Ramping Up #BerlinStation – Promo Trailer (potential SPOILERS)

We are now entering the last 30 days until the premiere of BS on Epix (October 16). And the PR dept is ramping up their promo efforts. After having introduced us to all major players via individual character videos, as well as a trailer and a full-length preview of the first two episodes, we have now been given a character video for the shadiest characters of all – Thomas Shaw. And let me say this right at the beginning: What two full-length episodes couldn’t do, this trailer has effortlessly done in 60 seconds – I am totally hooked now. Have a look:

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My congrats again to the producers of the trailers and promo content. Another fantastic offering that actually excites me more than the actual series. This is great TV promotion – with a mere 60 seconds at their disposal, they manage to tease their show in an exciting, interesting and curiosity-inducing way. So full of facts and ruses, it is a complete sensory overload, demanding the viewer to watch, listen, discern, and interpret all at the same time. It’s pretty amazing how much is in this – and how much you *don’t* see at first viewing. I actually went through this trailer frame by frame, and it is really well-constructed, with *obvious* care and thought behind it.
oberbaumbruckeThere are many things which this trailer does very cleverly. First of all, it establishes the location slowly and carefully at the beginning. We get an overhead shot of Glienicker Brücke – the bridge of spies which has recently been back in the public’s consciousness thanks to the eponymously titled Hollywood film featuring Tom Hanks. This is followed by a slow pan across Berlin and some high rises in the foreground and then finished with a shot of the U-Bahn trains crossing the landmark Oberbaumbrücke (bridge) that connects Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (two very edgy parts of Berlin).

In case the pictures do not work for establishing Berlin in the viewer’s mind, the trailer then makes the location obvious by showing us the name of the city in the next couple of shots of papers: Someone buys the news magazine Spiegel (German equivalent of Time Magazine), beside which a magazine called Berliner is prominently displayed. In the next shot, we see someone picking up a Berliner Zeitung from a newsstand. Hence we have Berlin fully established. The scenes are interspersed with the Shaw graphic, which is really colourful, cool and zeitgeist-y.

And then the show really hits you. No time for leaning back, you barely have time to take a breath in the next 35 seconds. A barrage of images, words and scenes starts flashing across the screen. You blink, and you are out – much like a spy who doesn’t pay attention. Since it has become increasingly clear that there is no coincidence in BS‘s flawless promo material, I took a really close (and slow) look at the sequence of the images – because I am sure there are hints in here. I actually took notes on the sequence because you cannot keep track of it without. This is what you see, and I am deliberately leaving it in this format, (stand-out voice over is written bold):

AGENT • Robert Kirsch • Hector de Jean • Daniel Miller • INSIDER • Kelly Frost • Valerie Edwards • Steven Frost • OPERATIVE • blurred out Ingrid Hollander • hooded unidentifiable man/Shaw • SUBVERSIVE • ENEMY • RADICAL • INFORMANT • PATRIOT • Miller • de Jean • Who is Shaw? • Kelly • TRAITOR • HERO • Frost • Valerie • SYMPATHISER • Who is Shaw? • [now shorter glimpses of obscured characters] Sandra Abe • de Jean • Sandra • LIAR • REBEL • SPY • Kirsch • MASTERMIND • Frost • ANARCHIST • [tiniest glimpse of] Miller • PEACEKEEPER • Who is Shaw? • [blank screen] Valerie: Which fucking side are you on?  [now switching to actual scenes from show] Miller furtively crossing the road • close-up Kirsch What do you want? • TRUST NO ONE • Valerie interrogating Muslim woman • someone eavesdropping • I wanna find Thomas Shaw blond woman jogging in snow  • Kelly untying Frost’s bow tie • TRUST NO ONE • Miller on phone • Miller: Shaw is not just a whistleblower close-up paper being burnt • TRUST NO ONE • Kelly eavesdropping • computer screen with code • TRUST NO ONE • Frost agitatedly shouting (Richter beside him) • Frost: Get them out of there  Abort TRUST NO ONE • naked woman getting dressed (Kirsch sitting on sofa back to camera) • Esther Krug smoking beside naked man (Miller) • TRUST NO ONE • Esther: You sound like Thomas Shaw • Esther and Miller having sex • Who is Shaw? • Kirsch frustratedly kicking a table • unknown man looking at mobile and being kidnapped • TRUST NO ONE • frustrated man from behind • Hector: Get out of here now Ingrid on phone • Kirsch at desk from behind • Who is Shaw? • TRUST NO ONE • Frost in office under water • blank screen • A MISSION TO UNCOVER LIES AND SECRETS

