Review: Rita, Season 4

Mille Dinesen in Rita

Season 4 of Rita, the Danish series created by Christian Torpe, is finally available on Netflix US. It was deeply emotional, heartwarming, and a brilliant resolution to the story of Rita that we have been privileged to see so far.

In season 4, Rita returns to the town where she grew up. She signs on as a teacher at the same school she went to. The school is in danger of closing, but is hiring new teachers. The principal Bjarne (Ole Lemmeke) wants to keep it open. Bjarne says he can fix anything, even a school about to be closed.

Being in her home town brings back memories of her youth for Rita. She’s taken back to 1985, to her first year in the school she’s now entering every day. She’s taken back to the same streets and houses where pivotal events in her life took place.

Mille Dinesen and Tessa Hoder and on the set of Rita
Image courtesy Christian Torpe

Mille Dinesen plays Rita. The 1985 Rita was played by Tessa Hoder.

My impression of the two Ritas was that the casting and acting were so skillful you forget that it is two actors playing Rita. She’s one person, consistent in outlook, mannerisms, and personality across her lifetime. Whether it’s 1985 or 2017, Rita is Rita. Good writing, smart directing, and excellent acting from both actors made Rita’s life a seamless whole.

As a fan of Orphan Black, I’ve commented that it’s easy to forget that only one actor plays all the clones. They seem to be completely different people. With season 4 of Rita, it’s the reverse. You forget that two different actors are playing the same character. Mille Dinesen and Tessa Hoder are so convincingly one person. According to IMDb, this is Tessa Hoder’s first acting job. She’s flawless in this role.

The season 4 story

Hjørdis (Lise Baastrup) convinced her husband Uffe (Kristoffer Fabricius) that they should move to the same town as Rita with their infant son. Hjørdis even got a job at the same school as Rita. Rita didn’t appreciate Hjørdis and her efforts to look after her, be a friend, be a support. She often tried to get Hjørdis to leave her alone.

The first problem student Rita dealt with in the new job was Allan (Albert Reffelt Dalum). She went to talk to his parents.

Allan’s mother was Lea (Charlotte Munck as an adult, Sofie Juul Nielsen as a teen). When Rita and Lea saw each other it was a shock to them both. The way they looked at each other screamed past history.

Tessa Hoder and Sofie Juul Nielsen in Rita
As teens Rita and Lea were best friends and confidants

Rita and Lea were best friends in high school. Rita even lived at Lea’s house for a time. Memories of that time often involved Lea. Rita and Lea had an intense relationship as teenage girls. Not quite sexual, but something more than platonic friendship.

At first Lea wanted nothing to do with Rita as an adult. She was angry about the past. But as the episodes rolled by they took up their old friendship.

Their feelings for each other grew intense once again. Not quite sexual although there were a couple of drunken kisses. It was something more than platonic friendship, and important to both of them.

There was lots of evidence in past seasons that Rita is straight. And Lea was married to a man. But I got the impression that if conditions were right they might make an exception for this one particular person.

There were subplots involving the needs of the students and the efforts to keep the school open. Uffe and Hjørdis provided some interesting subplots. Finding a place to live and to call home were themes affecting both Rita and Hjørdis.

Rita and Hjørdis had several confrontations. Most of them were unkind on Rita’s part. She wanted to unlatch Hjørdis from her side so she could spend time with Lea. But I knew by the end of the season, Rita and Hjørdis would mend themselves, and they did.

We know about Rita’s adult life from seasons 1-3.  We know about her children, her grandchildren, her marriages, her affairs, her commitment to kids and education. Season 4 fills in gaps from her early life. We see why she is angry about her parents, why she makes her own rules. We might even get a clue about her fondness for plaid shirts.

The constant motif in Rita’s life in past seasons has been bad decisions and irresponsible choices. Being forced to examine her past helped her accept her mistakes – some of which were huge – and forgive herself. Where that leads her in the last episode was a fitting and satisfying conclusion.

This was the best season of Rita ever. I base that statement on the gracefully integrated past and present we saw as Rita reconciled with her life. Switching from one time period to another happened effortlessly. Again I praise the writing and directing and cinematography stitching Rita’s life stages together. The cinematography was beautiful in every way, actually.

