and the rest of Freddy’s family were killed in the bombing. Freddy, believing his whole family is dead, escapes the hospital where he was recovering from his injuries and goes AWOL. Even Sigbjørn has no idea where to find him. Sigbjørn eventually returns to Bergen and discovers that Freddy’s family is alive. While he spends time with Cecilia, he can’t help but become romantically attached to her and the two become intimate. That’s when Sigbjørn learns Freddy is alive and in Singapore. In an effort to reunite his best friend with his wife and children, Sigbjørn finds him in Singapore and Freddy returns home, but Sigbjørn, not wanting to have his feelings for Cecilia ruin the family, doesn’t go back to Norway.
War Sailor Ending Explained
When Sigbjørn discovers Freddy in Singapore, it seems clear that Freddy did not want to be found. Disheveled, shell-shocked and a drug addict, the horrors of war have turned him into a shell of a human, and Freddy knows it. Sigbjørn helps get Freddy clean and tells him that his family is alive. Though stunned, he returns to Norway and it becomes immediately clear that he’s no longer the same man who left all those years ago. He is disconnected from his family and especially from his youngest son, Olav, who was a baby when Freddy first left. The tension within the family is palpable, and it’s clear everyone was happier when Sigbjørn was there with them and Freddy was presumed dead. (Sigbjørn, too, had become perfectly content making a new home with Freddy’s wife, but he knew he couldn’t be responsible for destroying his best friend’s marriage, which is why he walked away.) Things come to a head when Freddy nearly attacks Olav because the boy, who is unfamiliar with his own father, rarely acknowledges him and even fears him. Freddy is a ghost living in his home. “It’s me! It’s Alfred!” he cries after the incident with little Olav. “I’m alive!” he weeps to Cecilia.
“Yes, we’re alive. We’re alive, all of us,” Cecilia says. It’s a confirmation that, yes, both of them thought the other was dead and were wrong, but also an acknowledgement that deep inside their sad souls, their former selves are in there somewhere.
The final scenes of War Sailor take place in 1972. It’s been more than 20 years since Freddy returned home, and it’s the day of his seventieth birthday, and Sigbjørn, who no one in the family has seen since 1946, shows up at their home unexpectedly. Sigbjørn sits and makes small talk about sailing around Asia and living abroad, while Freddy updates him about his children. It’s clear that Sigbjørn wanted to check in on his friend, but after a couple of minutes, Freddy just sits silently and Sigbjørn excuses himself from the home, telling Freddy to give Cecilia his regards. Even after Sigbjørn leaves, Freddy sits stoically with tears in his eyes until it’s time for him to leave for his party. As the final episode concludes, despite Freddy’s “I’m alive!” proclamation earlier, it’s clear that he and Sigbjørn both suffered greatly as a result of the war and he has struggled to reconnect with that vivacious former version of himself. Freddy’s final moments of reflection serve as an unseen flashback of sorts – the camera focuses on Kristoffer Joner’s face which reflects all of the trauma and grief his character experienced, and you can just sense his inner conflict. But on the outside, we’re looking at the face of an old man, one who did actually survive, despite the odds.
Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer living in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show Chain Reaction.