That is almost a piece of creative art in itself, don’t you think? The reason I have put this here, is to illustrate what this trailer does so perfectly: It uses all available media to keep the viewer busy, distracted and confused. It pretends to give information and yet creates ever more confusion. The editing of the trailer is really well done: We have a calm and slow start that gives us the background – Berlin, a whistleblower
is wreaking havoc with his revelations. The trailer picks up pace when we are introduced to the main players. We get to see their faces, but doubt is already cast; they are (literally) shady characters, although the interspersed words are predominantly neutral: agent, operative, insider.

miller-goes-roofAnd particularly so when it comes to the journalist who is the whistleblower’s mouthpiece. Ingrid Hollander is not properly shown, she is only a blurred out smudge of beige. A hint? The whistleblower’s depiction – presumably the man in the hoodie – is particularly interesting. We cannot really see his face. Well, hold on. Thanks to digital viewing, we can pause the frame. Not only do we see that “?Shaw?” is wearing the same coat that Daniel puts on when he goes up on the roof (see screenshot right), but thanks to lightening up the shadows, we see hints of familiar stubble, a prominent nose, a piercing stare…

shaw-lightened

Enemy, Traitor, Rebel, Spy? Screenshot from BS Trailer, Epix, Sept 2016

Interesting! What does that mean? I doubt the production had to save money and simply asked Armitage to stand in. “Listen, Rich, can you just step in here? We need a picture of a generic whistleblower/hacker type. Just put on that army coat and give us a creepy stare. Yeah, that’s great. Thanks. No, sorry, there’s no extra fee for standing in. Now, please put that hoodie down, you are scaring me!” Have they given away a major hint here??? Seems almost careless?!

Especially as the interspersed descriptions are now carrying clear negative associations: subversive, enemy, rebel… I won’t go through the whole sequence of characters and the descriptive adages thrown between them; you can see that in the list above – and draw your conclusions. Except for one little snippet, that I nearly overlooked. The question Who is Shaw? is followed by a picture that is shown only for a fraction of a second. And this is actually *very* suspicious:

miller-shaw

You have to look hard… Screenshot from BS Trailer, Epix, Sept 2016

Brown hair or reflection of tungsten light? Well, let’s lighten up those shadows:

miller-elf-ears

At least we know his circulation is well intact… Screenshot from BS Trailer, Epix, 2016

The shape of the head, the familiar upturned collar, the hint of white shirt and tie underneath. Hm. The elf ears give him away, though. That’s Miller. Does it mean anything that his picture pops up just behind the question Who is Shaw? Or is that just to show that that is the question Miller is tasked to answer? Another giveaway then?!?!!

In any case, accelerating into the various characters and the roles they may embody, the trailer gets faster and faster, with images becoming harder to discern, deliberately making it harder for us to keep up with it. As the trailer approaches the 30 second mark, we finally get to take a breather – the screen turns blank and we hear the VO Which fucking side are you on? And now the trailer changes tack again. From the uniform character snapshots we launch into action that describes the characters in scenes taken from the show. Miller walking outside. Valerie interrogating. Kirsch angry. Frost panicky. Like the snapshots earlier, the scenes also become shorter and harder to keep up with, down to a second’s look at a scene. Smut alert: Which is, of course, a particular pity when it comes to the so-called sex scene that has already made the rounds yesterday. Left-field interpretation: This is not a sex scene, but a torture scene where bad girl extraordinaire Esther Krug (clearly identified as the villain of the piece by being shown with a cigarette earlier on!) has stripped down her victim and is obviously hurting Daniel Miller who is writhing and moaning in pain. Hm. Or maybe not?

