Berlin Station 3.5, first impressions [spoilers!] #richardarmitage

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.

***

OK, now they are just playing with us. Also note that although he is the main character with the least screen time in the show, Ifans gets top billing.

If you were missing either BB Yates or Hector de Jean (who gets yet another name in this episode), you will be happy as they re-appeared. Other than that, well, this show just doesn’t have much plot or any sense of tempo. The total plot yield of an hour and a trip to Vienna is (a) there is an oligarch, whose name we learn, who’s holding an unspecified American hostage in St Petersburg. Since we knew all of that already with the exception of the name of the oligarch, this was not a very interesting episode in terms of plot revelations. It did gesture in the direction of Diver’s identity and the reappearance of Hector, but it also ignores a bunch of the small plotlines (Valerie’s college friend, Robert’s neighbor, the African scientist’s son). The only time we see Armitage in the whole show is when he’s mislabeled as Rhys Ifans in the opening title. I’m not sure what the title (“The Dream of the Four Policeman”) means — the “four policeman” were the US, UK, Russia, and China, who were supposed to hold a monopoly on big weapons.

[ETA: In retrospect it probably is significant that when Esther asks her operative to look for Daniel, she’s got a big file on him — the operative asks whether she has a mole in Berlin Station. Given that this was the plot machine for season 1, it’s a bit fatiguing to think we might be going back there.]

***

The show opens with BB eulogizing a high school classmate who’d gone on to a career in the services and died of an addiction, while standing at his graveside in Billings, Montana. I’m really not sure why this scene is in here or what it contributes. It is a pointed statement that the VA is not doing enough for veterans, though.

Maybe this was Ashley Judd’s contractually required opportunity to make political statements in the show for the season. Presumably, “Luke” is not Daniel.

Cut to Berlin, where April and Valerie are comparing notes on BB — who’s stayed in touch with April and has “seen something” in her. Valerie hopes BB will see the Estonian situation the way she does.

On what looks like the outskirts of Berlin, in a hotel, Sofia Vesik broadcasts a message back to her company in Tallinn via live feed — she’s being smeared, she didn’t betray them. Millions of people are watching.

She even appears on the side of a building, just like the Virgin Mary does from time to time.

Sofia takes the opportunity to talk to her buddy — who relays the information that the Estonian police have established that Paavo, who bit the dust in episode 1, was not suffocated by the fire suppression system, and also that the police are looking for “that guy” i.e., Daniel. She refuses to answer when asked what her next move is.

Cut to Vienna, where Torres is explaining a chain of inferences to Kirsch.

Torres thinks if James Birdman (a former UN weapons inspector gone wrong) didn’t sell the arms he saw, he’ll know who did, and whoever moved the weapons into Estonia is probably the person who has Daniel. Then he reminds us that the whole thing is a plot detour because they’re not interested in Birdman, but in Daniel. I found myself wondering why he was carrying around this conspicuously empty backpack, though.

Kirsch is oversensitive about Daniel being referred to as a mission and Torres asks him to shut up except when absolutely necessary, which would have been fine with me, too.

BB’s back to visit in her old office. I felt like in general her clothing choices were more role-appropriate in this episode than they were last season.

She and Valerie commiserate about the burdens of the job (and BB says “Heavy lies the crown,” which i thought was a Shakespeare misquote, but it turns out there are a bunch of songs with that title. Wow. Fandom is so educational.) Valerie reminds us all again of the geo-political situation in Estonia and the plot heretofore, with Robert and Torres in Vienna on the trail of the oligarch, just in case we’ve forgotten. It comes out that BB knows Torres (“Rafa!”) and expresses approval. Valerie asks if BB is there to help them make their case, or report on them to DC; BB concedes that it’s both. Valerie is worried that they’re starting all over again, trying to convince “Jason” in Langley. BB is non committal.

Back to Vienna.

This is Birdman, who for reasons unspecified seems to be located in a monastery. We hear the monks chanting in the background.

Kirsch and Torres walk into the monastery, where they hear Birdman screaming on the phone, making threats about what will happen if someone named Andrea has been harmed. He’s pretty clearly in some kind of drug-altered state; he does a line of cocaine while we’re watching (you can do that on cable tv, I guess). Birdman is paranoid and has handguns stashed all over the garden. Torres shows him the pictures of the arms from Turba, and Birdman admits they are his, but won’t tell them about the transaction until Andrea is safe. (Isn’t this like, an inversion of a constant trope of Grimm’s Fairytales? Bring me the _____ and you can have the princess?) Andrea is a part of his operation and has become a hostage in a fight with “Miro,” who is retaliating for being undersold in a deal with the Sinoloa cartel. Birdman volunteers without prompting the additional information that he will also tell them about the American being hidden at an undisclosed location. If I were using my normal cautiousness I would wonder why he’s volunteering this information so spontaneously. But it’s probably just a red herring that he’s telling Torres exactly what he wants to hear.

