I cannot express to you the sadness I feel that in the prime age of television Epix could not come up with something more creative than BERLIN STATION. Don’t get me wrong – the show has oodles and oodles of potential, and the dreary, European backdrop leans right into the delicious dramas the BBC has been churning out for years. But the show is so slow, and “Riverrun Dry” does nothing to improve that fact.
European shows are, generally speaking, slower. The action progresses in smaller segments, there’s more time spent on dramatic character moments where characters feel dramatic things. But you have to have a hook, and Berlin Station hardly has that. Sure, we have a CIA mole – but who hasn’t seen that before? And we already know who Thomas Shaw is – that was revealed in the first episode, so we’re not waiting on bated breath to solve the mystery along with Daniel. At this point, it’s starting to feel a bit pathetic that we’re three episodes in, we know who the mole is, and Daniel has been hanging out with him, getting tailed by him, and just in this episode, getting his phone bugged by him, and he doesn’t even realize. Is he not good at his job? Or is Thomas Shaw aka Hector, just better at being a spy? And if Hector is better at being a spy, why are we supposed to care about what happens to Daniel?
Frankly the show feels more like an episode of Scandal than it does a series about spies. For being the CIA, there’s a whole lot less intel gathering than there is standing around worrying about all the stupid stuff these people have done in the past coming out. But even Scandal has more emotion. The problem with attempting to do a workplace drama about spies in the CIA is that these actors (and they are all quite good, well known names) are playing their characters right – emotionally detached loners searching for something to care about. So the result is that when something dramatic happens, you get a vaguely emotional response, instead of the satisfaction of a fallout that you would get on other shows. This is why James Bond has a lot of car chases and fist fights, people.
I think I’d be a little more forgiving of the lacking plot and characters if there was a bit more diversity in the show. Sure, there are two women – one of which gets deposed in this episode. Sure, there are two POCs featured in the show – one of which is, again, deposed in this episode. And, naturally, the muslim community has been a prominent side feature in the last two episodes (unfortunately, because of a possible terrorist investigation). Not to mention Hector’s strange love affair with a Saudi agent, but if that man is truly gay he is so far in the closet (to himself, at least) that he’s in the house next door.
Despite these small attempts at diversity, I can’t help looking at this largely white cast, set in Berlin, thinking, even if they didn’t change a single thing about the script, the story, or how they shot it, but they simply recast some roles to be more racially and gender diverse, this show would be so much more interesting. Because as is, we’ve seen it already. A thousand times over. And at this point, I’m only vaguely interested in what happens next.
But speaking of that vague interest, the show did have some intriguing developments in its plot. Jemma, the Deputy Department Chief and the woman who assigned Daniel on his secret mission in the first place, gets deposed, leaving Daniel out to sea (so to speak) without a lifeline. Meanwhile, Hector, who’ve we’ve come to know is Thomas Shaw, is on to Daniel’s mission. He gets close to Daniel, and then bugs his phone. This works out relatively well, because Daniel then gets confronted by Steven Frost, who has taken over as Deputy Chief, and tells Daniel that not only does he know why Daniel was sent to Berlin Station, but he wants to help Daniel sniff out Thomas Shaw.
I believe there still might be hope for the show. Right now the stakes don’t feel that high, and subsequently the tension is relatively low. But all of the ingredients for an intense, dramatic thriller are right there if front of us. Here’s to hoping next week’s episode will keep us on the edge of our seats.
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Berlin Station airs Sundays at 9PM on Epix
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor