So this is how this goes

•February 19, 2019 • 14 Comments

I can go back to crushing on Richard Armitage wacky (I hope)

•February 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Richard Armitage, spring 2015.

It just occurred to me that not only will I be relieved of thinking about Berlin Station

, I will also get six hours of my week back. Looking forward to feeling a lot more giddy nd a lot less frustrated!

Berlin Station 3.10, first impressions [spoilers!] #richardarmitage

•February 18, 2019 • 25 Comments

Continued from here. These posts will contain spoilers. PLEASE do not read them if you are not watching concurrently with the U.S. broadcast but still want a fresh look at them when the show becomes legally available in your region.

Reminder: SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

***

Can we say: they definitely think they’re getting another season? Yes, Estonia is saved (apparently throwing on a light switch was all they needed) and Platov’s plot is foiled. However, there are several unanswered questions relating to issues left open last week — what the relationship between Frost and Platov was, how Daniel’s body got from Komorovo to Berlin, etc. There are also a ton of unresolved plot problems. So Valerie’s friend was apparently not in these episodes for any particular reason. (I hate it when they do that.) The sciency weapon thingie was in the series in order to involve the Chinese and get them to cooperate over Fourteen Eyes, except that we find out nothing from / about China, so that plot strand (and the reference to the Four Policeman) was largely abandoned and it’s not entirely clear why it needed to be in here in the first place — unless to give April independent screen time. We don’t know who was walking past the memorial wall in 3.1 — maybe no one we knew. And then the new problems: What favor is it that Hector did Valerie? Hector somehow survives to the end of this episode despite “suffering from sepsis,” and despite a funeral, Daniel’s death remains unavenged, with an equal number of unenlightened spooks and pregnant glances exchanged at that funeral. Given how much time ignorant armies spent clashing by night in this episode yet again, you’d think they could have cut that down a bit and answered a few more questions.

So if I were betting on who else was being written out in a hypothetical fourth season, it would be Kirsch, not Valerie. Which makes Orser’s enthusiasm and Forbes’ silence over the last few weeks even more puzzling.

Ask me if I care. Again, so often tonight I found myself thinking — wow, if they’d ever given Daniel Miller an equally weighty plotline where he was more than the ball they were batting around in service of some other character’s plotlines, or if they’d ever given him text to speak like some people got this week.

But not just as a fan of Armitage were we mocked this season: we were mocked as spectators who cared about characters whom the writers were obviously less interested in than we were. This was a dumb strategy, because that’s why audiences stick with a show, because they find something in it that draws them back every week. If the writers can’t be at least as serious as I am about their interest in a plot or a character, it’s a stupid investment on my part because I will always be disappointed. This show has never really hit a rhythm regarding a plausible, tense plot — only intermittently and never over an entire season. So it has to be the characters. Spooks also killed off characters in abstruse, cruel ways. But it wasn’t afraid to encourage us to care about them — which is what made us so sad about their deaths. Berlin Station somehow missed that tip.

You don’t care about us, writers? Well, we don’t care about you, either. I’ll be calling Spectrum tomorrow to stop paying for this and see if we can get the month prorated.

***

The series has finally gotten around to fully erasing Armitage beyond his picture in the titles. At this point, they’ve even silenced his voice, and it’s Ashley Judd who says “previously on Berlin Station.”

Who’s starring now?

The episode opens in the middle of Hector having a fever dream.

We also get to see that his bullet hole has been stitched up.

This guy’s involved.

and this guy, and they have a discussion about whether Hector’s dead, and which direction he’s going if so, and there’s a bit of the dream in which Frost appears to be washing Hector off but is really waterboarding him …

but in the end, this is the guy who is watching Hector. I didn’t know his name — it’s “Timur” [Yardovsky — I guess he was the spurned plutocrat at Roman’s restaurant] — and I don’t know exactly how Hector got here (as after all, we did close last week with Platov planning to track Hector with dogs).

This is Timur, who says his men discovered Hector at the edge of his grounds. I don’t get why you’d patch someone up and then kill them, though. At any rate, he offers a chance for Hector to narrate the plot a little more.

Hector offers him access to Krik’s art treasures in order to get him to lower the pistol. Oh, right, and Timur’s the person who planned the hit in the nightclub in 3.6.