Season 4 almost didn’t happen. When season 3 ended it seemed the end. There was lots of noise from fans begging for more. Finally Netflix decided to produce one more season of this popular series. Good decision, Netflix.

The way season 4 ended could be considered the end. Rita was in a good place that made sense for her. Or, should the money people in Denmark and at Netflix decide to give us more, it could be the beginning of a whole new adventure. Personally, I love Rita. I could spend many more years with her.

Most of the episodes were directed by Lars Kaalund. Natasha Arthy directed two episodes of the eight in season 4. Christian Torpe was head writer. Rita was his vision and creation throughout, but several other writers worked on season 4, including some women.

What did you think of season 4?

82 thoughts on “Review: Rita, Season 4”

  1. I really enjoyed this season. I’m a 25 year old American male who has a lot of friends interested in teaching after watching Rita, I can tell you I definitely don’t see myself teaching. The biggest impact this show had for me was learning about the Welfare state society and frankly I find it very attractive to my own philosophical mind. I’ll take this season as the conclusion because self forgiveness is a hard sell since its being done on so many shows these days but I’m glad it ended this way. Rita was too complicated a character for any of the shows followers to think her denouement would be finding a new teaching job or finding some other happiness for her to live in. The character is so appealing first and foremost because of the badass, tortured soul, troubled past archetype that we all need to see more of. We faced her past for the first time and she relived it going back to her home. Followers receive the “I finally understand her” moment when we see what she did to mess up what little happiness she did have. Important to remember was her disdain for her mother while she was dying and I love how the fourth season touched upon how Rita’s earlier years were affected by her absence. The final scene was amazing, I loved that they both went back inside the house together and shut the door as if Rita knew that being back in her old house and completely transforming it would be the best way for Rita to forgive herself for her past mistakes and the safest place to evolve into a new “Rita”. Old Rita is gone kids.

    1. I’ve been a teacher for about 50 years if you add up all the different kinds of teaching I’ve done. I can tell you that teaching in America is nothing like teaching in Denmark. It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding, too.

      1. Thanks for this perspective. When I heard they were planning on making an American version my first thought was how? The societies, especially around education are nothing alike? It would have to be an entirely different show.

      2. I don’t know if you read my interview with Christian Torpe about season 4, but one of the things he said was, “As for Sam and Tessa – they are remakes of Rita! Tessa is the Dutch remake, Sam is the French remake. Don’t ask me why they changed the name, I couldn’t tell you. Watching the show transform into other nationalities has been so much fun – and so weird.”

        So an American remake would have to adapt to American style schooling, but the lead character could still be a rebel and a rule breaker.

      3. Ricardus Vincente

        They already shot an american pilot of Rita in the states with Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) in the role and it didn’t get picked up.

      4. Lol you couldn’t do an American Rita because she would get fired in every episode. US education law has utterly disempowered teachers to act in any fashion remotely similar to Rita’s character; the fear of lawsuits by angry parents unwilling is very real.

        Of course, there are good reasons and bad for this . US public education was, for years, a place where authoritarian teachers could act on their prejudices without consequence. By seeking to prevent this, the consequence has also been the removal of a casual freedom of speech by teachers , afraid of offending the feelings of sensitive students with litigious parents.

      5. I once had a principal insist I give an A to a student who “wrote” a paper by printing out articles from the Internet. BTW, the kid’s parents had money. What would Rita have done? Not that.

  2. Your comparison and contrast with Orphan Black is spot on. I found your review of Rita while searching for information on Tessa Hoder. After seeing three episodes of season 4 I was becoming certain that Tessa must be related to Mille. Either that, or she was a very accomplished actor who had studied Mille’s footage for months. And now I find out that although perhaps she may have studied the footage for months, and had for all we know a lot of coaching, she’s not been acting long and she’s not related. I’m all the more impressed with the work she did as 1985 Rita. Her portrayal really does make two people appear to be one.

