REVIEW: Vienna Blood (S1 E2/3)

After a sound but unspectacular start, Vienna Blood delves deeper into turn-of the-century madness and mayhem in The Queen of the Night – what psychological twists and turns await Oskar and Max this week?

After Max’s impulsive proposal last week, events have moved quickly (it’s now 1907), and we next see him at his engagement party to Clara. Moody cop Oskar is relatively jovial but is called away when the scene of a brutal triple slaying is discovered – inevitably, in a brothel. Clara is surprisingly understanding when Max wants to get in on the action. Nevertheless, Max’s shrewish sister is still nagging him about Clara, though unaware that Max is still obsessed with his patient, the enigmatic Amelia Lydgate. When the three meet in the museum where Amelia works, the atmosphere is icy.

One of Max’s patients, an obsessive stalker, further pricks the doctor’s conscience about his feelings, or lack of them, for Clara.

At the murder scene, Max observes that one of the three victims has been singled out for ritualistic washing and posing. But the murder weapon, supposedly a curved knife, is nowhere to be found.

Oskar, ever one to leap to the obvious conclusion, arrests Viktor Krull, a regular client and a bit of a simpleton (though Oskar, confusingly, says that four women have been killed).

Commissioner Strasser (Simon Hatzl), equally eager to settle the case, announces the arrest. Max, of course, is not convinced, questioning the suspect and deciding he may have washed the corpse, but he did not commit the murders.

Meanwhile, Max’s father (Conleth Hill) is offered a large investment in his haberdashery business, but the investor, Gustav von Triebenbach (Ulrich Noethen) is a massive racist. (The contract is dated 1906, and so is an IOU in the brothel, despite the fact that we’ve been told it’s 1907).

And pompous Inspector Von Bulow is assigned the case of a snake stolen from a zoo and found butchered near a statue of Mozart – this surely has some deep conspiratorial symbolism.

Max concludes that the murder weapon must have been allowed into the brothel because it was a soldier’s uniform sword, and finds an IOU from a Lieutenant.

Max uses the excuse of testing blood from Krull’s shirt to visit Amelia. She tells him about the ‘species precipitin’ test to determine whether blood is human or animal (developed by Paul Uhlenhuth in 1901, the test is famous in the annals of forensic science and had a tremendous impact on many criminal justice cases in the 20th century. Hugely honoured for his work, ironically Uhlenhuth went on to become a massive Nazi).

Amelia, who conveniently describes her profession as ‘scientist’, so presumably she could turn her hand to any necessary forensic investigation, concludes that the blood on Krull’s shirt is indeed animal – but by this time he’s been beaten to death in his cell.

When more slashed bodies are found – a poulterer and an African vagrant – clearly Krull couldn’t have been the one what done it. But why do symbols in blood at the scene of the crimes match those on von Tribenbach’s racist leaflets?

Oskar traces the artist of the leaflets, Olbricht (Andreas Lust), who says he created the artwork for a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (a-ha – here’s the tie-in to the dead snake and statue of Mozart. The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) is packed with allegorical references to the Masons – those shady conspirators who are allegedly behind everything from the world banking system to the Jack the Ripper murders). But who are the Brotherhood of Primal Fire who commissioned the leaflet?

Max has no luck with women – Amelia gives him the brush-off, then so does Clara when he takes her to an exhibition of Olbricht’s work – probably because Oskar turns up to look for Olbricht’s sponsors, the Brotherhood.

Max meets a twitchy soldier, Von Tribenbach’s nephew Hafner, who seems like a good candidate to be the demented murderer; he makes a bee-line for Clara. Max cultivates Von Tribenbach, admiring a rousingly nationalistic painting of Carnuntum (an ancient Roman fortress destroyed by Germanic tribes).

Is the link between all the murders just the fact that the victims are immigrants? Surely there’s more to it than that, thinks Max, and of course the answer lies in The Magic Flute – the snake, the three female servants of the Queen of the Night, the bird catcher Papageno, and the Moor Monostatos are represented by the victims – the murderer has both a political message and an artistic one.

While Max’s father rejects Von Tribenbach’s investment, Max and Oskar try to narrow down the suspects in the murder case – Clara’s horrified to be told that Hafner is a suspect, and foolishly invites him to her home, only to be assaulted. Max arrives and fights Hafner, but inevitably, finds himself drawn into a duel; Oskar won’t help, so Max recruits the bumptious Von Bulow as a second.

Max hopes to force a confession and have Oskar step in to make an arrest; but Oskar is shanghaied, Hafner implicates artist Olbricht, and Max, fleeing the duel, realises that Oskar has been cast as the last character in the re-enactment of the opera, Sarastro.

When Max finds him about to kill Oskar at the opera house, he psycho-analyses Olbricht who has been driven mad by the rape of his mother by a soldier when he was a boy, and has been masquerading as a soldier to carry out his crimes – until he’s distracted enough to be clonked on the noggin.

So, enough Freudian slips in this episode to satisfy any headshrinker, though when Inspector Morse did The Magic Flute, he at least had the decency to blame the Masons for it (in the episode Masonic Mysteries).

The settings and photography are still spectacular (love the closing drone shot over Vienna), and Max and Oskar’s relationship seems settled – they’ve now saved each other’s lives – but surely this will be the end for the traumatised Clara, who breaks off the engagement?

Perhaps the solution would be for Max and Oskar to move into lodgings together, get a housekeeper and set up as consulting detectives. We’ll find out next week in The Lost Child.

Chris Jenkins



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kate Day says:

    This is dire in my humble view. Gave up after a toe curlingly hammy half hour of ep1. Perhaps it has improved. The sound quality was odd. Soinded like Oskar’s lines were badly over dubbed… Or whatever the tech term is. And the actor couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag…. He exhibited the required behaviour of playing a gruff driven cop owhen required but didn’t inhabit the character. Reminded me of some kinda 1980s European collaborative film with dubbing that gives the audience a sense of detachment from the action and where the characters seem detached from each other. Gosh that sounds harsh haha… But I was so disappointed as I’d been expecting something far more sophisticated.


    1. Jane says:

      I felt that way about the first episode but I think the subsequent episodes have been much better and I’ve warmed to the characters. So much so that I actually think I’m going to miss it next week!!


  2. Jane says:

    Much preferred this episode to last week’s but still frustrated that Oskar appears to have no detecting skills, so I keep wondering how he got to where he is in his career! Did feel like this episode had a Morse like quality especially with the cryptic links to the opera.


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