Next, Esther is looking at a picture that looks a lot like Paul Klee in a museum or gallery room (the implication is that they are in the Berggruen Museum) — then she goes up some stairs and meets Valerie, who tells her that Daniel is missing (although apparently not officially).

Esther (Mina Tander) seems genuinely upset and offers her own resources, which Valerie politely refuses.

And now for something completely different: a German who’s into horse breeding (his name in the credits is Abelard Holt, which is seriously OTT. Abelard??). And this scene really doesn’t make all that much sense to me.

Steven is trying to sell him information.

Steven had a deal with the London constabulary at some earlier point; they let him know when they arrested interesting people. The German immediately knows, for some reason, Steven is talking about George Sokolov. Steven says he can get George Sokolov to sell the German the mineral rights to his property. There’s some talk of “Ziman’s” adjoining property; Steven got his kid into the U of Chicago the previous year. So just when the German, who’s impressed by the name-throwing, wants to make a deal, Steven backs off — but then agrees to do it in return for access to a private jet. So– the point of this scene is that Steven needs a jet.

Returning to the Sofia plot line – she calls April to discuss her livestream, and it’s apparent that April knows where Sofia is and what she’s doing. So they’re good with each other. Sofia suggests they have dinner, and April suggests dinner at a restaurant near Hermannplatz (I had to put on the subtitles to understand what she said; now that’s poor pronunciation). Then a brief scene in a car wash, where Esther calls in a favor from a reluctant German operative to locate Daniel.

Next, we see the beginning of the rescue of Andrea. Kirsch takes a moment to remind us of the plot again, before getting schematics of the building they are about to invade — Mirro is probably holding Andrea in a vault. They’re going to go into Miro’s party, distract him and remove Andrea.

Back in Berlin, Esther is visiting Steven at that fancy place with the view of the Brandenburg Gate. (It turns out it’s a hotel with a minibar, not his apartment.) She raises the topic of the painting, which is Paul Klee’s Vollmond (1919), which she says she was fascinated by as a child and which has been sold by the Berggruen and will now languish in a box in St. Petersburg. (OK, never mind that it’s been owned by the Pinakotek der Moderne in Munich since 1991, and before that by Otto Stangl, a famous Munich postwar art collector — so maybe she saw it in a book or something during her GDR childhood.)

This is a really awkward dialogue — Steven says it’s hard to lose something you care about and Esther says Daniel’s missing. I mean — people don’t really talk this way.

It’s entirely unclear why Esther would even tell Steven that Daniel’s missing, so I suspect she’s better informed than she seems in this scene. (One of the writing problems in this show is that we never have any idea what Esther knows or what she might be thinking — not just in the sense that it creates the potential for implausible “deus ex machina” plot interventions, but that it means her motivation, whatever it might be, is never actually exploited in the script.) She’s very slightly taken aback that Steven already seems to know about Daniel. Steven reassures her that they’ll get Daniel back. She then recounts his last phone call to her from episode 3.2 — so she’s telling the main candidate for being Diver (imo) that Daniel thought Diver was real and killed his mother (this isn’t exactly what Daniel says in 3.2, but I’m not sure if it matters). She tells him about her encounter with Gilbert Dorn, and Steven says he will try to follow up with Dorn. He reassures her again that “we’re going to bring him home,” i.e., not in a body bag.

 

This playing with explosives was already not amusing in season 2.

The next part is technically well done — essentially the story editor has us moving back and forth between similar scenes in Vienna, at the party; in Berlin, at a party; and in Berlin, with Sofia and April, with visual and thematic cues. So in Vienna — it turns out the reason that Torres has been carrying the backpack is that it has plastic explosives in it. Yay. They’re going to create a distraction so Robert can retrieve Andrea. They enter the party, which looks a bit Berlin night-clubby debauched.

Cut to the Komische Oper in Berlin, where Kolya has thrown a party and invited (it turns out) Valerie, BB and (later) Steven. BB says she was the one who had him expelled from the US. The assembled company is waltzing (a bit incongruous, as I tend to think of Vienna as the place where one waltzes and Berlin as the place where one goes to a night club). Again, Valerie reminds us of the status of the plot (ambitious oligarch!) and (I’m cutting to the chase here) says they’d be willing to deal to get any hypothetical American in the hands of said oligarch out.

He’s such a gentleman, he even gives her his jacket.

Cut back to Vienna; while Robert is using the combination to get into the safe, Torres is flirting with Miro’s girlfriend. As Robert and Andrea are sneaking out, Miro notices Torres. Then he notices that the girlfriend is in bed with Torres.

Cut back to Berlin, where Steven is sucking down the caviar. BB comes up and points this out — in conversation it emerges that she now works for the NSC. She wonders why he hasn’t “found some new friends” and he says that her tendency to burn bridges means that she doesn’t have old friends. Yow.

In Vienna, it’s taking too long for Torres to leave the party, so Robert has to go back in. The reason it’s taking so long is that Miro and Torres are playing Russian roulette. (Seriously??) Just when things are about to take a bad turn, Robert distracts the whole party by waving the explosives around, and he gets Torres out. I honestly can’t figure out why this plot strand is even in here, unless it’s supposed to show us that Robert has more chutzpah than he realized (Torres will say this later in the episode). If I cared at all about Robert I might appreciate that. I just found myself wishing they’d have written scenes like this for Daniel.

obviously not Hermannplatz

In Berlin, April and Sofia are walking near Friedrichstraße (I thought they were going to Hermannplatz, but I can see the Melia hotel marquee pretty clearly) when they are sighted by Basarov (the sniper) and run into the underground. Cut to Robert, Torres and Andrea running away from the party venue in Vienna; they run past a movie theater and then down into the storm sewer. Cut back to the Friedrichstr. underground — Basarov beats up both women; Sofia escapes onto a subway car, and Basarov reaches through it and grabs her by the throat, but the train is already accelerating away from the stop and he has to let go. (I honestly would have said that was not possible with a modern German subway car; I thought there was a lockout that prevented them from traveling with an open door. Huh.) In Vienna, Miro and his goons have also descended into the sewer. When Miro draws his gun, Robert jumps on him and starts beating him up and then drowning him. There’s a lot of growling and grunting.

Cut from Miro’s drowned body on the sewer floor in Vienna to April, lying abandoned on the Friedrichstr subway platform. Cut from there to the opera party — BB assures Valerie that they have a strong case and Steven informs Valerie he knows about Daniel and he will help her however she can. She seems really taken aback by that. April calls Valerie, who’s annoyed that April let Sofia out of the hotel; April is supposed to get a team of people searching for Sofia. In Vienna, the trio get in a cab; in Berlin, April awaits BB in a bar for some career advice (which turns out to be “suck it up, buttercup”).

They’re reunited. A moment later he gives her something that looks specifically like a fix.

Birdman seems not high, now — he tells Torres and Kirsch that the person in question is a Russian warlord named Vasiliy Krik, who was active in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (does anyone remember that episode anymore?). He bit off a waiter’s finger at the Russian Tea Room in NYC and has weapons ready to move into Latvia and Slovakia (why Slovakia?). He also has a lieutenant named Roman Platov who’s murderous. Torres asks for confirmation that Krik has the American and Birdman seems quite sure, in an obnoxious kind of way, but doesn’t say straight out that Krik has Daniel. Andrea gives Robert his jacket back and Birdman gives an impromptu little speech about how he’s the way G-d made him.

Cut back to BB, who advocates for more active intervention in Estonia with “Jason Walsh” but gets nowhere. He says it’s not important enough in the grand scheme of things and she accuses him of sending her on the mission in order to make her look foolish. BB says she’ll remember this moment, in a threatening way. Then she tells Valerie that they need more proof. Valerie is annoyed. Her next step is to order a protesting Robert back to Berlin and Torres to St Petersburg. Torres advises Robert to tell someone about what happened; Robert is resistant; Torres says “you’re a much braver man than you ever knew.” Torres says Robert saved his life. I didn’t feel that Orser really displayed the necessary acting chops in this scene. It felt a bit like he really only has one mode, which is choleric. Melancholic or traumatized doesn’t really work for him.

Torres heads to the airfield and surprise, surprise, Steven is waiting with a small jet to take him to St Petersburg. So Valerie must have decided to trust him. But why did he know he’d need it? Steven states that he has a contact with access to Krik — and that they will get Daniel. (Dun-dun … if Steven is really Diver and Daniel saw him murder his mother.)

In the museum, the Klee picture is being packed. Then it’s being unpacked and delivered in St Petersburg. Someone — Rhys Ifans — comes out to look at it. Now his name is “Blake.” Someone speaks to him in Russian-accented German (was für ein Scheiß hast Du da?).

He says, cryptically, “if you’re going to take Vienna … take it.”

I don’t know why this painting is in here, except of course there was a reference in 3.3, I think, to art slaes being used as money laundering opportunities. If I believed they would ever get into the German past again, I’d point out that abstract / expressionist art is the kind of football (Jews owned it, Nazis stole it, it got smuggled all over the place and never returned) that would make a really useful plot device. But that’s also probably a red herring.

Sigh.

~ by Servetus on January 7, 2019.

35 Responses to “Berlin Station 3.5, first impressions [spoilers!] #richardarmitage”

  1. My brain is in overload trying to follow the plot lines here, it seems to be all over the place, so I’ll be giving this episode a miss too. The return of Hector and BB is an added incentive to forgo it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ive only watched series one, but they throw too much into each episode -it’s far too chaotic for my liking and sounds like they’ve not learned

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      • season 1 was particularly bad in that regard, I thought. At least season I can keep track of the pot strands they ignore each episode, in seasn 1 I was even forgetting some of that stuff.

        Like

    • The way the last third of the show is edited, it’s a bit confusing to describe chronologically — it’s essentially just that everyone goes out for a party wherever they are and most of them get beat up. Robert and Torres go to Miro’s party to rescue Andrea, get beat up, and Robert kills Miro. Valerie, BB and Steven go to Kolya’s party in order to make a deal or get info, they all leave frustrated. April and Sofia go out to dinner, get attacked, and Sofia escapes / disappears.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the run-through. You’re definitely taking one for the team – it doesn’t sound like an episode that I would’ve liked sitting through.

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  3. Thank you for your Detailed thoughts on each episode. I feel it should have been Valerie or Robert kidnapped and Daniel,Torres and April be the main plot heroes trying to track them down all the while looking for “Diver”. Esther is just a bump in the road for Daniel. There is no room for real love relationships when you are a true spy

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    • I feel like (a) Torres is superfluous to the plot in general. If you really want to make the point that Robert has to face his limitations and is shocked by his capacities, that all could have happened without Torres, and there’d be more time for adequate development of the theme. (That of course leaves out whether Orser really has the talents to do more than play a caricature.) This show has too many characters and the whole “who is Diver” thing more or less got sidelined here in favor of a lot of fist fights.

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      • I think Torres is to provide an intentional contrast with Robert’s “company man” persona (& Steven’s too perhaps coming up) as a former Navy Seal type of operative. Nobody else could have carried a body of Daniel’s size (except Daniel I guess lol).
        That opening scene with BB puzzled me too, I’m guessing we need to remember it for later. I was mildly insulted that BStation (or Epix? Don’t recall) posted it with #SaveDaniel? (Sad face) the other day. Tells me something I didn’t appreciate.

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      • Meant to add that at this point Sofia seems more superfluous to me, unless it’s made more clear that she’s actually Henrik’s heir apparent. The projection of her speech on the whole side of the building & all the throngs stopping to watch was maybe meant to do that, but all just a little too Hunger Games for me.

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  4. Thanks Servetus for your comprehensive review. For once, I’ve just watched BS immediately before, with the added anticipation that we might see Daniel at the end – no such luck. Orser is now seems to be filmed as though he is a substitute for Armitage – with the shower scene in a previous episode and the close-ups in this episode, e.g. Robert opening the safe mirroring Daniel picking locks – and he just isn’t ( although perhaps everyone in it is filmed in this way and I’m only noticing the substitute Daniel). I hope Torres gets to Daniel first, if you are right about Steven being Diver. When Esther visited Steven it reminded me of the scene in LA Confidential when Kevin Spacey’s character visits James Cromwell’s. Perhaps it is the writers’ intent for us to make this connection. I was half expecting Steven to ask Esther if she had told anyone else about Diver before pointing a gun at her ( or poisoning her whiskey).

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    • the deal with Kirsch this season seems to be “Robert discovers that even an ordinary man has extra-ordinary capacities,” and that’s fine, I guess, but it feels like a bit of a gap in the center of a show that is supposed to have some kind of guiding theme or “hero” or “anti-hero” or whatever. Kirsch doesn’t really substitute either for the missing Daniel or the (up to now) missing Hector.

