Frankly, *now* is the time to write this post. Because I have just returned from my company event, which ended on a free bar. Yeah, right – I am under the influence of some legal substances, and that puts me in the right sentimental, romantic sort of mood to pop an enthusiastic post out. If you see any spelling and grammar mistakes, you know where they come from.
So, last night I willed myself to adjust to what seems to be the accepted reception of Berlin Station. It took a couple of re-watches, and in the end there was one little detail that really softened me up:
How could I resist a man who is drinking the beer brewed in my home town? It may be a case of what Germans call “sich jemanden schön trinken” (I wonder whether Daniel knows the term), but hell, the trick works every time. (I speak from
bitter experience. One of the reasons why I hardly ever drink alcohol anymore.)
In fairness, BS really didn’t make it easy, I think, and I am surprised that I haven’t heard any complaints about this so far. Honestly, there we have a show kicking off with the protagonist being
killed shot within the first two minutes of the plot. Before you jump in to their defence – I *do* realise that it is a plot device. But I still think it is an anti-climax. It is a bit of a running gag among the fans of Richard Armitage, and yet it was something that put me into a seriously annoyed mood that may have evoked the resistance against liking Daniel Miller. After all, what point is there to get invested with a character, if I know he will kick the bucket at the end of the show? Doubt as a defence mechanism. It’s actually something I am quite familiar with in my RL… Maybe it is time to break this deplorable habit and give Daniel a chance.
Look back at the first trailer
Essentially, the show started in a most promising manner. Even though I never wrote about the first BS trailer we saw mid-May, a mere three weeks after shooting wrapped on BS, I filled several notebook pages with my enthusiastic response to the sneak preview of the show. I literally loved everything about the trailer – the look of its, the whole sum of its parts. I loved that RA was presented as the lead of the show, appearing in every second scene, acting the engine of the whole show. I loved his look, reminiscent of Lucas North in his pea coat, dark clothes, tight trousers – oh, and the scarf (classic German styling – ask my kids; they say that is how you identify German men 😂). The character definition in the trailer was superb – keeping Daniel a bit of mystery. Despite being the goody sent in to discover and expose the mole, there were hints of darkness and shade in his character. There was a nice bit of action in the trailer with Daniel’s rooftop antics, mystery and psychology in the shape of the phone call, some sexiness courtesy of Hector in classic sexy bar, as well as death or danger when Frost gets dunked in a fish tank.
The music provided a soundtrack reminiscent of the love parade, an industrial, thumping techno beat, fast, hard, unrelenting – like the city and the show. And wow – the cinematography! Unusual angles, especially the shots from above, provided some really interesting visual effects. Lots of out-of-focus shots, a very agile camera that moved with the action and was seldom stationary, evoking a very dynamic feel that matches the fast life of the metropolis. And with the camera cleverly following Daniel’s moves – when he gets up, the camera moves up – the viewer feels part of the action, is in the middle of it all. In conclusion – all the trappings of a show that is made by people who know their stuff and who are throwing money at the material, boosting the script with high production values, carefully chosen locations, convincing styling and classy casting.
And then episode 1 starts so promising with an all-round fantastic title sequence. This is one of the best intros I have seen in a long time – great visual impact with lots of colour, glimpses of Berlin’s most famous sights that are relatable even to people who have never been there. The characters are all established and shown, and there is a wonderful underlying graphic theme of contrasts and contradictions that you just about perceive without ever having the chance to dwell on it. Oh, and David Bowie providing the music. BIG winner!!!
You could say that my expectations were high. And *boom*, that death scene at the beginning of episode 1 really shot the expectations down. Ouch.
But as we say in German “steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein”. I put in the time and re-watched. And I grudgingly admit that Armitage is quite yummy as Daniel Miller. He does the spy thing so well – he can probably act that in his sleep. The slow turn of his head, the surreptitious glances, the casual walk with the squared shoulders – masterful spy characterisation. Some other mannerisms turned up and felt like old friends – Lucas’ hand-across-the-mouth gesture to signify momentary insecurity, the fluttering eyelashes when things get too close to the bone. The sexy upper-lip kiss from NS, and of course the gloves pulled off with the teeth. *rrrrroarrrrrr* hello, Guyyyyy! 😍 I am still looking out for Porter’s little dip of the head…
maybe in episode 3??? Pretty please!!! Sometimes I am even wondering whether those bits are thrown in there for our special entertainment. Who else thought of poor Francis Dolarhyde when they zoomed out of this shot:
So, with about four glasses of wine under my belt, suddenly Daniel is rather an attractive agent. Ok, I admit that his German accent hasn’t gotten any better despite my wine consumption. If anything, the wine has made it a bit harder to discern the words “Eisern Union”. OTOH, the wine makes it much easier to look over the rest of the accent and suitably suspend the disbelief and take Daniel as the native speaker of German that he is. I admit – maybe I am being a little bit too facetious here – this is just a bloody entertainment show, not a documentary or anything that is up for an Academy Award. Frankly, whether the accent is authentic or not, does not really matter in the greater scheme of things. I have heard it from several non-German speaking fellow fans, that they find Daniel sounds believably German. The German in me cringes, but I take their point – there is enough *ch ch ch* and *rrrrr rrrr rrrr* in his pronunciation of German lines, that convincingly makes him out as a German. Apparently Germans are not the target group of this thriller, anyway, so our input is not needed.
