#BerlinStation Season 2, Episode 1 – Everything’s ALL-Right [Review/Spoilers]

A year later Berlin Station returns to our screens. Before I launch into episode 1, here’s a little recap of my thoughts after season 1.

Recap

Back in season 1…

We left the show not with cliffhangers, but not exactly with tied-up character arcs, either. After uncovering the secret of the Berlin Station mole and the rather fishy involvement of the German secret service in the goings-on, Daniel Miller ultimately lets the culprit – colleague and friend Hector de Jean – go, yet suffers gunshot injuries in the final show down of the series. Luckily, he survives, as we see in the very last scene. But Berlin Station is in disarray, not least because station chief Steven Frost has been sacked over losing an agent, the latter a fact that has deeply affected Valerie Edwards. – The show did not fully convince me when watching it the first time around – I was disappointed by the lack of depth to some characters (especially Daniel Miller) and felt somewhat frustrated by the way the show prioritised some plot lines (and characters) over others. It didn’t feel balanced in that respect, even though the general themes were interesting even if not necessarily new – the price of being a spy, their (often-cited by the actors) moral compass, the battle against IS, the in-house competition between men and women, and the cat-and-mouse game between competing secret services. BUT – with Richard Armitage back on board and some well-timed trailers that gave us glimpses of characters old and new, I had resolved to be back on board for season 2.

And to jump ahead – I actually *am* fully on board, because season 2 pretty much gripped me from the first minute. No, not only because the Richard Armitage fangirl is delighted to see her favourite actor in the opening scene, but because we jump right in. Sure, season 1 “jumped right in”, too – but with a spoilerish coda. Now season 2 opens a new chapter, and it starts by reacquainting us with a pre-loved character and the mystery of his new name and look.

Season 2, episode 1

So Daniel is back in Berlin. And not only that – he is also back in league (not “bed”! – yet?) with Esther Krug. The ex-casual lovers – Esther now advanced to a higher position in BfV – are working together on a deep-cover mission that Daniel has been sent on. He is to infiltrate the German neo-Nazi scene. Sorry, I am really disturbed by the continuous use of describing the German neo-Nazis as the “alt-right”. That adage for me is connected to US-American white supremacists, not with Germany. And Esther is helping him with a way in. The emotional tension between the two of them is still there – now, there is a plot line from season 1 that might be interesting to continue, especially that now dynamics are changed and complicated with Esther at the helm of the German spy operations… Cleverly, the show doesn’t waste much time in explaining how Daniel and Esther get back to work – we are immediately introduced to Daniel’s cover, arms dealer Trevor Price, by way of his explanation to Esther. The new “fake character” is right there from the start, and BS wastes no time with protracted set-ups. It may be at the cost of explaining what happened to Daniel (and his cousin and nephew?) since the end of season 1, but as it is, the mystery of the new mission is far more interesting. Boom, and Daniel is in the neo-Nazi lair (ok, just a bar) but he gets the ball rolling, pretends to become indebted to his targets in order to be credible as someone who wants to do *them* a favour in return.

If I were Otto, I’d lose any will to resist right there and then… Screenshot from BS 2×01

No time for long arrival scenes of the new station chief, BB Yates, either. We meet her in the station, explaining the next general mission, which is discovering the intents of a pre-eminent right-wing politician who is rumoured to be colluding with neo-Nazi extremists in order to swing the election in her favour. BS very cleverly pits the two women against each other – BB rallying her troops for the mission at hand, and Katerina Gerhardt rallying her neo-Nazi sympathisers. To be honest, I get goose-pimples watching Natalia Wörner making her speech. It is so close to the reality of demagogues and bourgeois fascists currently poisoning the German political scene, I find it difficult not to be affected by it.

