Dogs of Berlin is a gritty, fast-paced German thriller, the second one produced for Netflix after the popular Dark (one of our top 10!). Detective Kurt Grimmer (Felix Kramer) is a charming and crooked cop with a gambling habit that has him deeply entrenched in the underworld of Berlin. Detective Erol Birkan (Fahri Yadim) is a Turkish success story, coming from a rough neighborhood run by the ruthless Lebanese Tarek-Amir gang. Birkan’s team has been tracking the Tarek-Amir gang for 18 months with no real progress. Due to the high profile murder of a Turkish soccer superstar, Grimmer and Birkan are grudgingly thrown together on a new task force named The Red Card.
The Anti-Lethal Weapon
We open on the night of the murder. Grimmer happens to be nearby, although off duty, when the body of soccer star Orkan Erdem is discovered in a low-rent neighborhood far from his home. Savvy Grimmer immediately tells the cops to keep a low profile and he calls his superior to let him know what’s going on. Unfortunately, there is a World Cup qualifying match between Germany and Turkey the next day, and Orkan Erdem’s death (who is Turkish but plays for Germany) would cause a riot if word got out. Grimmer, who owes a ton of money to cover old gambling debts, immediately takes a huge against-odds bet on Germany to lose the qualifying match. Then he reports to work to lead a task force created to solve the murder. While the police suspect Erdem was killed BY Turks, they have to tread lightly. So they bring Turkish detective Birkan onto the team for optics. It doesn’t go well. Grimmer has a lot of shady dealings to protect, and he needs his privacy. Birkan likes to go by the book. This isn’t going to be a Lethal Weapon style buddy cop show.
Too Many Threads
There are a lot of subplots in Dogs of Berlin. Some are necessary, like the power struggle between the leaders of the Tarek-Amir gang, and some aren’t, like the scenes with the Brotherhood, a neo-nazi gang created by Grimmer’s mother. All of these stories come into play tangentially, but there is too much to keep track of, and the show starts to drag in the middle. I was most interested in two things: Will Grimmer be able to keep all the balls in the air? And, having finally made some headway with the Tarek-Amir gang, will Birkan eventually embrace Grimmer’s way of getting things done, which yields better results than following the rules? They could have cut a plot line or two and tightened the series up to 6 or 8 episodes and it would have been binge-worthy. As it is, I walked away from it for a few days to binge a different show. (the excellent Nobel) I did like the Berlin setting, and the timely politics of rising nationalism, which added some richness to the show. Some felt that Dogs of Berlin was too dark and too cynical, but I disagree. Even though his ethics are in the toilet, Grimmer is a likable lead with a soft spot for kids. And there is hope in the ending. While I never warmed to the pairing of Grimmer and Birkan, I would like to see a season 2 of these dogs.
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