Back in “Berlin,” Gilbert Dorn is giving us the penultimate (my, we’re using the word a lot lately) chapter in the Diver story: why Diver was a double agent.

James Cromwell as Gilbert Dorn. I really wish he’d played an ailing Catholic bishop in this show. My joy would have been unconfined.

It’s cut through with images of Steven listening to it in a peaceful park (as it turns out, in “Berlin”). Steven’s interrupted by a phone call from Hector. Steven feigns relief to hear Hector’s voice and reveals to Hector that “Daniel didn’t make it.” Hector seems genuinely upset by this news. Steven thought Hector and Torres “missed exfill,” but Hector interrupts to inform Steven he had made it to the green dacha. When questioned further, he says he saw “bits and pieces,” but feigns inability to speak. Hector says, ominously, “Tell Valerie I’m doing her one last solid, and then she better lose my fucking number. You too.”

After repeating Steven’s canonical hokey sigh, Frost goes back to listening to Dorn, who reveals that the reason Diver became a double agent is that his wife was drunk driving in Moscow (Diver was even more drunk than she) and kills a pedestrian — so Diver agreed to spy for the USSR in order to keep her out of a Soviet prison. (This would be more plausible to me if we hadn’t had season 1, in which Frost was embezzling money to keep Caroline happy and buy her a house in Provence — I mean, is he really that insecure? Doesn’t she owe him one at some point?) Cut to Esther listening to the podcast (at the same time!). Back to Dorn: The dissolution of the Stasi archive “on” November 9, 1989, meant that Diver was at risk of being exposed as a double agent.

Esther’s listening, too. To me there’s something slightly GDR-reminiscent of these all-wood interiors — the look like the inside of the ZK building in Berlin used to look, at least a little — but this is meant to be a BfV office.

Both Esther and Steven are listening as Dorn promises that on the next podcast, “tomorrow,” “all will be revealed.” In case you’re in any doubt about the Steven / Diver identification, the camera shows us the rear angle of Richard Jenkins’ head.

Back in Komorovo, Timor dispatches Hector to the warehouse (the “freeport”) over the protests of his physician.

In Berlin (this is really Berlin — Märkisches Ufer), BB Yates enters Robert’s building and discovers Robert holding Nina hostage. As Robert tries to explain in the adjoining room, he realizes he sounds insane. BB urges him to question Nina “by the book,” but when she returns to the living room, Nina has escaped her bonds. A fight ensues, Nina grabs the sciency weapon thingie (how handy!) and zaps Robert very close to his heart. (This is a bit weird because I think we learned that Kolya was running Nina. So it’s not the Chinese who are trying to get the weapon? In any case it doesn’t matter at all to the plot of the rest of the episode — nor is it anything more than incidental to the plot of the entire season. Whatever.) BB disarms (diszappers?) Nina but Nina escapes; BB drags him into a cab with the help of a friendly cabbie and they hotfoot it to a hospital. (Obviously this cabbie is not an actual Berliner, because every Berliner cabbie I have ever met has the gift of gab and would protest loading a body like this. Hopefully they went to the nearest one instead of driving all over town like they did last season. I’m also wondering how you explain the injury to a doctor. However, the cabbie does pass on the right, which is a huge German traffic no-no, but something you see in Berlin all the time.)

This show doesn’t lay the metaphors on thick or anything.

Meanwhile, Valerie is meeting Kolya in an apartment full of marionettes. (Whatever.) She informs him that April and Sofia et al. are in Tallinn, trying to turn the lights back on, and that “a man on the ground” will stop Rodion & Co. Kolya says that Platov will not relent unless he sees a show of military force. After Valerie objects that NATO will not intervene, he suggests a faked intercepted cable to show to Platov. Valerie calls BB, who’s in a hospital waiting room; they’re going to crash the drone currently flying over Estonia to fake Rodion/Platov out.

Cut to St. Petersburg, where Hector is entering his warehouse. We’re going back to that editing style with back and forth, and again half the scenes are boyz fighting in the twilight. Hector talks his way in with a story about questionable provenance and needing to pacify beancounters.

This is sort of the last interesting point for a while because now we have to have some boys fighting in the twilight. We’re sixteen minutes in and I’m already wondering how they will ever fit the rest of the plot in this episode. Anyway. In the dark, we see Rodion spotting the drone on his computer screen. We also get a report from Mr. Telecommunications at the embassy that contact with the drone has been lost near Tapa.