So for a change, the plot of the season is quickly set up: The CIA and the BfV are working together to implicate a neo-Nazi politician in a planned terrorist attack. And the action is absolutely absorbing. Following Daniel/Trevor around as he is worming his way near neo-Nazi bad boy Otto Ganz by way of daughter Lena, is told quickly, deftly, concisely, including little plot surprises here and there: Armando (weird name, btw?), Trevor’s deft handling of guns, and then a massive surprise at the end of the episode where we catch up with Hector. It is these surprising twists as well as the obvious conflict in Daniel who has to be convincing as a racist/fascist, that provide the suspense in this episode. While the first season of BS took a long time setting everything up, this feels much fresher, much faster – and much more compelling than before. Maybe that is due to the series and its characters now already being established. But maybe there is also better writing at play here, with a script that gives opportunity for exciting action.

Since season 1, the makers of BS have been blowing their own trumpet with regard to the topicality of the show. Last season’s variation on the Assange/Snowden whistleblower problem was in fact less original and up-to-the-minute than the writers trumpeted around. Now, however, they are right on it, and with the RL German elections culminating in a resounding success for the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Berlin Station’s writers room have been spot on with their focus. BS2 is topical – and difficult in a non-convoluted way. I find scenes like the attack on the Turkish grocery very difficult to watch – it’s Reichskristallnacht on a small scale, and it hits me deep in my stomach. But that’s what BS needs to do – not hold back and imply but actually show the nastiness of it all. Scenes like that bring Daniel’s dilemma to the fore – posing as a neo-Nazi sympathiser, he is required to play along. Yet he thinks on the spot and prevents carnage by distracting his new friends. His morals and beliefs as an agent are tested – and that brings another layer of suspense to the show. We are now not only following the story – uncovering/preventing a plot – but we are also getting invested with a character who remained rather vague in season 1. However, Daniel is still predominantly “agent” rather than Daniel. He is all Trevor now, and I would really like to see more of his character to shine through, especially as other supporting characters are getting so much more insight into their bio and minds – even the neo-Nazi fixer, Otto Ganz (played with chilling precision by Thomas Kretschmann) and his daughter Lena (Emilia Schüle – the big surprise for me; imbues her character with a fascinating mix of daddy’s little confidante and manipulatrix) are given more background info than our lead character. I still cannot fathom the reasoning behind that, and I do not think that the sob story of little Daniel provoking his dad to beat him in order to numb the pain, is sufficient enough.

Cast of Berlin Station season 2. I really hate the obvious artificiality of this photo. Honestly, Epix, two suns?

However, niggles aside – BS 2×01 has delivered for me. It is fast paced with much suspense and interesting new characters and character developments which would all allow for fascinating subplots in this season. How will the dynamics change with a new and female station chief at the helm who is not afraid to go off the books with a mission? How will Valerie Edwards fare under the new chief? How is old hand Robert Kirsch going to cope with being back as number 2? Will his loyalties and professionalism be tested with a new boss and his old boss also meddling in the spying business? (At least he is still his straight-talking self, a welcome, familiar sight.) Where will newcomer April Lewis fit in? And biggest spoiler of all: How will the old duo of Daniel and Hector get on?

Other incoherent observations:

  • I loved the new intro – it has been updated not only with the new characters in the show, but also shows the returning characters in new scenes and new look (hello, beardy Daniel). The shots of Berlin remain, providing the continuity to season 1, as does the intro music by David Bowie, which I love even more now, a year later.
  • Trevor Price’s look and habitus is – much to my surprise – doing things to me or my ovaries. Has Armitage worked out? His biceps in the scene with Esther Krug makes my mouth water, as did some other shots that showed Trevor on an escalator from behind (long, lean legs) or his thin wrists when handing his passport to the border patrol. I am trying to put my finger on it (on my changed perception that is, not his wrists) – shouldn’t I be repelled by the neo-Nazi look with the slightly-negligent-definitely-aggressive haircut, the military boots, the bog standard t-shirt/jeans look, and the constant intense, guarded facial expression not to mention the beard!!! ??? Trevor is definitely less of a pretty boy than Daniel who always looked like a “freshly peeled egg” as we call it in German (spick and span). Yet despite beard and harsh look, I am reminded of SAS-hard man John Porter, exuding testosterone no matter what he wore. It must be the dark triad, working their magic on me.
  • Fangirl observations:

