Berlin Station, episode 9, first impressions [spoilers]

[Episode 8 thoughts are here. Squirrel.0072, don’t read this.]

General correction, because I’m going to bed: Apparently now you can visit the top of the Teufelsberg, if you go with a guide. Info here. Last I had heard this was not possible. Update courtesy of Guylty.

TL;DR summary — okay, we finally get the Thomas Shaw backstory. This would have been way more effective if we’d gotten it in pieces rather than in one clump in the penultimate episode of the season. (I had a lot of flashbacks in this episode, and this was a frequent complaint about the end of Spooks 9 — that we got all the explanatory backstory in one chunk in the penultimate episode.) Additionally, it explains Hector’s behavior but gave me no additional sympathy for him (also, I don’t find it plausible, frankly, that someone with such supposedly iron principles would pick the CIA as a career in the first place. It’s not like it’s a secret what the CIA does). If you are interested in the Hector / Julian backstory, you will love this episode; if not, you will be bored. Probably the most interesting piece of this episode is the way that both Valerie and Robert start to use the major dirt they have on each other. Lots of Jewish kitsch stereotyping is another turnoff in the episode. Very sophomoric dialogue writing in the end. Visually beautiful episode. There is no acting worth discussing going on here, as far as I can tell.

***

I LOVE these titles. New director: Joshua Marston, director and screenplay author of the excellent film, Maria, llena eras de gracia. I hope Armitage is getting professional connections out of working with all these different people. This really was a visually beautiful episode.

Looks like the luggage lockers at Bahnhof Zoo. Sigh.

Looks like the luggage lockers at Bahnhof Zoo. Sigh.

Episode opens with Hector looking out at the sea; then he’s using a jar of water to waterboard — Julian de Vos. Who Hector then backhands with a bucket. Cut to Hector, sleeping off the scopolamine at the interrogation table.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller wrestling with giving Hector to the Germans (to fulfill the deal Steven made).

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller wrestling with giving Hector to the Germans (to fulfill the deal Steven made).

Steven and Daniel are watching Hector. Daniel is worried about how the Germans will get past Hector’s diplomatic immunity. Steven tells Daniel not to worry about it; the “Thomas Shaw” identity won’t have immunity. Daniel’s also worried about how Hector passed the polygraph.

Daniel's thumb is worried about giving him to the Germans, but Steven points out they have no way to explain this interrogation if they don't do it.

Daniel’s thumb is worried about giving him to the Germans, but Steven points out they have no way to explain this interrogation if they don’t do it.

Hans calls Steven; he wants Shaw; Steven says they’ll hand him over but refuses to state the name over the phone. They arrange an exchange point (Gleisdreieck) and Daniel will deliver Hector and watch the interrogation. Steven tells Hans he needs to get back to Kellie (why would he admit this?) and congratulations Daniel and leaves.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller looking suspicious of what he's witnessed.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller looking suspicious of what he’s witnessed.

Meanwhile, it’s daytime, and Julia arrives at the Teufelsberg (where we saw Hector and Julia meeting in episode one) with Patricia. It’s clear this is a hostage situation now. Not clear how they get in as the former NSA listening station hasn’t been open to the public for quite some time now.

At the embassy, Robert walks into work and guess who’s there? “Clay” from Langley. Robert is hoping for help in lifting the arrest warrant on Steven; Clay wants to settle the mall shooting, find Claire Itani’s killer, and wrap up the Iosava case. Clay has discovered “Brown Bear” (the illegal weapons depot Hector and Daniel used with Valerie’s assistance) and sees that Valerie is connected to it; he wants Valerie back in Washington for questioning. Clay also questions where Robert got the photos of Iosava’s kidnapping and Robert asserts he got them from the German police. (Joke about paying too many parking tickets — do diplomats in Germany have to pay their parking tickets? I don’t think they do in the U.S.)