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-14-42-11

Joking aside, the snippets accelerate and finally culminate in a showdown that urgently asks Who is Shaw?, implores TRUST NO ONE, and is followed by a potential death scene (Frost). And all is silence. “A mission to uncover lies and secrets.” Wow. All this is set to an industrial, thumping techno-soundtrack that drives the action. As the beat of the music accelerates, so do the scenes. The voice overs are timed perfectly with the music, making this a fully organic, smooth and exciting trailer that raises more questions than it answers. Just as it should be.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-14-42-32I was out of breath after watching this. This trailer is sensory overload. Pictures, people, slogans to be read, snippets of scenes, voice over to process in connection with the accompanying images, indiscernible characters. It all adds up to a big mass of continuous distraction, with a soundtrack that is either a heartbeat under increasing duress, or a hammering headache. Darkness, shade, light, sex, intrigue, danger, death – and the continuously recurring message TRUST NO ONE, hammering home the distrust, paranoia, confusion and uncertainty what we are shown. What looks like facts, are interpretations, questions and speculations. With snippets of speech and extracts of scenes ripped out of context, can we be sure that what we see offers a proper clue? No. It’s all open to interpretation.

So at the end of it, I am hooked because there are so many questions that I can’t wait to find the answers to:

  • Why would Miller, if he *is* indeed Shaw, volunteer to investigate the leaks and thus draw attention to himself?
  • Is Kelly Frost more than the wife of Steven Frost? Is she possibly sabotaging her husband – in order to get him to retire to Provence, or to take revenge for his infidelity?
  • Is Sandra more than just the secretary and lusts for power?
  • Are Esther and Miller another iteration of the Lucas North/Sarah Caulfield scenario? Sleeping with the enemy: Who is using pillow talk to spy on whom?
  • Who is the blonde in the post-coital sitting room scene with Kirsch? Is that Esther, taking a multi-pronged approach?
  • Who is the dude who gets kidnapped?
  • And how does Frost drown in the safety of an office?

Berlin Station, you now have me. I’m in. I’m on it. I can’t wait.

i-am-hooked

 

26 thoughts on “Ramping Up #BerlinStation – Promo Trailer (potential SPOILERS)

  1. Ooh, why would Miller volunteer to investigate the leaks if he was Shaw? To buy time, because if he’s investigating it will prevent anyone else looking for a bit. Because he thinks there’s a mole in his own Shaw organisation and wants to eliminate them. He and Hector are conspiring together and its the perfect excuse to get himself to Berlin. Because he knows who Shaw is and has personal reasons for wanting to get back at them – past history perhaps. (Clearly I write too many casefics where I have to work out what my characters are doing!)

    However, if he is Shaw then I think that’s a bit sloppy and let’s set the audience up for a fall. But that’s purely personal preference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All very good explanations, Hobbit. The whole thing will remain a mystery then. (Until the story continues into episode 3.) And yes, giving away the identity of the whistleblower, would be strangely negligent. I personally think they are completely taking us for a ride. And I am beginning to enjoy being on that ride…

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  2. “Mission accomplished” kann ich da nur sagen. Epix macht das richtig gut und ich glaube, dass auch die Serie an sich richtig gut ist / wird. Die Puzzleteile fügen sich zusammen und zeigen uns ein Bild, bei dem niemand so ist, wie er auf den ersten Blick zu sein scheint. Das ist volle Absicht und das lässt hoffen. Ich persönlich glaube, dass auch die Hinweise darauf, dass Daniel der Maulwurf ist, eine absichtlich gelegte, aber falsche Spur sind. Sie ist extra eher unauffällig und soll gerade deshalb glaubhaft wirken. Zuzutrauen wär’s ihnen 😉

