Berlin Station, episode 7, first impressions [spoilers]
[Episode 6 thoughts are here. Squirrel.0072, don’t read this.]
I moved into the camp of “don’t care if Richard Armitage wants to continue in this series or not” last week, and more or less stayed there this week. Not many key Daniel scenes, but lots of gorgeous closeups of his face, especially on our big television. Dad was too tired to watch (last day of hunting).
TL;DR summary — I realized that I was going to have to suspend all of the disbelief generated last week to watch this, and I did, I said, okay, just believe all that crazy stuff just happened and move on, but even given that, I thought the plot was, frankly, cheap — when it wasn’t weirdly confusing. I was okay until about 35 minutes in, when the Claire plotline began to feel manipulative and then turned out to be. At this price level we should be able to do better than the damsel on the train tracks. Also: honestly — why doesn’t someone just assassinate Hector?
On the other hand — lots of watching various reactions flit across Richard Armitage’s face. That was cool.
I still love the titles. Even if the mass transit seems to be going to Kreuzberg all the time, too.
Episode opens with Claire in the hands of Ruth Iosova, who threatens her if she doesn’t tell her where her husband is.
Next, we see Hector puking / having a flashback.
Daniel comes to tell him that Ruth Iosava’s made contact.
Steven briefs the station about an upcoming call with Iosava and “reassures” them that he will get Claire back.
Then we see some neat camera work — Robert watching Hector, Daniel watching Robert.
Hector questions Steven’s grasp of the situation, Steven says, “I thought you would have learned your lesson after your recklessly inserted yourself in the mall with an unapproved weapon.” (Steven is more optimistic than Servetus.) Hector calls Steven geriatric, Robert defends Steven, Valerie looks guilty. Steven tells Hector get out and Hector agrees. Daniel runs after him and tells him they need him.
Daniel tells Steven he wants to follow Hector, and after some resistance, Steven agrees.Next, the call with Ruth Iosava. Steven takes it but Valerie and Robert are standing to the side of the screen, out of her view. We learn that Steven can barely speak German and that his name is “Paul.” (This is a little implausible to me. One chief place that unemployed history PhDs go to find jobs is the CIA and most of them are at least decent linguists. And German is a heavily studied language.) After some palaver, we learn that Ruth wants her husband back and safe passage to Syria in return for Claire. Steven says they need confirmation that Claire is alive. Ruth Iosava wants the same — and cuts off the call, promising to call again in two hours.
We spot Daniel buying cheap vodka (here’s a funny review of the brand, in German — the only reason to buy it is the price and the amount you get, and you should mix it with something), and one of the main groups who buy it are people who patronize Berlin kiosks that are open late. He’s accosted by Daniel, who wants to help. Hector accuses him of being sent by Frost, which he denies, and then urges him to go away: “You’re a company man, so was I once, but tonight you’re in bad company” (clever line, I’ll give you that). Daniel accuses him of wanting to get drunk first. Hector says they need to look at the van. Daniel says Robert didn’t find anything. Hector says of Robert, “One fucking car chase and he thinks he’s Vin Diesel” (great line again). Hector wins.
At the station, Robert, Steven and Valerie have a call with “Clay” at Langley. Clay says they can’t trade for Claire because they don’t have Iosava; Romanian intelligence did it. Valerie doesn’t know why they would do that. Clay says Iosava is involved in the Bucharest black market. They can’t provide “proof of life” but they have “reached out” to the Romanians. Johnson (the bugger, i.e., the guy who places the bugs) tells Valerie they’re not going to figure out Ruth Iosava’s actual IP or location anytime soon. Sandra brings Steven some headache pills and Sandra says she can’t understand why anyone could be leading a happy life and then turn to ISIL.
She’s going to go out and get kebab because it’s all that’s open. Steven finds this amusing.
Next, the BFV are tossing the Iosava apartment, looking for clues. Esther Krug meets Hans Richter there. This is an important scene.
Esther says that Steven Frost desires to avoid a rendition but was just waiting for the right time. Richter corrects her: the Americans. She points out that Frost would have to okay a rendition ahead of time. Steven calls Richter just then and asks if they have any leads. Richter says not yet.
Esther shows Hans footage of the kidnapping; next to the truck was another vehicle registered to Zoltan Vasile, big guy in sex trafficking and the Romanian mob. Hans thinks the Romanians did it. Esther is smarter than he is.
Hans tells her he needs definitive proof, as he’s known Steven a long time. (Like he wouldn’t otherwise?)
