Divided We Stand (ZERV) promo pic with Nadja Uhl as Inspector Karo Schubert

Divided We Stand is a German series on MHz Choice about a task force of West Germans, called ZERV, that is formed in 1991 to investigate crimes such as embezzlement or secret weapon sales committed by East German operatives during the dissolution of the GDR. Peter Simon (Fabian Hinrichs) is an economic investigator assigned to ZERV. When a potential informant gets killed on Simon’s first day on the job, he is forced to work with a plucky East German homicide detective, Karo Schubert (Nadja Uhl). The dissimilarity between them is played for laughs, but both Simon and Schubert are legitimately frustrated with the other. As they investigate the informer’s death, they discover that some serious weapons trading has been going on, but it’s not clear if the roots of the crimes are in East or West Germany.

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The characters

Simon is a serious, righteous man who is horrified by the working conditions when he arrives in the former East Berlin. He immediately puts his foot in his mouth by announcing to Schubert and her team that “1 in 3 East Germans were Stasi informants, you know.” They meet his condescension with witty remarks, but when Simon marches around their crime scene compromising evidence, Schubert and her skilled forensic tech Uta (Fritzi Haberlandt) lose their temper. For her part, Schubert is relatively cheerful, and has a warm relationship with her ex-husband Andi (Peter Schneider), a taxi driver trying to make his fortune in the new economy. But both Simon and Schubert have painful secrets. I’m not sure what Simon’s is, but he has burn scars on his back. I suspect he lost his family in a fire of some sort. Schubert is obsessed with proving that her father, an East German civil servant who drove his car into a lake several years ago, is not dead, or if he is, it’s because he was murdered. No body has been found.

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The Plot

On ZERV’s first day in their Berlin offices, a man called Mattias Trockland (Christian Weworka) comes to see them. He is sent away since they are just setting up, and Simon is out of the office. Simon, upon returning, rushes to Trockland’s house and finds him dead, hanging by a noose in his garden. Uta figures out that he was hoisted up in the noose, versus stepping into it, so it was not suicide. Turns out Trockland was in charge of disarming the East German army, and was probably a whistle blower. Schubert, upon investigating Trockland’s death, finds incriminating papers and a map at his lake house. The map leads directly to a warehouse full of weapons and tanks that is supposed to be empty. Schubert and Simon begin parallel investigations into the illegal weapons sales, but eventually work together after a tragic incident on Simon’s watch.

Our Take on Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand is very engaging. I love East Germany stories, especially when they use humor to lighten the uneasy changes that the East has to face, such as replacing “comrade” with “colleague”. The show also addresses the extremely unusual situation of a country reuniting, and shows the inherent prejudice of the West Germans as they naturalize their Eastern brethren. Although I thought episode 2 was draggy, it ended so dramatically that I kept watching, and I’m glad I did. There is a sub plot about East German children being taken from their parents and adopted by West Germans, but I’m not sure where that is going yet. Besides the history, the best thing about Divided We Stand for me is Schubert. She is refreshingly free of neurosis for a TV detective, and her partnership with Uta is fun to watch. If you like stories of government malfeasance with some personal drama thrown in, Divided We Stand is for you.

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