    I’ve got to add, though, my applause for the film making. The shooting and editing keep us guessing as we’re going into so many scenes: is this the present or past? Which Rita are we seeing? Without standing out as gimmicky the shots and cuts help meld the two actors, in our minds. Finesse in costuming tops it off, and smart-but-sensitive writing makes it solid.

    What a pleasure to read your review and share the delight in this coup. Thank you!

    1. Dear Merry,
      Tonight we finished the last episode of season 4 of Rita.
      Ik fully agree with your comment.
      Greetings from the Netherlands.

  3. I loved your review and share your feelings about Season 4. The two Ritas were flawless as one person. Backstory just made me feel closer to this character and want more.

  4. I have seen Season 4 up to episode 6. I am just so glad that Rita is back. I’m enjoying this season but miss the characters from Season 1-3

  5. Absolutely loved Rita – Series 4. I’ve adored this character thru all 3 series and Mille Dinesen is brilliant! The writing, direction, and storyline have evolved beautifully and with the return to Rita’s childhood in series 4 – so many questions answered as to who Rita is. How the decisions she’s made throughout her life have brought her to this point and that despite her stubborn, fiercely independent persona, she’s really just been desperate to be loved. Huge props to Tessa Hoder – a magnificent, transcendent performance as 15-16year old Rita. Hjordis’s story was a lovely, quirky parallel to Rita’s and the final episode had me in puddles! The perfect way to end the show, should they decide to. Highly rec.

  6. Wow. Best season of Rita ever. My wife is British and I am American. She is a teacher and my youngest daughter is studying to be one. We love watching shows in the native language and this season of Rita was great.

    The casting for young Rita was excellent and many kudos to that young actress. I know there are aspects of the Danish welfare state that many Americans can’t understand, but Rita really shows the love that a teacher can have for her students. I’m glad we didn’t see Rita shag every man in the place, but this was definitely deep. The touching scenes in Rita are absolutely beautiful and sometimes the mannerisms etc of the Danish throw us off as Americans, but overall an A+ job. The two young actresses did a top notch job as well as Rita and Lea as the grown-up versions did.

    Keep this series going. It’s one of the best out there. Also, I can’t stop singing the damn theme song either. Can’t wait for Season 5!

    1. I didn’t mention in my review what a great job the two actors playing Lea did, but I agree with you that they were excellent. I guess if you have to have an earworm, you could do worse than have Rita’s bouncy tune in your head.

  7. I’ve been looking for more information about Tessa Holder and frankly, I can’t find a thing about her.

    She was beyond amazing. So often you will find flashbacks in movies or series and the younger version of a character will attempt to have some resemblance with the main character in the ‘now’, but seldomly as good as Tessa Holder did.

    Perfect acting. A rare feat.

    On top of that the whole season was excellent, can’t wait to see more.

  8. Really loved this season. It felt fresh and necessary, and although the dual timeline could have easily been a boring gimmick, it was so well done. The whole thing about Rita is that she is so emotionally immature, constantly refusing to take responsibility for those around her, and over the years it has become clear that this persona was slowly killing her. Her vitality and good humour had turned sour, her optimism and originality were becoming roleplat, and she was becoming something of a tragic figure. I’m really glad she got a new season to not only shed light of what led her to become The person she became, but also to move forward with her life and resolve some of her hurt and pain so she could break the cycle of hurting all those who came too close.

    I love the main actress who plays Rita, such a difficult character to inhabit, and she does a stellar job. The actress playing young Rita was so well cast and so talented; the interactions with Lea suitably complex and layered, and the kids backstories poignant and funny. And Hjørdis… oh, my heart. She is the moral centre of this story, so glad she stuck around.

  9. Ricardus Vincente

    This season of Rita made me sad. I mean we know Rita is emotionally damaged, and we could speculate why based on things we’ve already been told about, but the pain she suffered when her father rejected her, and then her new family with Lea was hard to watch. It was an excellent season but I’m still down about it.

    And on the topic of what Lea’s mom did to her, I was a little shocked. I mean we already KNOW Rita is damaged, so her acting out is to be expected. But why is the other party not as much (OR ENTIRELY) to blame? Criminy.