Next, the impound yard. I include this cap in light of our discussion of hard to pronounce German words.
Claire left a message that everyone else has overlooked:
Daniel and Hector call from a waiting line at a roadblock, which the German police inexplicably let them through, but it’s not entirely clear why the scene is here anyway, except to indicate the Germans are looking for the kidnappers, too. I find the German police generally cooperative but they’re not marshmallows. Anyway, Hector wants access to “brown bear.” Valerie agrees. The men stop to get cigarettes and Daniel calls Steven to tell them they’re headed for Wedding. Not clear why Hector doesn’t notice / overhear this conversation. Steven wants them to come in for a debrief; Daniel says they don’t have time. Cut to Robert meeting with Golda (the Mossad agent). Golda gives Robert the pictures of the kidnapping, which she says she got from Hans Richter (and implies more). She asks for a file labeled “Antoinette.” They argue about the timing of the request.
Next scene is a woman entering a sex club. I did not realize this was Esther Krug until she starts speaking English with the Romanian sex worker whose time she buys.
The sex worker makes her as a cop and points out that she’s working legally (a topic I won’t get into here, but official sex work is legal in Germany. We ran into a Romanian prostitute a week ago — a lot of the sex workers in Berlin are Eastern Europeans but I would venture to say most of them are still trafficked.) Esther wants an introduction to Zoltan Vasile. Valerie visits Bora / “Swingset” in the hospital, asking him for clues as to where in Wedding Claire might be held (Bora is Turkish; a nationalist Turkish political group is said to “run” Wedding. I lived in Wedding for several months in 2007 and would definitely agree there are a lot of Turkish people living there. As well as a decent number of African Africans.)
Robert gives the kidnapping photos to Steven just in time for the next call with Ruth Iosava. Interesting camera work with perspective. Steven reminds me of Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo in this scene. Ruth decides to accept his excuses and let him speak to Claire.
Hector and Daniel are driving through Berlin and Hector is singing the words to The Mercy Seat.
Back at the sex club, the sex worker introduces Esther to Zoltan Vasile. Esther gets him on top of her, then holds a knife to his balls so he admits that he did the Iosava kidnapping.
Cut back to Claire in captivity. Ruth asks whether Claire is really a Muslim and Claire says she is, and they get into a discussion about Islam, the West, how Claire justifies what Ruth sees as her disobedience to Allah, the “drive through mentality of the West,” and so on. Richard Armitage tweeted that this is a serious challenge that we have to meet, and I’m willing to entertain that, but as in portrayals of Muslims in so much of Spooks, here it feels more like shorthand than anything else.
I agree, it would be a worth a conversation, but I’m not going to have it over Twitter with strangers with varying knowledge levels via a celebrity who himself never participates in the conversation. Anyway, Claire ventures her name as step towards changing things. Ruth is dismissive.
Esther arrests Vasile and calls Richter — it was “the Americans.” Richter says he wants to hear it personally.
At the station, Robert is fishing through the files, but we don’t see what he sees. Valerie gives the guys access to “brown bear,” which turns out to be a stash of weapons (she asks why Daniel is there). She tells them to get in touch with Metin in Glasgowerstr 97 — just off Schillerpark. I lived literally four blocks from this location in 2007 and I had no idea any of this stuff was going on. Like, maybe it’s a hotbed of radical activity under the surface, but I mostly experienced it as a sort of rundown and cheap area of town with a lot of Turkish markets and places to eat kebab and junk shops. I guess it’s changed … anyway, the guys pick up some guns and establish they are untraceable.
Back to Claire’s captivity. A guard wakes her up and she knocks him over, strangles him with her chains and escapes. Shit, Claire. I’m impressed. Ruth learns of Claire’s disappearance only minutes before her next scheduled contact with the CIA. She runs and runs — through a really interesting abandoned factory building, the sort of structure there are many of in Wedding — and gets all the way to a rooftop but she’s trapped and thus gets captured again.
At the station, “Clay” is talking to Steven, Valerie and Robert again. He tells them Iosava is in a camp on the Romanian / Hungarian border. They need a million dollars to do a live feed to talk to him. The US President needs to be involved in any exchange. The Romanians are having technical difficulties. This sounded to me like excuse after excuse. Immediate segue to the next call from Ruth Iosava. Steven insists on seeing Claire, who’s been apprehended in the meantime. Claire makes another reference to “wedding.” When Steven has to delay contact with Alexander Iosava, Ruth starts whaling away on Claire. They all watch and Valerie asks Steven to do something, revealing his real name and also that they’re not alone. Ruth gives them an hour or Claire will die.
