The definitive image of Rectify’s tremendous third season finale “The Source” comes almost as an afterthought; while walking to his mother’s car outside Amantha’s house, Daniel looks forward, put his arms in the air, and takes a leap off the sidewalk onto the asphalt of the parking lot.
DEFCON 1 is literally and metaphorically reached in Deutschland 83’s season finale for better and for worse. “Able Archer” suffers from the problem many dramas set against historical events face: The audience already knows the outcome.
Shall we play a game?
The year that War Games hit theaters, 1983, was also the year that the world came the closest it had to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. While that film depended on a computer to figure out the concept of mutually assured destruction, Deutschland 83’s penultimate episode of the season, “Bold Guard,” places that burden squarely on Martin’s young shoulders.
After focusing almost entirely on Martin–and the enormously appealing Jonas Nay–in its earliest episodes, Deutschland 83 has slowly widened its frame to include a larger mix of characters. Last week’s “Cold Fire,” while still centering on Martin’s return back to the West, spent considerable time exploring the stories of Alexander, Annett, and even Ursula Edel. Now comes “Brandy Station,” which brings Alexander to the forefront and feels like the first truly ensemble episode of the series.
It’s no surprise one of Daniel’s dream destinations is the land of Carthage in Tunisia, home of the Carthagian empire that fell to the Romans in 146 BC. When their lands were stripped and the Carthagian people were enslaved, legends said the Romans “salted the earth” of Carthage, cursing the land for re-inhabitation by the Carthagians or any others.
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.”
Things just got serious on Deutschland 83. Deadly serious. If Martin–or viewers–had any doubts as to the stakes involved in his accidental spy career, “Northern Wedding” dispells them with taut, gutting efficiency. As the series hits the mid-point of its 8-episode run, nearly every relationship on the show was brought to head and the fallout leaves literal and emotional casualties everywhere.
Throughout its first two episodes, Deutschland 83 introduced its characters, plots and politics with such blithe adventure and fun that it was easy to miss that all the pieces were being placed on chess board.
After Deutschland 83’s pilot, “Quantum Jump”, seemed to set the series up as a stylish, welterweight version of The Americans, its second episode,”Brave Guy,” establishes the show as something lighter still. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Now comes SundanceTV’s new eight-part espionage series Deutschland 83. Not only is it the first German-language TV show ever broadcast in the United States, it focuses on a relatively unexplored area of Cold War history: the East and West German experience leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As a season finale, “London,” which re-creates the London riots, is everything someone who has been following Babylon could want in a final episode. The plotting reaches its heights in true climactic form while some of the best character work is reserved here for big effect.
Following last week’s superb turn in the wake of Richard Miller’s departure, Babylon returns firing on all cylinders while finding new areas to explore and develop.
Following a surprising turn of events, both for the plot of Babylon and in the context of it being a young series, “Victoria Park” shows more depth and heart than could possibly be expected of a semi-satire comedy of this type.
To this point in its short run, the series has excelled during moments of quick-witted comedy. The writing in that department shows experience and understanding of natural humor as well as command over punchlines. But “Thameside Center,” while still containing pieces of that comedic know-how, is actually more powerful as blunt piece of dramatic work.
It’s much more clear from “Maze Hill” where Babylon’s interests lie in terms of form and tone. This is, refreshingly, a 45-minute comedy that doesn’t feel stretched or unnatural.
Unlike most series in the saturated the genre, however, Babylon is not a dark, gritty procedural or whodunnit but a refreshing satirical dramedy from a network that could use a bit of lightening up.