BERLIN STATION should maybe be called Burlesque Station in this week’s episode, “Unter Druck.” Seriously, so much sex and nudity. Okay, not that much sex and nudity, but way more than usual. The episode opened on Hector/Thomas Shaw’s German message man, completely nude in his bathroom, getting ready for the day. I mean, you get full frontal here. Then later Daniel hooks up with a German spy and we are privy to the details. And finally, Robert gets head from a hooker. It really felt like the show was reaching here, like a low-ball (pun? ew) effort to draw in an audience that’s maybe just not there.
And could this show really use an audience. I’m not sure what the exact ratings are (I’m too lazy to bother looking it up) but if the dreary winding of this story is any indication of how much hook the show has, I’d guess it doesn’t have much of an audience. The show just doesn’t give its audience much grasp of what it wants to be. This sudden surge of nudity and sex clearly demonstrates that.
Honestly, though, the show could be really good if it just figured out what the heck it was doing and let its audience in on the secret. Right now, there’s a serious flaw in us knowing the identity of Thomas Shaw and knowing that Hector knows what Daniel is up to. Because every time there’s supposed to be a ‘blindside,’ suddenly, instead of being like, “oh snap!” I’m thinking, “why didn’t Daniel/Hector see that one coming?” It’s a flaw in the story structure that prevents me from fully investing in the believability of both Daniel’s and Hector’s skills as spies.
And frankly, speaking of skills as spies, this whole show is just one mess up after another. I get that these are supposed to be real, flawed human beings making definitive decisions and putting themselves and their careers out on the line, but other than Frost, who is a deceptive, power-eager man, there isn’t a lot of successful missions or cons taking place. Valerie keeps chasing a reformed terrorist without much traction – is he even up to something worth her chasing? Daniel and Hector keep playing into each other’s hands like they’ve never been spies before, and Robert is so run by his own emotions I’m surprised he was ever allowed to work for the CIA in the first place.
A couple important story points came out of this episode, however. First was Daniel’s first upset of Thomas Shaw. With the bug successfully installed at the newspaper headquarters, Daniel is finally able to get ahead on a Thomas Shaw leak. He takes it to Frost, who decides that the best way to handle the leak is to discredit the source. So Daniel, working with a German spy, escorts a Chinese defector out of the country and returns him to Chinese hands so that when the Thomas Shaw story drops, there’s no real evidence that the man actually exists in Berlin as Thomas Shaw had said he did.
The second development is that Robert decides to become a mole for Israeli Intelligence. Mainly because his ego wasn’t being stroked enough. But also, because he’s totally pissed at Frost for the power move he pulled during a diplomatic meeting with a very important contact in last week’s episode.
The most frustrating part of this week’s story development, though, is that Hector knew Daniel had tapped into the newspaper’s servers. He knew he couldn’t drop any stories without Daniel knowing ahead of time. Yet, when the story drops and immediately discredits Thomas Shaw, Hector seems to be bothered – as if he wasn’t expecting there to be any fight back from Daniel and the CIA. What did he expect? And what was he aiming for in the first place, knowing that Daniel would be able to find out what leak was coming before it dropped? The motivation here just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But that’s this show – it doesn’t communicate well. It tells us too much of some parts (the full-on nudity for no reason, the ‘reveals’ like we can’t figure out who a character is with a wig on, Hector as Thomas Shaw) and too little of others (what the heck Hector is thinking knowingly walking straight into a trap). But I’ll still be here next week to find out if there’s some point I’ve been missing.
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
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