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    • Jou, ich kann mir auch nicht vorstellen, dass die so nachlässig bei ihrem Zusammenschnitt sind. Das sieht alles recht gut gemacht aus, was wir da als Promomaterial bekommen, ob nun Bilder, interaktive Webseite oder Trailer. Dass die da nun schon irgendwelche essentiellen Ergebnisse preisgeben, passt nicht in das Bild. Irgendwie denke ich ja, dass Miller in irgendeiner Form mit dem Whistleblower verbunden ist – ohne dass er es selber ist. Diese ganzen dunklen Seiten von ihm hängen mit was anderem zusammen. Ich vermute da ja eher, dass er eine zweite Agenda hat und seine Mama rächen will. Mich würde z.B. nicht wundern, wenn Hans Richter sich als der Geliebte der Mutter herausstellt – auch und obwohl er ja nun schwul ist…
      Oder hey, warte mal – was wäre, wenn im Laufe der Geschichte Mama Miller plötzlich gar nicht tot ist! Und die Affäre mit Richter war nur Ablenkungsmanöver? Oh Mann, was sich da noch für schöne Wendungen ergeben könnten…

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      • Abgründe könnten sich auftun… , tiefe Abgründe… 🙂
        Gerade habe ich die miese Kritik gelesen. Sowas ist sicher nicht schön für die die Schauspieler und die Macher. Andererseits habe ich persönlich Homeland nicht gesehen und so ist es mir egal, ob die Handlung daran angelehnt ist oder nicht. Ich finde auch RAs Spiel nicht belanglos. Daniel bleibt farblos, weil er das meistens sein möchte. Wenn er mit Hector zusammen ist oder mit der Familie, dann ist er viel lebendiger als er sich sonst gibt. Merkwürdigerweise ist er das auch in der Szenen mit der Journalistin. Er lässt sich fast unprofessionell hinreißen…
        Ich denke die Kritiker fällen ihr Urteil zu schnell und hoffe, die Geschichte kommt langsam aber gewaltig in Fahrt.
        Falls die traurige Geschichte mit Daniels Mutter stimmt, dann hat sie sicherlich Auswirkung auf seine Handlungen. Ich neige dazu, dass sie zumindest ansatzweise stimmt, da sie auch in der Szene mit Maxi und Daniels Cousine erwähnt wird. Die Idee, dass Hans Richter der ominöse Geliebte gewesen sein könnte halte ich für gewagt, aber spannend.
        Erst zwei Folgen und schon so viel Diskussionsmaterial. Auf alle Fälle ist uns nicht mehr langweilig!

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  3. Your analysis is spot on, S! If I remember correctly, when Richard was filming in Las Palmas, Islas Canarias, a video posted by the town’s FB page showed Daniel walking down the steps in his white shirt and tan pants, then looking back as if someone was following him and – when he was about to cross the street – it seemed that he was about to be kidnapped. Obviously, the pilot episode did not show that bit, which makes me think Daniel will be abducted later. I don’t trust the German smoking spy either.

    As for Daniel being Shaw, the thought did cross my mind during the scene shot in the ‘Panamanian’ jungle. Why? Because he acted as if he had detected someone following him. Why would he place the pen drive in the metal box? Why were there so many ones inside? I don’t know what the writers were thinking but the whole thing gave me a John Bateman vibe and that will really piss me off. I hope I’m not right!

    As for the German female reporter, am I the only one who thought she wasn’t very professional when she spoke to Daniel? Aren’t journalists interested in the truth, in learning both sides of a story? Surely she must know that things aren’t black and white (as trite as that sounds), especially when it comes to politics and National Security in every country, right?! Is she that naïve? The public is not entitled to know everything. Otherwise, spies could not do their jobs properly. Yes, there is corruption but come on! Secrets must be kept in order for the system to work. Am I advocating corruption and abuse of power? No. However, it’s not fair to conclude that every single intelligence operative is evil.