So what is it about Daniel? I will admit here, that I am not yet 100% in love with him. Strangely – because I totally fell for him in the trailer. But in the show, we get a closer look at his MO, and not all of what he does is entirely comprehensible. His way of making himself known to the deputy chief was positively sneaky. And his covert operation in Berlin – a week before he is supposedly starting on his job in Berlin Station – is more sneaky business. There he is, following unsuspecting German girls around, making secret phone calls, staking out journalists, turning on his charm to seduce said unsuspecting German girl, and last but not least, prancing around in his tighty briefs in his grey and impersonal rented accommodation. And yet, it is the scene with Claudia Gärtner in the bar where Daniel finally redeemed himself. Or maybe not Daniel but Armitage. I fully understood that Daniel was playing a role in order to get into Claudia’s pants (and secrets), and yet that was the scene where I thought Armitage really excelled. – Because so far, Daniel has been rather wooden, rather artificial, and rather mysterious. He is the darkest horse in all of this – his motivations remain in the dark. Why is he doing all of this? Career advancement? Is he simply the saviour of the Western world? A baddie? In much deeper than we realise? Or is the tragic childhood a driver of the plot, with a lovely mum who serves Wiener Würstchen and Schwarzwälder KirSchtorte to her darling boy and even takes him to the park to play football, yet tragically also is the innocent victim of an assassination due to her not-so-innocent affair with a German secret service bloke.
Yes, predictably, the sentimentality totally works on me. Poor Daniel – not only traumatised by witnessing his mother’s death in a car bomb, but also carrying guilt with him because the 8-year-old Daniel in Miller’s head still thinks he has sent his mother to her death because he did not ask her to stay home when she asked him. What must that do to a child/man? Losing a parent is bad enough, but feeling responsible because he didn’t stop her from going out, is even worse. So yes, that plot device – although admittedly cheap and easy – has really softened me up.
And maybe, maybe all my reservations when it comes to other things that bug me about BS – the misrepresentation of Berlin, the pastiche characters, the predictability of the plot devices – may actually be the opposite of what they seem. I have a sneaky suspicion that things are presented quite deliberately the way they are, to get me on the wrong track. Hector de Jean – the debauched, jaded agent, possibly the mole with clear connections with Thomas Shaw, may actually turn out a good guy. Valerie Edwards – is not probably not just the momma of the Station who is looking out for her fellow agents, but is definitely more two-faced than she lets on. Station Chief Frost is definitely as chilling as his name suggests, and probably worse. And for all his cursing, Robert Kirsch may turn out to have some redeeming features. These roles have already been created as two-dimensional characters. The German counterparts not so much. And yet it is the German characters whom I am finding most believable so far. Whether that is because I share the same nationality (and therefore can claim a spiritual or cultural kinship with their psyche) or whether feisty journalist Ingrid, for instance, is simply the obvious identification figure in this piece so far, remains to be seen. I certainly will say that I had no trouble identifying with lovely but tragic Claudia at all – not least because she was lucky enough to be chatted up by Daniel Miller. However, dishy Daniel will have to prove that he is more than a pretty face with a hot bod.
Even though the plot does not necessarily add up for me yet – I felt there were numerous holes and mistakes in the plot so far – I admit that Epix and Steinhauer are probably a bit more clever than I initially thought. And in the light of that, it may have been an ingenious idea to start the show with the death (?) of its protagonist – the mystery is there, and the longer I think about it, the more I want to find out how this all ends. I look forward to finding out more about Daniel’s past – his mysterious present – and his future, beyond that gunshot wound on Potsdamer Platz. And message to Epix: There is no way you can let Daniel die! We already want a season 2. Get on it, people!