Hector is waking up as Daniel watches. He lists the things they have to talk about (Thomas Shaw, the murder of Claudia Gartner, Hector’s “perverse interest” in Daniel’s private life) and Hector wants a lawyer. Daniel now has Hector’s phone. He lists a few more things Hector has to be worried about; Hector says Daniel will need a lawyer, too.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller telling Hector he's a traitor.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller telling Hector he’s a traitor.

Daniel tells Hector he knows everything; Hector says, “no you don’t.” Daniel tells Hector he’s bringing him to the Germans. Hector says he doesn’t want to do that.

As they exit the interrogation room, they get shot at. It's not entirely clear who is shooting, but I assume it's someone who knows Shaw's identity and wants him (and others who know it) dead.

As they exit the interrogation room, they get shot at. It’s not entirely clear who is shooting, but I assume it’s someone who knows Shaw’s identity and wants him (and others who know it) dead.

Hector is shot:

Which gave me a flashback to this, except the wound is on the other side.

ep4_197

Which gave me a flashback to this, except the wound is on the other side.

As they are followed by an unidentified gunperson, Daniel tells Hector that Stasi buildings had tunnels under them — actually when I connect the words “Stasi” and “tunnel” I think of something else — but did I or did I not call that that building was a GDR creation?

On Valerie’s way to her office, Robert diverts her. He confronts her with “Brown Bear” and she refuses to answer. He says, “Please tell me you didn’t allow Hector to go rogue. The state he was in?” and thus articulates a question many of us have had for three weeks now. She wants Robert to have covered for her (he didn’t), he wanted to have been told about it (which she wouldn’t, after he pulled her file for “blackmail”). He tells her she’s been recalled and will leave tomorrow.

Esther and a henchman are stoodup at the Gleisdreieck parking lot. (Nice location.) Steven walks into the Romanian Embassy, which has a very nice blowup of a 1767 “Walachia Servia Bulgaria Romania” map on its wall. The woman he talks to (“Lana”) hears him say he’s not guilty of the rendition of Alexander Iosava, and that he’s done no matter what, but he wants to know what happened. She denies that Zoltan Vasile works for her, and that Romania kidnapped Iosava. She gives him a file with her information on Vasile. Hans calls Steven, tells him that Daniel and Hector did not show up, and that Clay Williams is in town. The arrest warrant stands. He exits the building.

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-10-15-01-pm

I didn’t have time to figure this out but that building does not look like the Romanian Embassy in Berlin, which is in the Dorotheenstr in Mitte, which doesn’t have these yards in front.

Outside its gates, Hans changes the SIM card in his phone (I assumed this had something to do with making sure he can’t be traced).

Meanwhile, Daniel and Hector are underneath Berlin.

Hector evades Daniel's question about who is shooting.

Hector evades Daniel’s question about who is shooting.

And I had a flashback to this -- Spooks 7.8.

And I had a flashback to thisSpooks 7.8.

(Jumping ahead: Hector and Daniel even exit the same way — via U-Bahn Senefelder Platz in this case.) Hector says Daniel can kill him now; then he says that “this” is about “you returning a true hero, unlike in Chechnya.” Daniel offers Hector sympathy (“I saw inside your mind, and what I witnessed, I wouldn’t wish on anyone”).

Flashback to the CIA blacksite in Morocco, 2009. Hector is twiddling his fingers, awaiting his next interrogation phase, while speaking to another interrogator who comes via Baghdad and isn’t sympathetic to Hector’s complaint that they are depriving the village of water while they hassle “a club kid from Brussels who doesn’t know the difference between al-Qaeda and fucking Alabama” (good line). Getting no sympathy from his fellow interrogators, Hector re-enters Julian de Vos’s little mud hut. Julian sits in the chair and puts on the towel without asking as Hector fills a container with water. Hector calls it creepy and breaks the vessel and leaves. Hector is also drinking. I found this part beautifully filmed but long-winded. Hector stands at the ocean again.