  10. Just finished season 4…LOVED it ! Mille Dinesen and Lise Baastrup were brilliant as always, and what excellent casting of Tessa Holder as young Rita…she is PERFECT. One of my favorite shows ever, I’m glad the plot leaves room for a season 5.

  11. One of the most interesting character traits about Rita is that she became an adult and a job that will affect the future in insurmountable ways by The Impressions she makes and the contributions through the art of teaching young people. Coming from trouble set of parents, divorce and extreme dysfunction I can attest to the very real fact that Rita could have gone in a very different direction as an adult. That is what I appreciated most in all four seasons. The writers weather intentionally or not show the viewers that no matter where a person comes from their future is in their hands. Rita’s Journey via the screen both amused and intrigue me to think deeply about not only the characters and their experiences but my own life. I personally could have enjoyed watching Rita evolve Evermore but understand the factors involved when producers decide whether or not to continue a show. Sadly it’s not always about the viewers opinions.

  12. Like others, I came to this wonderful post by searching for information on Tessa Hoder — I was sure that she and Mille Dinesan must be related. Even if they were, it was amazing acting by both of them. You are right that we are so focused on Rita, we forget there are two Leas as well. I was impressed with them, too. I liked the very subtle glow and softness of the transitions to the past. The ending was fantastic. But let’s not overlook Hjørdis. It’s easy not to take Hjørdis seriously, because she’s so goofy, and we tend to agree that Rita has a firmer grip on how the world works. But Hjørdis speaks the deeper truths — you have to face what you fear. You have to forgive yourself. The only one who can do it is you. She knows her friend is troubled, and she stays by her side, even though she is rebuffed. That’s a true friend. The final scenes blew me away. This is fiction, but we all have the opportunity to forgive ourselves by getting a good picture of our former selves and our reactions to events at the time, that shaped us. If we can step back, we can understand that former self and give them, in our minds, the resources they needed at the time to make better choices. We can “go back” to the “house” of our memories and put things in order so we can get unstuck. Then we can move forward with our lives and tell a better, more resourceful story about ourselves and those we love. These are real tools that can be used by anyone. There are the facts of what happened. There is the story that was told about the facts. There is our reaction to the story. We can’t change the facts, but we can change the narrative to include other perspectives. And we can certainly change our reactions moving forward. I recently got hooked on SKAM ( — another very impressive series (out of Norway) that is about to be remade in the US. What impressed me in both of these series is the use of story to show us the value of seeing things through a variety of perspectives — including marginalized voices.

  13. (Spoilers) I just finished Season 4, and in addition to agreeing with all the compliments above, I was really struck by the opposing roles the two teachers had in young Rita’s life. Lea’s mom strikes you as the good supportive teacher, soft and supportive. The gruff old Social Studies teacher immediately seems like a bully. But as the story weaves on, you see that the old guy was right from the start, that she didn’t need to be coddled.
    In the end, Lea’s Mom proves to be the one she can’t count on, and fuels Rita’s self doubt and lack of faith in herself. But the old man tells her exactly what she needs to hear: Be the kind of adult children want to be. He sees her for her intelligence and her spark, not for a victim to feel sorry for. And with some obvious flaws, she became just that.
    Brilliant writing and character development.

    I hope there is a season 5, but if there’s not, I’m content with where it stands, and that is another feat in itself! I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about a season finale before!

  14. I would like to see another season. Maybe the school combines with the Nursing home setting and Rita continues to know her self through interactions with her students and the very old and wise.

  15. Just a wonderful show. I’ve been teaching for 51 years – so many of the plots ring true. The casting is great. Tessa Holder is fantastic!

  16. Jeps. (As Rita would say) Agree with all comments above, Great casting, acting and writing BUT one thing was driving me nuts and I hope someone can tell me that I missed something, rather then there being a giant plothole: where the hell is Rita’s sister? In previous seasons Rita talks with her sis about how their mum left them both, but when we get to know young Rita no sign of her. Even if mama decided to bring sister with her to whereever she went (which wouldn’t make much sense since she’s supposedly looking for freedom) one would still expect 1985 Rita to talk about her, but not a word in the entire season. WEIRD… or am i crazy?

