I am tempted to just leave this blog post blank under a headline that says it all. But I have got plenty of screenshots, so I better write some text to fill the space between them.
I can’t really say that I was looking forward to season 3 of BS. “Waiting for it” is more accurate – the trepidation about the fate of Daniel Miller in season 3 of the Epix Original series initially caused by Armitage’s suspiciously short time on set and his presence limited to filming in Hungary, was recently fuelled by the latest trailers for the show. Following a similar strategy as pre-season 1, Epix has now released both episode 1 and episode 2 of BS season 3, so finally time to check whether Danny is finally getting the leading role he really deserves.
Mind you, episode 3×01 starts without Daniel – and in the past. It is November 1989 and the Berlin wall has just been opened. While half of East Berlin is trying to squeeze through to the West, a beige trench coat is going the other way, ostensibly liberating a prisoner from the MfS. We see the MfS being torn to shreds, and the beige trench coat picking up a file and destroying it on his way out. His prisoner is saved, though, and kisses the ground pope-style upon his arrival on the Western side of the wall. Cut. And we realise that what we have just seen is actually a dramatisation of what Daniel is listening to on his iPad. And now the show proper starts – with domestic bliss á la Dansther in a comfy double bed and with some comfy double entendre. Dan and Esther are still an item.
And the beige trench coat in the opening scene is probably the agent responsible for Mama Miller’s death in 1980/whenever. Thus season 3 is set up, hinting at the long longed-for back story of Daniel Miller.
But the action is not happening in
bed Berlin this season. Apparently the Russians are planning to invade Estonia, so off go Daniel and Robert (on his last mission before he finally gets to lead his own station in Tokyo) to liaise with their local CIA colleague, called Torres, as well as the Estonian president, Henrik Someone. Sorry, no picture of president but plenty of lashes:
Torres needs to be reined in. And Daniel looks beautiful, doing so.
Anyway, the Estonians need to be persuaded not to react to Russian provocation. But no sooner have Daniel and Robert have had tea with the president, but the latter tragically collapses. Luckily Robert and Daniel are completely in control of the situation and take him to the hospital where the president is pronounced dead. Suspicious that Henrik may not have died of natural causes, Daniel manages to gather evidence. And then the trouble starts – Daniel is taken by surprise when a stranger (a Russian special ops man whom we have seen in earlier footage) attacks him. Daniel manages to escape to the train station where Robert is waiting for him to board a train back to Warsaw. But at the last minute Daniel decides to stay in Tallinn and sort out the mess – even though he could be in danger.
Phew. Sounds pretty thrilling.
At this stage the makers of BS – although constantly changing (now run by producer Jason Horwitch) – have a knack for initially hitting my expectations and getting me quite excited. Well, ok, letting the third season start with a flashback to 1989, felt a bit lame at first. And was way too long and detailed. But followed up by Dansther domestic bliss actually ticked a big box for me. It was nice to see that the two of them had indeed walked hand-in-hand into the sunset. And woken up together the next day, too. Unlike in previous seasons, their relationship now seemed like a proper relationship rather than the cynical and mutual tapping-of-sources. They seemed comfortable with each other – and maybe that was also a reflection of the comfort of familiarity for the two actors. If this was a ruse to keep the fan girls happy (I doubt that, of course), it certainly did the trick.
Especially so as the beginning of the show also finally promises the resolution to a story arc that I have been waiting for since season 1. Length of the 1989 East Berlin sequence apart, I thought the intro was actually really interestingly done: What looks like a flashback turns out to be actually what Daniel is currently listening to on his iPad. What a clever idea – it certainly reconciled me somewhat over my gripe with the depiction of the events of November 9/10, 1989. Because there was no such thing as immediate looting of the MfS (“Stasi”) premises, whether for files or for prisoners. (In fact, the MfS was largely untouched until several months later.)
On the whole, the first episode seemed exciting in that it was evenly paced, alternating between explanatory scenes and scenes that would push the story forward: the old crew is still in Berlin, now looking to the East, dispatching Daniel and Robert to keep the peace. And new characters are being introduced: Agent Torres in Tallinn seems to be interesting – although I am getting a bit tired of all these rogue agents. Are there actually *any* agents in the CIA who do what they are told and who are not suffering from PTSD?
I was also delighted to see Daniel take up so much space in this episode. He was really front and centre of the action. It raised a few questions for me (because it still hasn’t really been resolved how the supposed desk agent ever got so proficient in field-work spycraft), but on the whole I was glad that he was definitely the starring role.
However, I wasn’t fully convinced that his actions were all that logical. Why insist on remaining in Tallinn after having been targeted by that Russian paramilitary guy? How does it make sense to stay behind and continue investigating when there is a local agent available who knows much more about the circumstances? Well, at least it meant screen time for Daniel.
On the flip side of what I liked, I was annoyed to see Steven Frost pop up in the (newly adapted) trailer again, as well as Hector de Jean. Jeepers, when are these two finally done? What else can Steven Frost possibly add to the whole scenario, and why TF does Hector continuously come back into the fray? For someone who desperately wants out of the service, he must be easily convinced to come back in…
And what is it with pretentious episode titles? I already thought that BS‘s season 2 tic of making every episode title a pun containing the word “right” was rather gimmicky. And now “aut concilio aut ense” – do we now need Latin language proficiency in order to follow an espionage thriller? If the rest of the episodes also get Latin titles, I’ll scream! *ouch*
Finally, a last rant on taking liberties with history. Sure, the true events of November 9/10, 1989 may be details that most of the audience of BS do not know. Since the show is not primarily aimed at the German market, I’ll give the show that they are maybe not as meticulous with the truth as they might be if they knew they were playing to Germans. However, we have yet again a showrunner who touts his own horn and emphasises that BS supposedly is soooooo accurate and relevant and real. Honestly – if Steinhauer, Winters and now Horwitch weren’t such condescending and hubristic arses, I’d forgive the show that it takes liberties with facts. But as is, I find it nothing but annoying to be told how “real” the show is – and then to be disappointed again and again. The whole “looting” and “cover-up” scenario in the MfS just pissed me off. Especially details such as burning rubbish bins – really? Those orderly Germans picturesquely lighting a few bins to conveniently burn the most damning files in? IDK, it’s just yet again a little detail that I find annoying, unconvincing and off-putting.
So yeah, a bit of a mixed bag here. Happy to see so much Mr A on-screen (he’s such an increasingly rare sight… I am content with almost any glimpse I can get!). Disappointed that we are leaving Berlin behind. Glad to see Dansther alive and romping. Worried about the future of DM, though. Because he really took a nasty beating already, and the hints seen in previous trailers, have been upsetting. I’ll write about ep 2 separately.