Back at the Teufelsberg, Julian asks Patricia (who admits that Daniel is her cousin) in a kind of catty way if she knows what Daniel does. He takes a picture of her to send to Hector. At the embassy, Valerie asks Johnson (the bugger) if it isn’t a bit strange that Robert got those pictures from the Berlin police. Steven appears at the security portal to the embassy and asks to see Clay, but not inside the station (this is because of its technically extra-territorial status, I assume — if he’s in the CIA station, he’d have to be extradited to be turned over to the Germans, and the CIA has washed their hands of him as Germany is a U.S. ally and they won’t risk an incident over refusing to hand Steven over). Clay refuses to tell him anything; Steven uses an obnoxious obscenity. Clay offers him five minutes to get away, as Robert exits the elevator. Steven urges Robert not to defend him or “you’ll be next,” but borrows Robert’s phone.

Steven then calls his wife and says, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” I had to laugh because this statement is commonly attributed to Martin Luther (he didn’t say it; according to Martin Schloemann, a Confessing Church pastor made the quote up in the 1940s). And several pages of my dissertation discuss the significance of this kind of “false” cultural memory. Anyway, here it has nothing to do with Luther or the philosopher who wrote about it in the 1980s — it’s some kind of code.

Robert and Steven say a tasteful goodbye. Robert gets farklemt.

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-10-46-33-pm

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller trying to get a cell signal from underneath Berlin.

Hector’s phone gets the picture of Patricia that Julian sent. He tells Daniel Julian has taken “shit into his own hands.”

Daniel points out that it’s ironic for two enemies of the CIA to be holding someone at Teufelsberg. Patricia asks for backstory, and so, we’re back in Morocco.

Hector lets Julian out into the sun. He gives Julian a cigarette. Julian offers to confess to whatever Hector asks him to say as long as Hector stays in charge of him. Hector points out that Julian doesn’t know the correct vocabulary to confessing to being al-Qaeda vs. Hezbollah. Julian goes back inside and Hector looks contemplatively at a truck.

Back in Berlin, Daniel is dabbing at Hector’s wound and somehow has tape and bandaging. I had another flashback. Hector apologizes to Daniel for “this part” (Patricia, presumably). Daniel asks if there wasn’t a better way to make up for his black site activities than creating Thomas Shaw.

We flashback to Morocco, where Hector and the Baghdad interrogator “discover” that Julian has escaped. Hector volunteers to “take the coast” in the search; when he arrives at the harbor, we learn that Julian is in the back of his truck. He lets Julian out, gives him a chunk of money, and tells him to go to southern Spain. Julian wants him to go along and Hector says, “I belong in the ninth circle of hell,” and tells Julian his name.

How

How “Thomas Shaw” got his name.

Next:

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller fumbling as he hot-wires a car. I thought that modern steering wheel locks prevented this from working these days.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller’s hand, fumbling as he hot-wires a car. I thought that modern steering wheel locks prevented this from working these days. Or maybe this car is old enough that it still works.

Next: Robert meets Golda in what we find out a bit later is an Israeli safehouse. He tells her that Clay Williams is there and points out that with Steven gone and Valerie about to be gone, Clay is the only obstacle to his promotion to Chief. Golda says this is a change of heart. He tells her “the station needs me now, it’s a mess.” (Not really credible.) He points out that this what she wanted: “I thought you would greet my first visit to a safe house with a glass of Manischevitz.” (Not funny.) She tells him she’s glad he’s there.

He doesn't look so happy.

He doesn’t look so happy.

Valerie has tailed him there and sees Golda leaving.

Daniel and Hector are now in a stolen car, proceeding toward the Teufelsberg.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller, driving the car.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller, driving the car.

Hector asks Daniel how he deals with being complicit in what the CIA does. Daniel points out that if you pay U.S. taxes,  you’re complicit, he works for an imperfect institution. Lots of macho posturing. Hector says “headquarters should have let me go when they had the chance.”

Flashback AGAIN. As we learn shortly, they are in the South of France where Hector is supposed to be having a “home leave” but is actually just taking vacation and playing solitaire on his phone.