      I haven’t seen LA Confidential since it came out. Should probaby revisit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was surprised by Robert’s shock and that he hadn’t killed before. Perhaps he has been an office man until then but then it seemed odd that Daniel had such a strong reaction to the death of Ganz in S2, as he definitely is an experienced man in the field. I suppose it shows they still feel, as BB said to April (or something like)

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s a good point and one I wondered about too — the contrast between Daniel and Robert (and, I suppose, Torres’) reactions to killing.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This one was hard to follow, but we found it really exciting at our house. What was interesting about Esther & the operative was her telling him then that Daniel was being held in St. Petersburg, while Torres & Kirsch are having to spin straw into gold to find that out. Either she did some fast research, wasn’t as shocked as she appeared with Valerie, or an editing mistake. I also think Esther telling Steven Daniel was missing was incidental (except perhaps that she will smart more over Steven not being surprised, since Val told her the bare minimum). I think her main purpose w/both Dorn & Frost was to see how they responded to the Diver info. Steven seemed more impassive & more guilty to me. I hope Esther’s confident her man will find Daniel before Steven. I think Rafa & Steven could have some interesting moments during this extraction process. If Steven tries to manhandle Daniel, Torres is well able to do something about that. I’ve overcome my initial skepticism to like this character now… but your point really hit home re: why couldn’t they write plots like this for Daniel. When/why did they decide he would be nothing more than “the hunky leading man”? Unfair & aggravating.

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    • Esther and the operative — I had missed that, but I was struggling to stay awake at that point. I felt betrayed at the end of episode 2 — the main other character I find interesting at this point is April, who doesn’t really seem to have any essential storyline — and given that I never believed Daniel was dead I lost the whole feeling of suspense that would have made me care that they are spending all this time finding him. (Plus I thought the “rescue Andrea and I’ll tell you what you want to know” subplot was stupid in the extreme.) I think at this point I’m ust radically disinvested in this show. It’s hard for me to look at anything in it and not feel jaded.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jürgen Tarrach is in it (as Abelard)? Cool 🙂
    This show employs every german actor who is available for five minutes lol

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    • Pretty much. I didn’t stay on top of the subsidies question, but maybe that’s why. Or because German actors work for so much less? Anyway, he certainly fully incorporates that role.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Both possible options I guess.
        He is great and he sure has international experience (he was in the first Bond movie Craig did).
        For me on one hand it’s great to spot these well known german faces but on the other hand it irritates the heck out of me if I know the face and can’t remember the name or why/where from I know it…
        And don’t talk about all the actors from ‘Lindenstraße’… 😉

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        • think of all those Munich — Berlin roundtrips they’re paying for 🙂 keeps Deutsche Bahn going as well

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think they film Lindenstrasse in Cologne but yes it’s great for DB too.
            And maybe the international cast will do guest gigs there next? Frosti goes German TV. He could marry Mutter Beimer 😂😂😂😂

            Like

  7. […] from here. These posts will contain spoilers. PLEASE do not read them if you are not watching concurrently […]

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  8. Serioulsy, I have no patience for this anymore. Thanks for taking one for the team, as someone put it above! I’m now only just skimming through, waiting for a Daniel reappearance.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Just wanted to thank you, servetus, for your witty and insightful recaps, which I’ve been following all along. I really appreciate your remarks on the Berlin sites and on German language and culture.

    For what it’s worth, I’m really enjoying season 3–it think it’s the best yet! I particularly like Forbes and Orser, so the extra focus on their characters is an added attraction for me. The plot holes don’t bother me and it doesn’t annoy me that I don’t always know what’s going on (which makes your recaps especially helpful). Hope you’ll be hanging on to the end of the season!

    Like

    • Thanks for following along this whole time! I can see how this would be a better series if you were more into other characters. I do like Valerie (although not Forbes, esp), but I feel like she isn’t being given a lot of depth here. (Unless, of course, her buddy from the beginning of the series is about to be kidnapped or something).

      I will try to do the last two episodes, but if there’s a season 4 I will probably not be on board.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  10. I thought it strange that no one in the subway tried to help April. She was attacked and knocked out on the platform, and all of Berlin just let her lie there?? And the attacker did not finish April off, after losing grip on Sofia through the moving train. Basically, the train pulled away, the attacker lost he grip, April remained knocked out on the platform, and there was NO ONE who got off the train or who got on the platform to wait for the next train??? huh.

    Like

    • That was not super realistic — also not at THAT subway stop. I’m sure it’s one of the top five most frequented in Berlin, as it’s right next to a major rail terminus.

      Like

  11. […] Berlin Station 3.5, first impressions [spoilers] #richardarmitage. Don’t know […]

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