Berlin Station, episode 8, first impressions [spoilers]
[Episode 7 thoughts are here. Squirrel.0072, don’t read this.]
TL; DR summary — I’ve a bit lost interest in anything to do with Hector or Steven. However, there’s a nice intimate scene in this episode. One might conclude after watching it that they’ve just decided to let Richard Armitage emote in front of the camera rather than saying anything. This episode gave me a little bit more convincing information about why Armitage might have wanted the Hector role, but I can’t say I’m hugely disappointed that he didn’t get it. It’s very hard for me to imagine what would let me develop any sympathy for that character at all by the end of the series — because I am just not interested in his plotline. And, as I realized, I’m not that curious anymore about who Thomas Shaw could be, because I don’t as yet see any true moral conflict built up around the issue of whistleblowing. Nothing here about Iosava, nothing about Panama — this show has too many plotlines and there are only two hours of it left. I was never convinced that Hector acting alone was Thomas Shaw, so I feel like he needs an accomplice and I am wondering whether it is Steven, even though I can’t think of a motive.
Gosh, I love the titles on this show.
Episode opens with Hector taking a lie detector test at the hands of someone from the CIA, in a setting that looks like an abandoned GDR prison. I tweeted right away that I didn’t think the CIA would be interrogating someone in a setting like this. The interrogator is played by Anna Deveare Smith (from The West Wing).
We see a flashback of Hector dumping Ruth Iosava’s body into the Spree (this is sort of a Berlin tradition — assassinating people and dumping them in the river). Hector tells the official story (Claire was dead when he arrived at the factory in Wedding) as we see Daniel and Hector proceeding separately to a destination that Hector enters and Daniel observes.
Hector drinks some of Claire’s orange juice and falls asleep in her bed.
It’s “Clay.” Robert tells him that he doesn’t know where Steven is and that he’s very capable of running the station.
Next, we see Patricia coming up the escalator from the basement tracks in Berlin Hauptbahnhof (a really neat place architecturally — Steinhauer is boasting about all the Berlin location shots after the show and he’s a bit obnoxious personally but this is a beautiful place to shoot in) and Danny is greeting her.
Daniel kindly picks up her luggage and puts on his shoulder and then very ineptly tries to keep her away from Hector, but she’s not having it.
The interrogation story continues.
Hector cops to having PTSD and getting treatment which allowed him to “reevaluate himself.”
At the station, Robert reassures everyone that he has everything under control and consoles them about Claire. Back in his office, he pulls the “Antoinette” file out of his safe and glances at it — we see pictures of Valerie and her significant other and a date of 2009, before Valerie interrupts him. She’s going out to Claire’s apartment; Robert expresses concern; Valerie tells him she isn’t interested in changing the terms of their relationship just because he’s acting chief.
In the next scene we see, Hector is asleep in Claire’s bed as Valerie enters the apartment.
Valerie tells Hector that Claire loved him. Hector said he’d said the same to Claire but she hadn’t said it back. Valerie notes that Claire told her that she loved him. Hector notes that Claire wouldn’t like them talking about their feelings about her.
Back at interrogation, Hector denies being an alcoholic and the polygraph, which has been cooperating till now, flips out.
Kellie gets a visit from Hans Richter, armed with a bottle of rosé.
Hans tells her he’s sorry. Kellie accuses him of allowing the lifting of Steven’s diplomatic immunity. Hans says it wasn’t him. He says he needs to find Steven himself and when he does he’ll deliver him to the CIA. Hans wants Steven to call; Kellie says she doesn’t know where Steven is and asks Hans to leave.
Next, Daniel picks his way into Claire’s flat.
In the bottom of the breaker box, Daniel finds a hidden cache of USB drives.
and he opens the box
and puts one into his phone at random
And listens. To his own phone conversations. Someone heard the prelude to sex in Esther’s apartment. Lots of eyelash reaction.
He also hears his conversation with Steve and, finally, Hector testing the bug in the Berlin bar. He’s angry and he drowns the phone in a flower vase before leaving the apartment.
At the embassy, Daniel accosts Sandra to find out where Steven is. She says if anyone knows it’s Peter (who turns out to be the shoe repair guy / bugger — I’d forgotten his name) and asks Daniel not to betray the confidence. Daniel goes to the shoe repair shop and gets a message to arrive at a certain address in two hours.
Meanwhile, a clueless Robert is trying fruitlessly to call Steven.
Steven turns out to be hidden in an early-twentieth-century villa, a room behind a maze of secret doors. I’m skeptical about this. I totally believe that many houses like this had these features in the 1930s and 40s but my suspicion is that they would mostly have been renovated out in the 1950s. In any case, most people who own Berlin villas don’t have this sort of secret room, in case you were hoping to buy one. But whatever. Daniel points out it’s not the kind of house you expect a shoemaker to have, and Peter says, somewhat cryptically, “Everyone in Berlin was either on the right side or the wrong side of history.”
Steven, whiny as ever, is hidden in the house and asks Daniel why he’s there.
Daniel needs help from someone “who has nothing left to lose” and is not connected with the CIA. (This is kind of a strange line given what will happen later in the episode.)
Steven asks for a rationale — why would Hector leak secrets? Daniel says it’s because people spend time at a black site are changed by the experience. Steven asks if Hector has changed, and Daniel says “yeah.” Steven says, “There’s only thing left to do. Prove it. Any ideas about where to start?”
Daniel decides to start in a hotel room with Esther.
While she freshens up, he’s looking for information on her phone.
She’s going to be meeting Hans at 2 in the Märkische Allee (which is in Marzahn — the deep East part of the city. In any case in this episode it remains a red herring).
When she comes out, she expresses condolences over Steven. Daniel thanks her for her concern.