He's approached by funky flashback Robert, from Berlin.

He’s approached by funky flashback Robert, from Berlin. …

And by funky flashback Valerie as well!

And by funky flashback Valerie as well! Her French sounds better than her German.

At this point, anyway, Valerie and Robert seem to be friendly. They make Hector an offer he can’t refuse, to come to Berlin (“we were impressed by your field work in Chechnya”). Valerie raises the topic of “redactions in your file after Chechnya.” Hector refuses to talk. Valerie tells him “you still very much have a home in the agency.” He points out that it’s dirty. She suggests that he’s responsible for cleaning it up then.

Cut to funky flashback Robert II.

Cut to funky flashback Robert II.

Hector asks Robert if all they wanted from him was to bug Angela Merkel’s phone. Hector wants to recruit Faisal (remember him from episodes 1-2?), who is in contact with Saudis who are sympathetic to terrorism. Robert is reading an article about the Morocco black site in the Berliner Zeitung — by: surprise! Ingrid Hollander. Robert’s thoughtless comment gives Hector a PTSD moment. That night, Hector is chatting up Faisal in a Berlin bar (Faisal is not that thrilled by American democracy) and guess who comes up to them? Shirley Pimple, whom Hector recognizes a moment later as Julian. Shirley gives Hector her address.

At Shirley / Julian’s, Julian reveals that he has been gender-queer since he was a boy. Hector apologizes for not having apologized. Julian seems to have forgiven him: “it wasn’t you, Hector, it was the system you worked for” and affirms that there is a difference between Hector and the CIA. Hector says he’s been thinking of ways to change the system or “at least hold up a mirror to its fucking face.” Hector notes he would need a new identity.

Hector and Daniel are still in the car.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller still in the car.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller still in the car.

Next, at Berlin Hauptbahnhof:

This did not make a ton of sense to me. I agree that if I were going to leave Berlin clandestinely, I’d probably try to do it by train, given the EU states border situation (or maybe a bus), but Kellie has to know she’s being tailed, and even if she isn’t, Berlin Hauptbahnhof has to be one of the most heavily surveilled places in the BRD. Of course the police would be looking for them there. I would get on a series of regional trains, I think. To me this (like Steven’s earlier statement to Hans) said, “I want to be apprehended.” Anyway, Steven gives Kellie an envelope to give to Sandra.

Robert comes back to his apartment and discovers Valerie is inside it, drinking a glass of his wine. She confronts him with his meeting with Golda at the Mossad safe house. Jewish chicken soup joke (not funny). He tells he isn’t working for Mossad, Mossad is working for him. She doesn’t believe him and leaves.

We see Steven entering and looking around a small German jail / holding cell.

There are certain inevitabilities to graffiti everywhere, I suppose. Daniel and Hector start climbing up to the top of the installation.

There are certain inevitabilities to graffiti everywhere, I suppose. Daniel and Hector start climbing up to the top of the installation.

Patricia has apparently now heard Julian’s backstory; he’s sitting down and Patricia accuses Hector of using Julian: “All for you, Hector, all for you.” Julian tells Hector he knows it’s over; Hector says, “for me, not for you”; Julian says, “does Hans know it’s over?”

Beautiful shot of Daniela and Patricia reacting to the interjection of Hans Richter's name.

Beautiful shot of Daniela and Patricia reacting to the interjection of Hans Richter’s name.

While Patricia and Daniel are arguing about whether she should go to the car, and Hector urges her to comply, Julian goes to the verge of the installation and stands where some bars have been removed. (This is one of many reasons they don’t let you just go to the Teufelsberg anymore, I have to point out. I bet threatening to commit suicide gets you excluded from the tour, though.) Julian references the conversation he had with Hector many episodes ago about more fear of falling or jumping. “What’s the difference when there’s nothing left anyway?” Julian asks. This is potentially the most bathetic scriptwriting I have heard in many a moon.