    Kudos to Epix for hiring terrific people for their marketing department. They are going all out to promote Berlin Station and doing an excellent job so far. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hm, I don’t remember a kidnap scene in “Panama”. But there was definitely a kidnap scene in Berlin – remember the newspaper shots of that? Miller and de Jean walking in the street, a car drawing up, and a number of guys pulling a cloth over Miller’s head.
      Re. Panama jungle – mysterious scene, and no doubt the producers are leaving out some essential knowledge for us. I am not altogether sure whether he puts something *into* the box, or takes something *out*. We could be on the wrong track. But he’s definitely glancing around, scanning the place… “Bateman vibe” LOL. Yeah, I don’t really want that, either…
      Re. journalist Hollander – not sure I agree with you there. I didn’t find her unprofessional but agitated. For a very good reason: Her friend has just been killed. And then this dodgy spook turns up and aggressively warns her off. My alarm bells would go off, too, and I would probably react to his condescension and patronising tone in the same way. (I am German, too, after all 😀 ) I find her pretty believable – but as I said elsewhere, I am wondering whether I feel attracted by her because she is a) German and b) a fellow journalist. I think she is doing something courageous, and as an investigative journalist she *has* to push boundaries, to put her nose in secrets, and to aim for a clear, concrete approximation of the truth.

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  4. Fabulous review, I didn’t realize the promo was that special! I am behind stuff now and tired, but hopefully will feel better next week 🙂 I watched the promo again, do you think Miller can be behind Show? Anyway, for me your review is more spectacular than the promo. I am also worried about that not so good review, especially that RA is directly mentioned. I hope this would not affect him, speaking in general. What’s happening to your Twitter? I have your “Armitage house” picture saved on my old computer, if you need it!
    Hope all is well, much love!

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    • Hehe, Glady – well, *I* think the promo is that special, but that’s just me.
      Based on the promo, Miller could indeed be behind Shaw. But then again – I just cannot believe that the promo would be so careless in giving away this vital piece of the dramatic arc. I think they are mucking around with us, putting us on the wrong track, constantly keeping things open to interpretation. This strategy certainly works for me 🙂
      The “ouch” review is very annoying indeed. I was slightly shocked, tbh, because I had resigned myself to the fact that I was completely off with my initial indifference to the show. I can see why they don’t like the plot, but I really do not think it is fair to call Armitage “cardboard cut-out”. Or even the character he is playing. Armitage has a track record of being a capable actor. If anything, it’s the material he has to work with, that is to blame. There – still an apologist for Armitage 🙂
      Re. Twitter – have decided to give Twitter up. I am not deleting my profile, but after several unsuccessful attempts at restoring my photos, I am now at the point where I don’t care anymore.
      Are you already in NYC?

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      • No, I am in IL now, I’ll be in NYC on 21st. I have some work to do here, but also visiting old friends. I had mixed feelings about BS after the first episode, mainly because I was not used with RA speaking “American”, but I watched the second one and I think it will be a good show, I like the characters. That review was so unfair, I almost cried really. Treating him like a beginner whose main goal is to make audience on Sunday! I think some critics have some opinions regardless of what they actually see, RA is not “on their list” and they can say anything about him. I am praying for good reviews for LLL!

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        • Oh, enjoy your time in IL. I look forward to your reports from NYC, though. Have just uploaded picture back onto my Twitter profile – for the last time – in order to have the account up and running when all the reports from LLL will start coming in.
          I think BS has the potential to be good. Started a bit slow for me, too, but I am getting mollified by the great trailers. I’m willing to cut them some slack 😉
          As for the review – yeah, anyone seems fair game for the critics, especially if they have not yet heard of them. I don’t think the review applies to Armitage’s acting but to the protagonist’s role in the show so far. If I can, I will be watching it, regardless of what the critics say.