Our sinister cutie, Rodion (Adi Kvetner). Too bad we can’t see his FACE.

Valerie promises that they put info on the drone “that should give him a hell of a fright.”

At the warehouse, Hector convinces the guards to move all of the stuff out based on a story he tells about how missing provenance on one item (which Hector hid) will drag the entire lot of stuff into insurance litigation. As the goons begin move everything, Hector removes a lot of money, several passports and a bottle of sparkling wine from his office — along with the drawing he was shouting about, which is worth 3 point something million something. He gets in his car and drives away.

The following scenes all take place in the dark.

Back in Berlin, Esther is meeting with Dorn in “Berlin” at night — she tells him she doesn’t believe Platov killed Daniel, and shows him the picture from 3.1 / 3.2 that Daniel mailed her from Estonia. They get into a bit of a pissing match when he refuses to tell her who Diver is and where she can find him; she offers to protect him. He responses that she can’t protect him from what he’s afraid of and secrets are all he has. She says they are lies and he tells her if it weren’t for him, she’d be wearing a Stasi uniform. She says, “Please — I can’t let this go,” and he says, “well, in that case, I pity you,” and leaves to prepare for company he says he’s expecting. Ouch. ESTHER, dude, you really should have followed him, given a hinting statement like that.

Cut back to the darkness of Tapa. I had to rewatch this because during the original broadcast I got distracted by a recharge of my ongoing game of Candy Crush soda saga. So, in the darkness, Rodion cuts a chip out of the drone he’s downed and reads it on his laptop. Unlike the CIA, he does not have an Apple computer and this probably explains the outcome of the episode. Anyway, Rodion calls Roman in St Petersburg to say that he’s seen footage on the chip of forward troops but Roman is suspicious — his Moscow sources haven’t given him that information. Shortly after that he arrives at the warehouse only to discover that all his precious arty shtuff is gone. I don’t see how this is a favor to Valerie, though.

In Tallinn, we see April and Sofia in the city with three guys with guns.

Back to Tapa. Torres is back at the camp where we saw him 3.3 — he discovers that all the Russian paramilitaries are gone. I’m not sure why he does this — doesn’t the CIA already know that Rodion’s troops have mobilized from 3.9? I guess not, but you’d think they’d know by now, since they have a freakin’ drone flying over Estonia. I mean really.

In Tallinn, April and Sofia observe a truck full of Russians drive into her company’s building, then they sneak in themselves (with their guards).

Torres is stalking through the forest in Tapa, looking for Russian paramilitaries because he knows exactly where they are (he has the nerve to say this). He finds the slaughtered NATO troops from last week and hears men in the woods.

In Tallinn, Sofia announces that she’ll only have 30 seconds after she breaks in to the computer before the Russians are aware of her breach. She wants the soldiers to hold the Russians off for five minutes while she turns on the lights, the wifi and the cell towers. According to her, this will end the Russian power grab. (okay …. I thought there were like, Russians on every corner … but whatever.)

In Tapa, Rodion is playing with his computer some more, and sees that the footage on the chip from the drone has antiquated information on it that indicates it’s false (armor that’s not up to date). His call to Roman gives Torres the opportunity to locate and sneak up on him. Fatefully, Roman says, “As long as Estonia is dark, we can move forward.” At about 29:20, Torres attacks Roman and they fight — in the dark. Sigh.

Torres and Rodion fighting. Seriously. Does filming the whole thing in the dark save them money or something?

Tallinn: as Sofia tries to locate the right cable, CIA and Russians play cat and mouse in the banks of the servers.

April manages to get a few knockout blows in, too. You go, girl.

Tapa: Torres and Rodion are STILL fighting. In the dark.

Sofia’s got a MacBook and this is why we will win.

Tapa: Torres and Rodion are STILL fighting. It is slightly less dark.

Tallinn: the Russians have discovered the breach but Sofia keeps on typing. The computer screen is mightier than the assault weapon and all that.

Not to be a pain, but I didn’t realize they’d also turned the water in Tallinn off.

Tapa: Guess what. Torres and Rodion. Still fighting. Still in the dark.

Memo to EPIX: nothing about this is either dramatic or entertaining. Candy Crush Soda Saga was calling.