  • The German cast is doing a great job. Natalia Wörner chilled me with her speech, especially when she screams at the rally “Deutschland – wach auf” (Germany wake up). (An obvious and synonymous play on the Nazi slogan from the 1930s, Deutschland erwache, which was embroidered on banners, part of Nazi propaganda and the chorus of an SA anthem/battle song.) I particularly liked Thomas Kretschmann – who looks the part of a man who can’t be trusted, and who is equally good at embodying the chilling, scrupleless neo-Nazi fixer as the volatile, dangerous killer. Just a couple of short scenes, but I have high hopes for Heino Ferch (playing PfD party strategist Joseph Emmerich) who looks less teddy bear here but more danger with his closely shaved head. How is that going to play out with Valerie? Emilia Schüle was great, too (see above), and I liked the ambiguity and casual sleaziness she has given Lena. – It’s great to see the German actors on an international stage.
  • Am I wrong or simply used to it, but Armitage’s US accent sounds less jarring now?
  • Of the US newcomers I liked April Lewis as the fresh, young and very conscientious new recruit. I somehow expected her to be different, but I liked what Keke Palmer is doing. Ashley Judd: I have no preconceived ideas re. her political activism, and I don’t remember seeing her in any other role, but while I find the character of BB as such interesting – strong female lead etc. – I was wondering whether we will get to see more than just one facial expression from BB. Her stone-cold demeanor and immediate launch into unsanctioned activities makes me wonder how trustworthy and altruistic she is, despite her assurance that she wants to give Berlin station a win. Career woman who will stop at nothing?
  • Fabulous cliffhanger at the end of the episode!

Guess who’s at the door??? Daniel forces an old friend back into helping him out. Screenshot from Berlin Station 2×01

So a big thumbs up from me, with a lot of expectations and anticipation of a Berlin station that will come into its own.

18 thoughts on “#BerlinStation Season 2, Episode 1 – Everything’s ALL-Right [Review/Spoilers]

  1. Gosh. I wish I was this good at writing reviews. Well said! I have nothing to add. And yes to Wörner, her skills and the speech. It was creepy!
    Am I, by the way, the only one who rolled her eyes (as a first reaction) at the decision to give every episode title the word “right” in it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too much praise, Luscinnia – I am not satisfied with my review at all. Things could be said much more concisely and precisely, and less emotionally. But then again, as a fan, my reaction is somewhat emotional.
      I just had a look at the Epix page and noticed that there is a link to episode 3 up, including the title. You are so right (*um*) – always the word right. Jaysis Epix, yes, we get it, it’s all about right-wing extremism… How many other expressions with the word “right” in it, are there? “The right man for the job”? “Within your rights”? “Treat me right”? “Right place, wrong time”???

      Like

      • I’m all for emotional. :3
        All my reviews are more or less based on how the series/movie/book made me feel and that is probably why I admire people who can approach a topic more analytical. Personally I think it was a good review. I merely “word vomitted” but hey, there’s no need for any form of perfection. 🙂

        I can’t even recall at the moment where I saw the entire title list…. I think it was on Netflix… but they all have “right” in their titles… like… come on now… really?

        Like

        • Yeah, in truth, I am looking for the emotional distraction, too 😍. And as fans, our responses are fine as they are, emotional or not!
          Haven’t looked on Netflix yet (will do so next week when in Germany), but on Epix the three episode titles were there. And as you say, it’s a bit much 🙄

          Liked by 1 person

        • OMG 😂 We were spot on with the suspicion re. the titles of the episodes. Episode 4 is now advertised on Epix, and guess what it is called? “Do the right thing” 🙄 Janey Mac, they are really doing it…

          Like

  2. I kinda skimmed… as with last year, I’m saving them up and will binge watch on a long weekend. That way, I’m not pulling my hair out from week to week. TBH, had I watched last year as the episode aired, I would have quit, Armitage or no Armitage. (Although, I’m glad I didn’t because the last 4 episodes were great.)

