REVIEW: Babylon Berlin (S3 E3&4/12)

German series Babylon Berlin – the noirish tale of murder and skullduggery in Weimar-era Berlin – began its third series last week, and you have to say it simmered – as it always has done – rather than blazed a trail. Once again it looked gorgeous, and all the elements were fascinating, but I always think with this show that I should love it more.

Instead, there were a dizzying amount of characters, plenty of storylines and two main cases that our heroes were investigating.

Because of the amount of detail and the sheer heft of stuff happening, I’m going to revert to character breakdowns in my reviews.

Gereon Rath
Pity poor Gereon. He looks terrible – not only like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, but also physically; pale, slightly jaundiced, sweaty and with big, dark rings under his eyes.

Part of this bonkers series is the side-story of the shady, aggressive psychiatrist he sees. We have more of that in these two episodes as he climbs down into the sewers or subways to secretly meet the man who successfully weaned him off the morphine and is helping him with not only survivor’s guilt but also in his relationship with Helga (albeit with unconventional means).

But it doesn’t take long for he and Helga to split up, which, in terms of narrative, frees him up to concentrate on the cases. Yes, cases.

First of all, he’s hanging around the film studio to find out more about the death of silent film star Betty Winter. He’s not finding too much because the studio is abuzz with a ‘show must go on’ vibe. Things soon take a turn for the worst when another starlet – Tilly Brooks – is found with her throat slit in one of the dressing rooms. And there seems to be a slightly occult, secret society vibe to all of this, especially as the runner who was shot in Gereon’s car at the end of episode two and the frantically, overly-dramatic widow, Tristan Rot, was found to have some sort of saucy link.

And look out for his simmering rivalry with Böhm…

Charlotte Ritter
Lotte is such a great character, and there’s a sense here that even though she has left her sex-worker, club-dancer past behind, every now and then it rears its head. So far, Lotte has been – thanks to Gereon – playing an active role in the murder investigations at the film studios, and in these two episodes she has been placed at the centre of the comings and goings, trying to figure out what has been going on.

She has seen the costumes the mysterious cloaked figure has been wearing, and is on-set when Tilly has her throat slit.

But there’s more about Lotte – and her two worlds – when they begin to fall apart or at least start to unravel. In among her mother’s things, she finds a letter from who might be her real father. And, she has befriended Vera – part of the movie cast and Walter Weintraub’s ‘friend’ – who she enjoys a raucous night out at a gay bar, where much debauchery ensues.

Edgar ‘Die Armenian‘ Kasabian
He’s an interesting character, is Die Armenian. He’s a bad man, of that there is no doubt, and his association with his right-hand man, Walter Weintraub, is a classic gangster one-two punch.

But there’s another element to his character: some strange sensitivity. He knows all about Rath’s past and addiction, because he was in the same boat, and, as the banks collapse and his fortune is under threat from foreclosing banks and loan sharks, he realises that the production of the movie still has to continue.

So when Rath and Die Armenian finally meet again, there’s an uneasy understanding between the two: they both want this case solved, but for different reasons. I wonder if their bond will deepen to the extent that they might actually work together in some unofficial capacity to solve the case.

Greta Overbeck
I’m becoming increasingly concerned that Greta is doomed. How can she not be? In prison and on trial for the murder of Councillor Benda, the nefarious Wendt gets his way when he threatens her child unless she recants her testimony and blames the Communists for the murder.

Under extreme pressure, she decides to go with Wendt, but I honestly don’t think this is going to save her. Unless Rath, watching on from the sidelines can somehow spring her.

Other things…

Alfred Nyssen is impossible to read. He’s admitted he’s unstable mentally, and yet he seems calm and collected, just waiting to mop up in the chaos after the banks fold. And what is going on with him and Helga?

This week’s most touching scenes were with young Reinhold Gräf, who Gereon assigns a stealth mission to retrieve the Benda files from the archives. Unfortunately, the brute who’s guarding the archives recognises him from the red light district and forces himself on him. It’s another fascinating nuance – that of gay men and their secrecy in Weimar-era Germany – that gives this show so much depth.



One Comment Add yours

  1. John Hale says:

    Tried reading the books – gave up after a few chapters. Very derivative, and a pale shadow of the Bernie Gunther books. I hope, like “Wolf Hall”, that the TV adaptation is better than the book!


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