Tallinn: the Russian paramilitaries are shooting at our team, and April enters the fray, now shooting people as well as beating them up. Sofia encounters an obstacle and hits a key repeatedly while the computer beeps in refusal. I guess her game of Candy Crush Soda Saga is not going well either, as she says “fuck fuck fuck.” The firefight continues and our soldiers tell Sofia she has to do it now.

Tapa: Do I have to tell you or have you figured it out by now? They are now also groaning in Tarzan voices, if that helps color the scene up a bit. Torres skewers Rodion to a tree (this is only really obvious later, in a different scene) and breaks Rodion’s neck and then collapses himself.

Tallinn: Sofia gets the lights on and we see them go on all over Tallinn.

Wasn’t Spooks 8.2 about keeping the lights on vs the “Tazbeks”?

One big problem in this episode are the changing light levels — like we’re supposed to get the general curve that the sun is about to rise — but the light levels are inconsistent from scene to scene so we have to take it on trust. Anyway, the lights going on lightens the mood (LOL) and this is kind of the climax of the episode — from here on, it’s all falling action, more or less.

Once the lights go on in the building (which miraculously makes it light outside, too!) the Russians pull back. They all drive out of the city in personnel trucks.

Platov is observing all this from Komorovo, where it’s miraculously light out, and he loses it and destroys the stuff on his desk. In Tapa, it’s now also light out and the next wave of NATO troops discover Rodion and Torres (who are apparently a synedoche for all those other folks we saw last week, who we never see this time — saving money?) and as Torres can still weakly mumble “I’m an American,” they call in a medic. So he’ll definitely be in season 4, if there is one, right?

Back to Berlin.

Deportation detention in Berlin also apparently needs Sofia Vesik’s electrical support. Or maybe just a few lightbulbs.

BB Yates shows up in a very sprightly mood to offer the Adeyemis “green cards and visas” to the U.S. (this is confusing — if you have a green card, you don’t need a visa to enter), along with residences near DC and access to a lab so Dr. Adeyemi can get back to work. Yes, they expect him to keep working on this sciency weapon thingie and not do humanitarian research or anything. She also notes that she’s recovered the device and will pay him a fair price for it. In response to Dove’s questions about April ignoring them, she says that they are getting this deal because of April. I guess this is BB making it up to April for her earlier realpolitik? So I guess if there’s a season 4 BB will be CIA director?

Finally a scene where one can clearly see everyone’s face — the first one in like fifteen minutes or something.

On the river, Frost is toasting a “pipeline” deal with a well-dressed woman who speaks accented English (not clear that it’s Russian, though, and her name is Suzanne). She tells him she decided to make the deal with him because people say “Steven Frost is a man you can trust.” She leaves (before the sparkling wine is gone), and he has a swallow of water before he too rises and vomits in a restaurant water feature and is rude to the waiter who expresses concern.

In St Petersburg / Komorovo, Kolya shows up at the dacha to collect Roman — telling him to “pack light,” and that he won’t need his passport or gun. (Duh-dun.)

40 minutes in. In “Berlin,” Steven is relating events at the dacha to Valerie. He tells her he didn’t see Daniel there at all; he was held off by gunfire. When she asks about Hector, he relates the previous phone conversation with her (what was the favor Hector did Valerie? Unclear to me, unless he’s planning to give her some of the money he retrieved.) Valerie asks why it’s taken Steven so long to be in touch, and he tells her it’s because she was right and he is too old to be in the field. They reassure each other that they all did everything they could. Then Valerie asks him to speak at Daniel’s memorial.  He agrees. He’s all choked up, but I guess not for the reason Valerie thinks.

(In case you are wondering, we are NOT going to see that plausibly interesting scene hinted at last week, where Esther calls Daniel’s father.)

Robert IS alive. So I guess the weapon isn’t as deadly as we thought.

Next, we see Torres in a military hospital, watching the positive news from Estonia where Sofia is revolutionizing the identity card system. He goes next door with his IV pole to cheer up Robert, who is down in the dumps: his career is over, he’ll be lucky to get his job back, he’s thrown his family away, and “the last woman who liked me is a Russian operative.” (To me there’s a problem here. This could be basic Jewish misery if played right, in which case it would be supposed to be funny — but of course Robert can’t joke about stuff like this.) Torres notes in a quite emotional speech that despite all this, the Estonians are free and another war in Europe has been averted. So although they are damaged, it was worth it, which is what they are always praying for. Torres is definitely just a skosh religious.