Julian lets himself fall to his death. Patricia runs downstairs. Hector crumples.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller saying, incredulously,

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller saying, incredulously, “Hans Richter?” Hector says, “he got to me before you did.”

Flashback — Esther is on a park bench, observing Julian doing a dead data drop. (No explanation of how she knew.) She comes back to pick it up (and I think Julian is watching behind that newspaper). (I didn’t understand who was zooming who here.) In any case, Flashback Hector walks into his apartment to see Hans Richter and Esther Krug seated there. They know he’s “Thomas Shaw.” They demand his cooperation –with them personally– in return for them not exposing him to the Americans. They want him only to leak matters that relate to Berlin Station. Hector says he won’t, but they point out that Julian would suffer badly in prison. Their motivation? “We hate American impunity as much as Shaw does.”

It looks for a moment like Hector wants to jump, too, but Daniel encourages him not to by quoting John 8:32 to him. He tells him to live with the mess he’s made and to run. Hector tells him somewhat cryptically that he should look at the picture on his desk. And that Daniel will need to run, too. Daniel goes down to find Patricia at Julian’s body’s side. She asks where Hector is.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller looking off into the distance and not answering.

Beautiful shot of Daniel Miller looking off into the distance and not answering.

~ by Servetus on December 12, 2016.

16 Responses to “Berlin Station, episode 9, first impressions [spoilers]”

  1. Considering the high praise we heard for how great the writers were supposed to be, I find the writing rather disappointing, and this episode particularly. As you write, all this background would have been better served over the course of the series and not pressed into one episode. It might actually have been interesting that way. But I guess they tried to remain secretive and mysterious as long as possible.

    And why on earth would Frost try to leave Berlin in such a stupid way? Of course his wife would be watched and he’d be caught.

    I also found Patricia’s behaviour very strange, at least if she actually is a civilian who didn’t have a clue what Daniel and Hector were involved in. I doubt a regular woman who’s just been kidnapped would behave the way she does.

    By the way, I think the dead data drop had Esther behind the newspaper watching Claudia, the woman who used to transport Shaw’s messages to the journalist.

  2. I had the same flashback to the Spooks episode with Connie, Ros and Lucas in the London Underground tunnels. I only watched this twice, but I think that it was Esther behind the newspaper in the park and Claudia who retrieved the thumb drive from under the bench. Agree – no explanation as to how the Germans figured out Thomas Shaw before Daniel, or maybe at the same time, but Daniel was stuck in Panama for a while. Makes no difference – unless they tell us. I was thinking after comments on my page, if a non-Jew were making the comments Robert were making, someone would claim they were antisemitic stereotyping ( even though Golda’s chicken soup was supposed to be good). I didn’t see the scene where your first screenshot came in ( the lockers) – I assume in the very beginning. I wonder whether that was the tall guy who was after Hector and Daniel? Confused.
    Another thing I realized from watching this series, something I can’t blame on anyone involved: I don’t really like it when costars are taller than Richard Armitage.

    • The first shot is from the titles, it’s a random person putting some luggage in the lockers at Bahnhof Zoo (this was kind of a standard thing that you did if you visited Berlin before the main station (Hauptbahnhof, where Steven gets arrested) opened in 2006. Zoo was the main station in West Berlin, it was notorious and in some ways offered a microcosm of things that West Berlin was known for). Amusingly, there’s also a shot in the title sequence of someone ticketing a parked car.

      re: non-Jews making those comments — absolutely agree. I don’t usually use Twitter to contact people directly but I’ve been considering a carefully worded tweet to Steinhauer and Winters since last night along thelines of “Jewish viewers don’t think weak jokes from 1950 are funny, why do you?” I’ll get over it eventually.

  3. […] Kirsh’s  Jewishness in dialogue – almost to the point of offensiveness. Here and Here, as usual, the comments tell the story. There’s some dialogue in an early episode when Hector […]

  4. […] 9 thoughts are here. Squirrel.0072, don’t read […]

  5. do you guys know where I can find the map shown in the Romanian Embassy?

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