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  5. First, I am so glad you’re on board now! I felt bad when you didn’t enjoy the episodes, as though you couldn’t join in the fun. This was amazing and helpful in the way you broke it all down into tiny pieces. Thank you. I would be very surprised if it were Daniel. Their goal with this trailer was to intrigue and confuse us, not to give any real clues. That said, nothing is as it seems.

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    • That is spot-on, Jane – I really felt excluded from the fun, on the basis of the bad reception that BS had from me. Some of the reservations are still there – I still wish that Miller was a more rounded character, even at this early stage of the show. I want him to be the popular figure of the piece, even if he has dark facets.
      I was surprised myself, by the outcome of my frame-by-frame analysis of the trailer. I liked all of the promo so far (niggles aside), and for me the promo is an important part of the whole experience of BS.
      Oh, I also have to say that it really helps that I am currently reading a Steinhauer novel, courtesy of our fellow fan Herba. It is surprisingly good – which is making me more receptive to Steinhauer’s script for BS.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I just figured the box Daniel put thumbdrives in while in Panama was the same one Hector handed to the thin creepy guy in ep.2. Daniel’s definitely tied up in it. But that investigation is secondary to what else he’s looking into…like who killed him Mum, maybe? /lame theory 🙂

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    • Yeah, I also reckon that Daniel has got something to do with Shaw. And that he is in Berlin to revenge his mother’s death. Wild theory, just for the fun of it: The man she had an affair with was Hans Richter (German secret service). Ha!

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  7. Wow, nice analysis! I hope after this excitement, the rest of Berlin Station won’t be a disappointment. Like when you see the trailer for a movie and you’re very excited to see it, then after watching it, you realize all the best bits were in the trailer and that the trailer was in fact better than the movie… I guess only time will tell! Luckily I already enjoyed the first 2 episodes but I haven’t loved it yet and I hope the rest of the episodes will ramp it up even more for me!
    Kinda nice to see Esther mentioned alongside Richard (well, Daniel really, but still…) so much! Even if she may be an evil one…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The trailers are indeed exceptionally good. Bravo to the editors, spectacular work indeed. I just want/need the series to deliver on them, on both intrigue and excitement they tell a very good story in such a short time. Hopefully the eps will pick up on this. Miller being Shaw would be interesting indeed. It would certainly explain the one thing about the scene where DM gets shot which intrigued me: why was he smiling as he lay there? There was a clear sense of accomplishment. Hm something to look out for. Rocky start maybe but it would be tough to deliver so quickly on the trailers.

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    • I have a similar dilemma. The trailers/promo material are so good, it sets expectations. For me, those expectations haven’t quite been met, yet. If Miller turns out to be Shaw, that would be a great twist, and that would totally hook me into the story.
      I noticed the smile in the gunshot scene, too, but I interpreted it to mean that DM knew that he didn’t have what they were looking for.
      In any case, I believe that we have much to look forward to, whether we were convinced by the first two episodes or not.

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      • We’ll see indeed, i’d quite like that twist and in my mind it would make sense.Not sure if the author is prone to such twists, i am having the same trouble with the boo i picked up as with the series, just getting through the first chapters. He makes me feel as if i am at work and having to take notes on what i read because i can’t tell what is important and what isn’t, it’s almost as a news report. Hopefully by the time ep 3 is out there in a month or so i will have made progress. Doesn’t help that i have 2 J le Carre books next to it and the temptation is big to just drop it and go for the one i know i will enjoy. OS has just a strange way to get started, i wonder if people just skim diagonally through the info overload in chapter 1 and move on to next chapters.

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        • I finished reading “All the old knives” by Steinhauer a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Mind you, it was a German translation, so maybe the experience is different when reading the English original. Steinhauer definitely put me on the wrong track – I took everything that happened early on in the book, far too seriously. Thus, the end came as a great big surprise for me, just as it should be. There wasn’t that much information overload in it, just the usual smoke and mirrors tactics. Worked well for me.

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