Copenhagen Cowboy: how Refn explained its meaning

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Copenhagen Cowboy is a TV series released by Netflix on January 2023. Created by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (the NWR signature you see in each episode’s opening titles), the show caught the viewers’ interest for its aesthetic beauty, fascinating colors, and a plot that leaves many mysteries unsolved. For that reason, the spectators wondered about the meaning of the series. Luckily, this time the creator and director took his time to answer some questions in several interviews, where he explained to the world how the series was born and its underlying meaning. Let’s discover it in this article.

You can watch the official trailer for Copenhagen Cowboy here on Youtube.

Copenhagen Cowboy explained: the series meaning according to Nicolas Winding Refn

The protagonist in Copenhagen Cowboy is Miu, a supernatural female creature with special powers used by her to bring justice to the world. During most of the series’ plot, we wonder if she’s a positive character or a villain: she’s initially introduced to us as a “lucky coin,” a person who can bring great luck to people around her. But while the plot continues, we see many unfortunate events happening to people close to her. The woman who hosts her in the first episode starts bleeding, then Cimoma; the girl who shares the bed with her, gets killed by Nicklas, an animalesque young boy who needs fresh blood to survive; the gangsters she starts to work with enter a vast war where many get killed… while watching the episodes, we start wondering if Miu isn’t actually a creature that came to bring chaos in the world.

The truth is that Miu’s actions have a severe impact on the life of evil men: the woman who uses girls as prostitutes, the gangsters, the lawyer who made something terrible to her in the past… they are all cruel individuals that deserve a lesson, and Miu acts in a way that will bring justice to the world. Good people benefit from her actions, as happens to the woman who gives birth in the Chinese restaurant, or Mor Hulda, who will get her daughter back from the gangster Mr. Chiang. From this point of view, Miu is a modern female superhero whose powers are subtle and precise, walking in the real world and affecting people’s lives without being pointed out as a supernatural creature.

As director Nicolas Winding Refn explained in this interview with Hollywood Reporter, this is how Copenhagen Cowboy was born:

Well, the way I live, I’m controlled by women. I have a wife and two daughters who are obviously my entire existence. I came out of my mother and basically went straight into my wife. So I really have only known women. For Copenhagen Cowboy, I thought it would be fun to create a modern, female superhero. And, because many people believe I’m like the reincarnation of Hans Christian Andersen, there are certain parallels in our lives, and I wanted to add a fairy tale element to it. Fairy tales are very interesting. I like them a lot. So I thought: Why not make a fairy tale in Denmark, but do it my way?

The writing process for Copenhagen Cowboy was a team job: Nicolas Winding Refn wrote the story together with Sara Isabella Jönsson, Johanne Algren, and Mona Masri, and they decided to set their creativity free. Each day the writing process could introduce some new element that wasn’t planned at the beginning, and this way, the plot evolved in unexpected directions. “Like painting a picture, but the canvas never stops,” as he described in this interview with Vulture. The changes went on even during the shooting process, as Copenhagen Cowboy director explained:

At the end of episode two, Miu is seeking revenge on the demon that has held her captive. She was supposed to talk about how she’d been abducted as a child. I said to her, “You will now say instead that you were abducted by aliens.” And I remember she went, “What?” And then that changed the remaining four episodes. […] I told her, “You are part of an intergalactic race and there’s another Miu awaiting you.” And then in episode three, I went to her and said, “Now you know kung fu.” And so we hired a trainer and got all these fight scenes going. That was also not really in the original plan.

That’s how the plot slowly drifted into a subtle superhero series with a main hero, Miu, belonging to a race of alien creatures who bring justice to those who deserve it, and a demonic nemesis, Rakel, Niklas’ dead sister who’s brought into life again in the second half of the series. Rakel belongs to the group of real villains, coming from a family of blood-suckers, wildly screaming their anger against their enemies. They kill good people and take advantage of them, and that’s how Cimona dies: she wasn’t a victim of Miu’s bad luck, but a prey caught by the demonic Niklas.

Yes, after all, Copenhagen Cowboy is a superhero story set in a real, modern world. And now everybody wonders if a Season 2 is possible: for sure, the plot leaves the possibility open, with the lawyer ready to meet the mysterious “Giants” and ask them to help to fight Miu, and Rakel alive and prepared to enter the battle. The actors are also available: Rakel is played by Lola Winding Refn, the director’s elder daughter. As Refn said in his interviews:

Season one is about a hero’s creation, and it sets the stage for much more mayhem to come. But that’s up to the heavy heads at Netflix.

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