Deutschland 83, Season 1, Episode 5, “Cold Fire”
Written by Anna Winger
Directed by Edward Berger
Airs Wednesdays at 11pm (ET) on SundanceTV
Last week’s episode of Deutschland 83 ended with Martin taking refuge with Yvonne at the commune after burying Linda’s body in the woods. Some of the emotional distaste of him immediately seeking the solace of another woman was alleviated by a fun, spacey little dance sequence accented with disco lights and Fischer-Z’s “Cruise Missiles.” However the opening of “Cold Fire” doesn’t afford Martin that glossy cover: he’s just rolling around in bed with Yvonne, and it’s a little off-putting. But everyone grieves in their own way. According to Yvonne, Martin’s way is to get wasted and tell a bunch of Osho followers that he’s a spy, which she doesn’t believe. “I am a spy,” he deadpans before rolling on top of her and telling her not to spill his secret. “If you do, I’ll have to kill you.” While Martin is clearly working through his trauma, the scene feels overly creepy.
Luckily, Tobias shows up to snap Martin out of his funk by telling him his mother Ingrid has collapsed and he must immediately return to East Germany to donate a kidney. Martin’s lack of contact with his family has made Deutschland 83‘s East/West storylines feel increasingly disconnected—him being sent home comes just as the gods of cohesive storytelling demand it. Martin’s return also forces him right back into the espionage game as he is told he must deliver “coffee” to a contact when his train makes a stop in West Berlin.
As it turns out, Martin’s delivery helps Carlos the Jackal pull off the Maison de France bombing of August 1983. On the one hand, this could be seen as an eye-rollingly arrogant intersection of reality and fiction, but on the other, Deutschland 83‘s penchant for sprinkling real-life historical events throughout its storylines gives the series a bit more depth than your average youth-centered drama. Cliffs Notes version or not, giving a TV audience incentive to Google-dive into history is never a bad thing. The incident also gives Martin a chance to physically rage against the increasingly horrendous moral lines he’s been forced to cross. After the bomb goes off, he chases down the contact and beats the man unconscious before propping him on the railroad tracks to meet his doom. It would have been nice to let Martin sit in anguish for a moment with the knowledge that his actions helped kill and injure innocent people, but the action sequence allows him to immediately vent his anger and grief through his fists, and Jonas Nay is as adept at fight scenes as he is with reaction shots. Plus, as his tryst with Yvonne proves, Martin seems to need physical outlets for his pain right now. By the time he arrives at his mother’s hospital bed, his face beaten and bloodied, the prospect of having one of his kidneys yanked out plays like catharsis.
As for Ingrid, her plight also finally—finally!—provides Lenora with some emotional complexity. Usually cool and calculating, her facade cracks when faced with the possibility of her sister’s death. She even attempts to use her influence to demand the doctors save Ingrid, as if her political manipulations also have pull over life and death itself. Paired with Lenora’s decision earlier in the episode to leave Martin off the list of agents she was asked to “activate,” the audience has been put on notice that she indeed has a beating heart. It will be interesting to see how much Lenora will protect her family in the season’s last three episodes.
Another satisfying moment in “Cold Fire” is Mrs. Edel’s dark processing of the aftermath of General Edel’s fight with Alexander last week, which left her with a black eye. After first appearing to be despondent and homicidal, Frau Edel instead opts to sacrifice one of her husband’s prized fish (RIP innocent fish) and defy him by protecting Alexander from the consequences of AWOL. The scene of her calmly munching down her dinner upstairs while Edel finds his dead fish off-camera is a moment of pure passive-aggressive glory.
The episode ends strongly with both Annett and Alexander choosing to play traitor. After Thomas sweetly attempts to reconcile with Annett in a visually striking scene shot in an angelically glowing stairwell, she chooses to turn him in to the Stasi over his banned book library. Meanwhile, Alexander—having found Tobias’s suggestion to stay in the military insulting—skulks into East German intelligence to offer his services. Alexander’s motivations are quite clear, but what Annett is after, particularly after demanding to send a message to Martin, is more of a mystery. Overall, “Cold Fire” is one of writer Anna Winger’s best episodes, allowing several characters to work through the devastating emotional fallout of last week’s episode while setting things in motion for the final sprint to the Deutschland 83‘s finale.
Other Deutsch Details
– AIDS makes another appearance, this time on the cover of Der Spiegel.
– With Martin’s drunken confessions to the Osho cultists and Yvonne, just how many people in West Germany has he told he is a spy? Crazy Renate is still lurking about, too.
-The ’80s retro soundtrack this week includes “Mad World” by Tears for Fears and “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.