He denies knowing where Steven is. Dialogue becomes kind of James Bondish at this point (“It would have been a nice bonus but I already came once today”).
Esther wants to know why he’s sleeping with her. “Isn’t that obvious?” he says. She says there are plenty of women to sleep with.
She says he doesn’t know anything about her.
She says she’ll lower her mask when he lowers his.
Daniel then observes Hans Richter walking into the building next to the Karl-Marx-Buchhandlung (this was a famous bookstore — it’s also the site of the last scene of The Lives of Others, and if you know the film Goodbye, Lenin! it’s in there, too. The bookstore that used to be there has moved elsewhere, it was empty for about seven years, and recently it’s re-opened as an event space).
The architecture on this street (now the Karl-Marx-Allee, previously the Stalin-Allee, before that the Große Frankfurterstr.) is famous as well as an example of historic design. In any case, Hans isn’t worried about any of that and he walks into a building that turns out to be a Turkish bath. But sorry, because this place is notorious I thought, huh, no way there’s a Turkish bath there.
Hans meets Steven, who isn’t turning himself in — he offers to give the Germans Thomas Shaw in exchange for leaving Germany free and clear.
Return to the polygraph room. Hector is asked about North Africa. He says they wouldn’t be having this conversation if Claire were still alive. She asks him about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” i.e., did he learn to torture in North Africa. He objects that it’s classified. She says she’s “read into it.” He says she isn’t.
Cut to Hector in a bar, doing shots of Russian Standard. Shirley Pimple walks up to him, concerned. They fight about whether he should be. Hector storms out. At the latest now it must be obvious that these interrogation scenes are not happening in real time.
Next, Robert and Golda meet in a tea shop.
Golda clearly wants Robert to take Steven’s place and Robert clearly does not want to. Robert insists he does not know where Steven is and so does Golda. Robert lies to Golda about his access to the Antoinette file. He asks why it’s important and she says “find it and you will see for yourself.” He steals one of her cookies as he leaves. It looks chewy. Robert reiterates that he needs to find Steven. After he leaves, it turns out that the Israelis were eavesdropping on the conversation.
Next: Hector standing on a street in Charlottenburg, creating a traffic jam. Daniel greets him from across the street. They are both kidnapped by a black van.
And then we see Hector and Daniel brought into the interrogation location — so yeah. It wasn’t official CIA. And this episode isn’t happening in real time order, something that Olen Steinhauer patronizingly tells us in the episode post-mortem. Honestly, do they think we’re idiots?
But then Daniel is walked into another room where Steven is, i.e., this is all a ruse Steven has put together. The polygraph specialist is “a colleague, since retired.” They agree that they are both okay with what they are about to do. And now we get to watch the interrogation again from the beginning.
At the embassy, Sandra informs Valerie that she was “organizing the files” and the Antoinette file is missing.
At the interrogation, the polygraph expert tells Steven and Daniel “it’s not working.” She suggests they could use scopalamine. (The CIA says they don’t use it.) Steven points out it’s unsafe and unethical.
In Robert’s apartment, his son is angry that he can’t say when he’s coming home and abandons him at the Skype terminal.
Artistic scene of the polygraph expert injecting Hector with the drug. She asks for permission and he says, you’ll do it anyway (in slightly more colorful terms). Then we get the beginning of an artsy scene in which we see Hector under the influence of the drug, cut across with images of Claire’s death and Daniel watching him admit to various things.
Valerie walks into a bar and meets her significant other, Benjamin, so apparently it’s his bar. He orders her a mint vodka martini. They sit down and she tells him the night they met she was working a terror plot. This is possibly the most honest writing of the episode — as he asks her if she fell in love with him before or after she first said she had, and she can’t really answer. Then she says “this is really hard on me, too” and he isn’t having it. Then she says that she closed her report early, because she didn’t want to lie to him, but the guy she was investigating in his bar funded Charlie Hebdo. He’s still really angry — apparently more because she didn’t tell him the truth when he asked her directly in episode 2. He tells her not to come that night. She doesn’t drink the martini.
Cut to Sandra getting in her car and being interrupted by someone speaking German. Esther Krug wants to speak to her. Sandra says she has no idea where Steven is and that she has diplomatic status. Looked to me like Esther is somehow running her own game, separate from Hans.
Back to the interrogation. Hector admits that Claire was still alive when he arrived in Wedding, that he saw her die, that he saw Ruth Iosava there, that Ruth was murdered, that he killed Ruth and that he did so by breaking her neck — as Daniel and Steven watch.
At the embassy, Robert drops the Antoinette file on Valerie’s desk. He says it’s not a threat; she says it’s unethical and he wants to keep her in line. He insists he’s trying to protect her. He tells her he is doing what is in the interest of the office, the CIA, and her. She asks him if he’s done and then asks him to get the fuck out of her office.
In her bathroom, Patricia gets a text message informing her that she will be picked by a driver — she asks what kind of wine to bring. Outside her apartment — sending the messages — is Julian de Vos.
At the interrogation, Hector is now mostly overtaken by the drugs and seeing double. He spouts a bunch of stuff about identity and people having two sides.
Patricia gets in the car with Julian de Vos and lets herself be pleased by the fact that their destination is a secret.
At the interrogation, Hector describes his ironic descent into the darkness. Lots of talking around the fact that he interrogated Julian de Vos and Hector’s possible anger at the CIA or fear of it or feeling it should face consequences. Polygraph expert says Thomas Shaw knows what the agency has done. Question I didn’t understand: “Did Thomas Shaw know that colander was an agent?” Hector reveals that he knew Houjin Lin was in Berlin. Polygraph line remains even.
Polygraph expert asks if he is Thomas Shaw. Hector says, “No. Thomas Shaw is dead.”