    1. I wondered, too. I assumed she was older and already gone, but couldn’t remember if that was ever specified.
      In a similar vein, I thought it was odd Hjordis’ husband was completelh missing from her spin off.

      1. If I’m not mistaken the Hjørdis spin off was made before her husband was introduced in Rita.

  17. Ginger Pedersen

    I just finished watching the last episode. This was by far the best season – the storyline was deep and genuine. Europeans have a much different outlook on strong friendships, and it was displayed beautifully here. I think all of us want to be like Rita, but we see inside and it’s a tough row. The supporting characters all fit so well into this tapestry – and Hjørdis becomes the savi our at the end! And to have the meaning of the plaid shirt be revealed was jaw dropping.
    I love the show too because it’s a glimpse of my roots, being half Danish, hearing the language and seeing life lived in different ways of simplicity and thought for others. If we get season 5, that would be great; but if not it would be ok. You can’t top this.

      1. The paid shirt represents safety for Rita. During the most horrific episode of her life, where she was being rejected and cold, the gift of the plaid shirt was a tiny bit of humanity that made her feel safe, secure and “warm”

      2. I’m glad Ginger brought that up, because I hadn’t really caught that when I watched it. Didn’t Lea’s dad take off his plaid shirt and put it over her shoulders when she was kicked out of their house? So, it could signify several things: it would be recognizable by Lea’s mom if Rita wore it to school (passive-aggressive payback); it was the scrap of comfort that she would use to stoke her resilience (like Linus’ blanket in Peanuts); it had become a crutch; a cover for her naked vulnerability…

      3. I saw it as a penance at first. I thought she might continue to wear plaid because of the heartache she caused Lea.

  18. I grew up in the 80’s Denmark so I enjoyed looking back to her school. I’ve forgotten how smoke filled teachers lounches was. Parents that gives you beer before a party and expect that is the only alcohol we would drink 😀
    The whole punch bowl spiking I didn’t think was all that danish though. People would just stash alcohol in bushes and hedges near by.
    I think this whole series has the best casting I’ve seen to date. Good work for a country of 5.5 mill. to find such a believeable cast.
    For a lot of time I don’t find parents and their children believable or young and present characters is done this good in general. American, danish or otherwise.

  19. Aside from everything that has already been said here (and I fully agree with), I think both Rita and Lea would like to be the other and that both lifes have their pros and cons.

  20. And as I am from the Netherlands: can someone from the US enlighten me on what “Danish Welfare State” are odd/uncommon from an American perspective? I would like to understand your culture and the differences better.

    1. Hot topic, Mark. I’ll give it a try. On the website it states that in the “Danish welfare system, a number of services are available to citizens, free of charge. This means that for instance the Danish health and educational systems are free. The Danish welfare model is subsidised by the state, and as a result Denmark has one of the highest taxation levels in the world.” In America, currently, this is very controversial. Progressives would like to see a system such as this (maybe not high taxes, but an efficient system), because they believe that citizens have a right to access quality education and healthcare. Not everyone agrees. Some conservatives are working to privatize education, favoring what they term “freedom of choice” but hiding inequality. Healthcare is muddied by an insurance system that is tied somewhat to employment (hospitals are paid by the procedures they perform, and drugs are commodities — costs are rising out of control). Taxation is seen as something citizens need “relief” from rather than how we pay for things we share or hold in common. “Welfare” has been given a bad name because of spin that it is abused by “takers”. We are in a fight over the role of government, and the meaning of democracy. Our laws that protect public safety are seen as “regulations that obstruct corporate progress”…

  21. I agree with everyone here. It was a great season that filled in a lot of blanks and answered a lot of questions. Great acting and great ending. I loved Hjordis and Uffe’s relationship too.
    Having said that, am I the only one who misses Rasmus? It bothered me that he ended up with Helle. Not always, but at times he seemed to be really centered, mature, and healthy. Helle had morbid tendencies, like when she was traumatizing the kids when that other teacher died, and how she was sexually weird with Uffe. It seems that she liked men who were taken, or she liked to take other women’s partners. I don’t understand why Rasmus would choose her. It broke my heart when he flushed the wedding ring down the toilet. If there’s a season 5, I would like to see him reappear. Even if Rita and Rasmus don’t end up together, his story seems as of now unfinished.