Wrapping up the Gilbert Dorn plotline, Steven shows up at Dorn’s place. In case we’ve forgotten, Dorn reminds us that Steven killed Mrs. Miller and now Daniel to save himself, and has forestalled Esther and Daniel’s happiness. Steven takes out his gun to kill Dorn, but is unable to do it. Steven asks Dorn to kill him, but Dorn refuses: “You don’t get off that easy.” He wants the blood to stay on Steven’s hands. When Frost asks Dorn, “what about you, what about your part?” Dorn replies “I gave my life in defense of the United States of America. I am forgiven,” then raises the pistol to the underside of his jaw and shoots himself. Blood ends up on Steven’s face because that seems to happen a lot in this show. (It happened in Spooks 7, too, as I remember).

Cut to Steven standing in front of the star memorial at CIA HQ in Langley, speaking at Daniel’s memorial. All the CIA people are there, plus Esther. Daniel’s actions “saved millions from the jackboot of oppression.” (Seriously?) “Hell, he might’ve even saved NATO itself.” (Wow, Daniel, you will go down in history for this one.) Then Hector, in sunglasses, walks into the gathering. Steven blathers on a bit about the vocation of CIA agents and when he looks up again, Hector is not there. (So who knows if this happened, or it’s just one of Steven’s fantasies, because it’s hard for me to imagine how Hector could get into that setting unnoticed.) At this, Steven falters slightly and turns his body.

Like this. Hagen Bogdanski has done a really good job of making sure we get great views of Richard Jenkins’ neck throughout the season.

Esther makes a flashbulb association with the picture from November 9, 1989. Robert goes up to Steven to see if he’s okay. After his speech ends, Esther goes up to Steven and says, “Thank you for your words. I promise you I will remember them. Always.”

In memoriam Daniel Miller.

So, risking some political discussion here

•February 16, 2019 • 6 Comments

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This is something that has frequently puzzled me as well — why conservative politicians are not more responsive to younger constituencies. In the U.S., it’s quite frankly because that age segment does not vote. Demographic research shows that the U.S. population composition is changing, but the GOP calculation is more or less that even though there are likely to be increasingly fewer voters whose demographic matches GOP policy initiatives, they count on being able to govern with those who agree with them because those population segments vote in proportionally greater numbers. The GOP is counting on its ability to triumph increasingly as a party of the minority. But it can’t stay that way forever. Eventually the numbers of those who want movement on environmental policy will outnumber voters who oppose it; it’s only a matter of time (and I hope it’s not too late). And it’s not only on environmental policy that something will have to give.

I also think there’s a factor of shame here, when younger people tell older people what they are getting wrong, provoking these outbursts. (It’s somewhat reminiscent of the 1960s, when segments of young people took the opportunity to ask, not always politely, while society wasn’t living up to its advertising on issues like civil rights, pacifism, etc. — the vehemence of the response seemed directly related to the fact that in many cases, the protestors were right. Public responsibility for the Holocaust had been shirked; discussions had not happened; the Vietnam war was unjust; civil rights appertaining to every U.S. citizen were being denied to some.) It’s hard to admit as an adult that one got it wrong or that one is implicated in an unjust power structure — those who are brazen enough to state that the current arrangements keep them on top and they don’t care about everyone else are rare. Democracy requires even injustice to be excused in the name of the public good.

I wish we could get over the shame and rage and just do something — before we all drown. I hope that increasing numbers in the streets on this issue will wake up our politicians, if for no other reason than (as Armitage notes), these young people will be voting soon.

Great is as great does [potential spoilers i comments]

•February 16, 2019 • 11 Comments

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RIP Bruno Ganz

•February 16, 2019 • 1 Comment

His obituary is here. I had hypothesized that Richard Armitage had seen his most well-known recent film Der Untergang (Downfall).

Richard Armitage tangentially related

•February 16, 2019 • 11 Comments

Fandom:

RDC5:

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Current projects:

Past projects:

Collateral attractions:

Things we’ve talked about:

Industry issues:

  • Fatima sent me this interesting article about West End casting; apparently actors are now asked about their social media presence. Article at The Stage (I was able to see it in a private window), and here’s a tweet discussing it.
 
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