    So I’m looking forward to watching in late December. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I seem to have enjoyed season 1 more than most of the rest of the fans I know — or at least I didn’t find the structure of the story or the pace of the show to be problematic in the least — so I didn’t have this “oh this is much better reaction”. I agree the beginning of this episode had a faster feel — faster shifts between pieces of the story.

    re: “alt-Right” — I think there were a number of things in this story that were intended primarily for an US audience who really (a) doesn’t know anything about the background of neo-Nazism in Germany — let’s be honest, even American neo-Nazis don’t know much about it, as we’ve seen demonstrated recently; and (b) doesn’t get in general why an election in Germany should be of interest at all. In that sense they were taking a risk with this story; yes, it’s “ripped from the headlines” but from headlines that almost no one in the US is reading — whereas the Chelsea Manning story was much more heavily covered and familiar in the US. It’s cutesy to put “right” in all the titles, but still, calling it “alt-Right” makes it obvious to EPIX’s core viewers. As does the scene in the Turkish (?) grocery, although to me what makes AfD chilling is the fact that it’s socially acceptable (as opposed to this kind of vandalism, which someone like Frauke Petry would probably find offensive). The point is that they’re *not* the kind of thugs who have dominated the far-Right scene in Germany for the last twenty years. This and the statements about Ganz’s past / Hohenschönhausen signal that I’m going to have plausibility problems with the show (again). But if they can manage to have a more coherent plot (this episode signaled they might) it might not bug me so much, just because it would seem more like entertainment and less like a logic problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep forgetting that I am not the typical target audience for this show, i.e. it is primarily made for the US market (even if it happens to also be shown in Germany), so you are right re. the nomenclature and the topic as such.
      I read your post on episode 1 and agree with you that the story about prisoners being “exterminated” in Hohenschönhausen is exaggerated. All for the plot? It sure makes the character even more despicable – and fictionalises the story even more.
      Re. socially acceptable – it may look like that (and that is, as you correctly point out, the danger of these far-right parties). But applies to certain segments of society (and by that I do not mean class, because the followers from AfD do not exclusively come from one particular class), and despite my extreme disgust with the election results, I do tell myself that 84% of the Germans did NOT vote for AfD. That number places the “social acceptability” of the AfD in a different light. BS is quite good at implying the social acceptability, though. I was just watching ep 2 and looking at well-dressed, calm and ostensibly civilised Otto Ganz preparing a fancy dinner. All the trappings of middle-class Germany. He’d pass as an executive businessman, if he didn’t spew that crap about “losing our country to Turks, Arabs and Africans”. But yeah, agreed, they are more dangerous now because they are not (only) violent thugs anymore, but well-dressed middle-class, educated Germans. Scary as hell.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not there, obviously, and I only know what I see in the media and what friends tell me — but (e.g.) the stuff that happened in Frankfurt at the fair last week is concerning, and kind of puts them on an equal footing with the rest of the publishing world. They’re claiming their place in civil society.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fair point! That is what is so disturbing. Right-wing views becoming “salonfähig”. I am not really sure that what happened at the book fair was really a good thing, i.e. the disruptions by people with opposing views essentially made the right-wingers look victimised and gave them the opportunity to present themselves as martyrs. However, we are beyond the point of ignoring them and hoping they will just go away…

          Like

          • After Charlottesville I’m revisiting all of the things I had fixed views on in this regard. I agree that there have to be ways to shut them up that don’t involve violence. Anyway, I hope there are.

