Netflix’ Babylon Berlin is back with a new mystery amid the rainy streets, shady politics and lush Art Deco style of 1920’s Berlin.
The Crash heard around the world
Season 3 of Babylon Berlin opens in the spring of 1929. The Weimar Republic is in full swing-the markets are soaring, the cabarets are packed, and everyone including work-a-day cops are leveraged to the hilt, with promises of stock market returns of 100 times their money. Unfortunately, with the coming crash of 1929, we know what will become of these heady times. Meanwhile, political schemers at the top levels of government vie for power while the Nazi party quietly grows in the margins.
A New Mystery
Episode 1 picks up with our main characters, Detective Gereon Rath (Volcker Bruch) and assistant inspector Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Ries) returning back to normal life after the shocking ending of season 2. Gereon is living in sin with his sister-in-law Helga and her son Moritz, and Charlotte is studying forensics so she can be allowed to process crime scenes. When a famous actress is killed during filming by a klieg light falling from the studio grid, Gereon and the homicide team are called in to determine whether or not it was an accident. Indeed, the police determine the death was likely a homicide because the bolts holding the light were loosened. The Armenian (a baddy from earlier seasons) is financing this film and will take desperate measures to finish it. At the same time, creepy mega investor Alfred Nysson (Lars Eidinger) is convinced the market will crash and he is trying to get the Who’s Who of Berlin to invest in his scheme to short sell stocks, but they scornfully decline. The season 2 murder of good guy Councilor Benda by Lotte’s friend Greta is a plotline as well. Greta was duped by fascist agitators into bombing Benda’s home office, and although Greta is resigned to her death sentence, Lotte hires communist lawyer Hans Litten (actual lawyer and enemy of Hitler) to appeal her case.
I have mixed feelings about Babylon Berlin season 3. On the one hand, all the things we loved about the show are still present-the bonkers musical numbers, the fabulous clothes, the gorgeous cinematography, the decadence of 20’s Berlin, the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Gereon and Charlotte. But the plot lines aren’t grabbing me. They are simpler, which is nice after the contortions of seasons 1 and 2, but also a little draggy. I like that the series includes scenes that do nothing more than give us insight to life in 1920’s Berlin, such as the spastic dancing that Gereon and forensic assistant Graf do at a bar. I’m also enjoying the focus on the new discipline of forensics. But at the same time, other important elements have been shunted, such as the revelation that hypnotist and cult figure Dr. Schmidt is Anno, Gereon’s burned-beyond-recognition brother. Additionally, the politics are confusing. It’s not as simple as communists vs. fascists, and there are real life people featured as characters, but I don’t know their history, and don’t want to google them because of potential spoilers. That said, Babylon Berlin still shines as a peephole into the short-lived Weimar Republic, and the characters are interesting. It is still a bingeworthy show, but without some of the luster of the earlier seasons.
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