Valerie calls Daniel and Hector to tell them time is of the essence. They conduct a home invasion in the Glasgowerstr. Hector catches Metin, the guy they want in flagrante, shoots him through the shoulder and tells Daniel to shoot his girlfriend if they have no results in three minutes.
Next, Hector’s in the bathroom, with a straight razor in his hand, pontificating about his training, and torturing people and how rough it is.
Hector’s talking about removing fingers and ears. Visual implication, although it’s not shown on screen — Hector slices the guy’s ear off with a straight razor.
Hector emerges from the room, makes a joke about getting the address, and they leave. On the stairs, Hector has an episode. Remind me again of why they let him work for the CIA in the first place? And why he seems to be the only person from the CIA who is actively doing anything on the ground in Berlin?
At the embassy, the live feed is ready, but Clay tells them for an exchange they are still waiting on the President. Ruth calls and shows them Claire. They they let Iosava talk with his wife, but oops:
Steven is flabbergasted.
The guys are running toward the building where Claire is being held.
Ruth is understandably confused by what her husband is telling her and says, essentially, it might be time for us to say Lebewohl — this is an extremely elevated way of saying goodbye that sometimes implies permanence. She thinks she’s been lied to. Steven keeps saying “no.” And it gets worse:
Ruth gets angry and decides to take it out on Claire.
At this point, I started to feel exploited as a viewer, because yeah, what we’re starting here is the classic “Perils of Pauline” plot line. Claire became my favorite character last week and they were counting on that because they wanted to manipulate me emotionally. Okay, whatever. Then Ruth apparently fires at the screen to put us all in the dark (equally manipulative — on a broadcast channel we’d have cut to commercial break).
The guys run toward the shots and we’re in a classic standoff.
Ruth has Claire by the throat and is aiming at her and the guys, advancing out of the darkness, are aiming at Ruth.
Claire elbows Ruth to break free and Ruth shoots her in the back, slightly below the heart. Daniel tackles Ruth and Claire dies in Hector’s lap. It’s very hard to avoid the conclusion that although he did not shoot her personally, Hector triggered all of this. He’s really the reason that Claire died. Of course, he’s going to blame it on someone else.
Hector threatens Ruth, and Daniel tries to talk him out of it. Hector then does some artsy weird acting stuff that no CIA guy would do, including playing with Ruth’s tears, then executes her by manually breaking her neck. The way this is executed makes me suspect that the script writers thought it was shocking and creative; I resented it as I knew he was going to kill her all along.
It’s almost like Daniel is Hector’s own personal Greek chorus.
Daniel calls into the office to get the bodies picked up. He tells Valerie Ruth got away as Hector stows the body. He then tells her that Claire is dead.
Valerie cries with her whole body. This is probably the most affecting moment of the episode.
Daniel goes to a kebab place.
Hans calls to tell Steven he knows that the Americans were behind the Iosava kidnapping. Steven is confused.
Daniel is still in the kebab place.
Actually, they’re trying to show that Steven and Daniel both get the same news from the television (although it’s not clear why the tv in a Turkish restaurant is on an English channel): the latest Shaw leak, which makes Steven the man responsible for the kidnapping and rendition of Iosava. Krischan Ganz (from last week, one of the Cologne BFV guys) announces that a warrant has been issued for Steven’s arrest.
Now Daniel has some obtrusive flashbacks — probably contagious after spending so much time with Hector.
Three more episodes of Hector. Blerg. Also, the plot — hmm. The Americans took Iosava, but it wasn’t Steven? (I would totally believe he would stage this for promotion, he’s such a careerist, except he appears way too incompetent.) And then this “Clay” guy at Langley stalls forever and allows this huge fuckup phone call? That kind of implies that “Clay” either wanted to mess Steven up or prevent Claire from being recovered (don’t ask me what the reason for that would have been) or manipulate the station into offing Ruth Iosava. Anyway, the Germans think it was the Americans and the Romanians think it is the Americans and the Americans are not the same as Steven Frost and what “Clay” allowed to happen is fishy. If the script is trying yet again to create sympathy for Steven … uch. Huge swathes of this show make me want to vomit myself, and our toilet only has one lever to flush with. A lot of this stuff makes up the reasons why I don’t watch much tv.
Well, the name suggests there are palm trees in La Palma. Maybe we’ll finally get some more “Panama.” Although the scenes from next week didn’t look that way.