    1. I missed Rasmus as well, and had difficulty with the Helle storyline. When Rasmus dressed-down Jeppe’s biological father as “undeserving of such a wonderful son,” that character had me for good.

  22. potential spoilers:

    I finished the last season tonight and feel really bittersweet about the ending of this show.
    while i did enjoy how this season seamlessly showed the past and the present in order to explain a background we never really got on rita, it also was painstaking to watch her make the same mistakes again. she tried really hard not to, but she wasn’t able to shake the reputation she had as a teen, and the people around her refused to let her try. while she seemed to hold the old friendship with lea very close to her heart, thirty years had passed and all those memories were just that…memories. i have had the same romantic longing to reconnect with friends i had back in my childhood or young adult years, but as i’ve found in my own life, there is a reason those friendships didn’t last, and one should let sleeping dogs lie. lea ended up being a real jerk after all.
    i’m really glad that hjordis stayed by her side, even after all the crap rita put her through. i also missed a lot of the characters from the previous season, and kind of hoped rita would end up back in her old town with her old job and house back.
    rasmus was really good for her, and it was sad to watch her destroy that relationship. there was a part of me that hoped they would reconcile.
    if there is another season, i will def watch, because i feel emotionally invested in rita.

  23. Please, please have a season 5. Rita is an amazing show. The characters are engrossing, and there are so, so few truly great series with complex, real characters. I can’t really think of anything comparable.

  24. Glynis Loizeau

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I honestly thought I was the only person who loved Rita so much – every aspect of it, from script to casting to production to performance. It’s the first series in a long, long time that I’ve been totally hooked on from the start. Refreshing, wonderful stuff. Just couldn’t stand another crime, zombie (which I don’t watch), viking (porn dressed up as adventure history), serial killer series. I only discovered it by chance a few weeks ago and have spent some toe-curlingly happy nights watching it. Everyone, but everyone, was convincing and totally believable. And now it’s over… Like most of you, I feel emotionally invested in Rita! I see there’s a Hjordis spin off. Going to give it a try.

  25. There has to be more, please! Canadian schools are not like this at all either, but as a teacher, I recognize many students.

  26. Every time I get a notification of a comment to this thread, it brings back warm fuzzies about the series all over again. I’d like to share with you another excellent series (out of Norway) which is about to be re-made for US audiences but is available (with subtitles) online: Skam (Shame). Prepare to be hooked!

  27. Loved the show. Just finished watching it. My gf is from Denmark and also a teacher and recommended the show. Season 4 was very deep and quite unexpected. Tak for a great show.

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  29. Karen DuBose-Cook

    Mille is enjoying her new baby now, but I’m sure hoping for more Rita soon as possible!
    Best show on Netflix!

  30. Agree with almost all the comments. Tessa Hoder should have a great career ahead of her, she does an amazing job of capturing the old Rita’s mannerisms. All the fans of this show should watch the movie “Copenhagen” which is also on Netflix. Not Danish produced but shot almost entirely in Copenhagen. Written and directed by a Canadian Mark Raso, the male lead is English Gethin Anthony (he does an amazing job of portraying an American from New York), but the female lead is Danish, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, another great Danish actress. Shot in only 25 days on a micro budget it’s the most emotionally intense movie I’ve ever seen.

  31. I really loved this review of season 4. I know I’m late, but I’m doing some research on different Rita reviews because I’m writing a review on the upcoming season 5 of Rita starting on Monday June 1st. I’ve read many of you hoped for a season 5 and I can enlighten you that’s it premiering here in Denmark on Monday. Hopefully all of you’ll get to see the end to Rita’s journey very soon because season 5 will be the shows last. I’m very much excited. This show is amazing and we Danes are pretty proud of it.

      1. Torpe has penned series five as well but the director is still Lars Kaalund.

        One episode left of series five to be aired here in DK and I don’t want to give too much away but yes Rasmus is back.

        Hopefully the series will be up on Netflix in a matter of weeks and you can follow her trials again. She has been missed.

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