            Like

            • I think there are. But they involve wider societal/social changes. In my own cynical way I believe that it is not in the interest of capitalism to address that…

              Like

  4. Pingback: More Richard Armitage / Berlin Station discussions | Me + Richard Armitage

  5. I like this season better than the last one, so far. It’s plot is far less convoluted and the pacing is faster. If you hadn’t watched the first season, you would never know Ester and Daniel/Trevor had a thing or that he had a cousin in the neighborhood. I don’t mind it too much, but a little more continuity would be nice.I think his American accent has improved quite a bit. Ashley Judd’s work clothes are far to plunging for a career CIA bureaucrat. I think Michele Forbes is much more believable. Loved Serv’s “ripped from the headlines” remark. Most Americans have no clue about what is going on in Germany politically. Or Europe, for that matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been wondering what has happened to cousin/nephew, as well. When we left season 1, Daniel and family were basically on the run from Willliams (?). I can see how Daniel may be able to come back to work, but what about Patricia? Maybe they will get back to that storyline during the course of the season?
      I was wondering about BB Yates styling choices, too. Valerie certainly conforms more to my idea of a CIA agent.

      Like

  6. Not yet up to date with the viewing but since ive done ep1 and 2 a few thoughts 🙂
    I was more captivated than in S2 but weirdly i am sort of missing the unusual style of S1 :-p Never satisfied LOL I guess what i mean is that this works but it much more traditional as plot set up and storyline and so on. But it will certainly keep viewers easier than the previous one, not least by pursuing one main plot and making everything, like office politics a bit secondary.
    I do miss Tamlin Tomita but i’ve seen her in another series so sadly she won’t be making a come back i think.
    They’ve done ep 1 by the book, big start, straight into it and big cliffhanger.
    I agree that the German cast is doing a great job and are all very natural actors, mostly and some certainly more than the CIA team. I’m sorry to say but i find the new boss as wooden as they come 😦 Maybe that will improve but at the moment big meh. I also didn’t like the fact that they put Valerie on the back seat it seems. I might not think her behaviour was in line with her job but she had a great and well defined character. I liked April’s eagerness and looking forward to seeing more of her.

    I also find his looks a massive turn on :-p But he doesn’t look much like a neo Nazi, which is one of the reasons i guess he’s not putting us off. He looks like what he pretends to be, an ex soldier. Buff, assured, sharp and manly, almost careless looks. Tight jeans, biceps 😉 What’s not to like 🙂

    I’m glad there is definitely still something there with Esther although it was more professional at the moment.
    Still some glitches, the dead guy he dressed really needed shoes! Bit of a rookie mistake for somebody who is by no established as having quite a bit of experience.

    And give me a break with the unnecessary daddy sob story. It felt unnatural and i first really thought it was a lie because it felt like one, meh. I don’t think we needed that and it still does nothing to define his character at all.
    But writing aside there is much much more character presence in Daniel. And i am certain that comes from Armitage more than it does from the writing. There is a much stronger sense there of purpose, of why he is doing what he is doing of conscious action, of danger as well. There is a very clear and defined sense of Daniel as well as Trevor and he flows from one to the other as action requires but it’s very effective as building the tension because you suddenly fear for Daniel and are involved in his destiny which wasn’t much the case before. It’s like compared to last season somebody turned Daniels switch to ON. Which is why i felt the daddy thing was not needed.

    The plotline itself is very much a mixed bag. The rally felt very real and very scary. Otto .. not sure, i get some of the backstory but it feels like it excuses his beliefs? Which is the wrong way to o as far as i’m concerned. Yes i get the point that its people who seem and are normal who seem to buy into these aggressive views. And i think making tht point is actually equally effective and scary. All this back story with Otto and Lena feels like excuse and justification, as if they are an exception rather than a growing segment. It’s as if we’re afraid of the truth or portraying it. It’s not just people who are ‘damaged’ . Yes they can be more dangerous in terms of violence, but still.
    Otoh i too felt the shop scene was very well played for Daniel to exercise his skills. Otherwise we all recognised it was tame. Doesnt gel with Lena’s and those people’s extreme views to just cause a bit of trouble. News has told us there is much more going on and many much more violent attacks. So i appreciate them tackling current themes but i feel it’s not really there and not really courageous enough and certain aspects i actually disagree with, see Otto’s story.
    But yeah, it’s entertaining to watch mostly and maybe they felt there was too much news and not enough entertainment in the previous season.
    Just glad Richard took the reins of his character and made him 3 dimensional with his acting and reactions. I’ll certainly stick around to watch that.

    Like

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s