It’s finally happening. Americans at large are starting to realize that not all good television and cinema has to be in the English language. In this peculiar moment of our history, critics and audience members are finally starting to give notice to ”Babylon Berlin.”
The show is a proper mystery noir in all the right ways. “Babylon Berlin” centers on the gruff, witty Gereon Rath (Volker Brunch, “Jerks”), a male detective who tries to navigate the gritty world of Berlin during the Weimar Era. With his accomplice, Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries, “Prélude”), the two fight to bring the city’s most insidious murderers to justice. Their misadventures often put them in the crossfire between the Underworld and the Communists, and directly in the path of Nazis, who are trying to bring down the democratic government.
Season three mainly focuses on the death of Betty Winter Natalia Mateo, a talented actress murdered on an expensive set by a man described by the press as “Das Phantom.” Gereon and Charlotte desperately try to fight the Nazis within the ranks of the police department itself, some of whom are responsible for the sinister murder at the shocking conclusion of season two. As Gereon tries to bring all murders to justice, his love life continuously falls apart, and his sanity slips away. Much like Gereon’s internal mood, the city itself is leaning closer and closer to complete insanity: All these plot threads come to fruition in an explosive season finale, culminating in the stock market crash of 1929.
One of the greatest aspects of the show is the world itself. The world of “Babylon Berlin” is exceptional in embodying the plethora of contradictions of Weimar Berlin. We see the opulence of the rich combined with the misery of the poor, Nazi boy scouts and genderqueer clubs, vast improvements in technology coupled with blatant racism and sexism. Season three richly expands the multiplicitous world of Berlin beyond the confines of seasons one and two. Characters who served minor roles in previous seasons are finally given the depth and time they deserve. The show masterfully balances these new wild contradictions. In one moment, we empathize with a gay character struggling to navigate a hostile world. In the next moment, we see young, disenfranchised boys get enthralled by the community that Nazism provides.
In all, the creators show that this time period is not dissimilar to our own. With the rise of radicalism and authoritarianism in the west, “Babylon Berlin” is a refreshingly relevant historical retelling. Since we know what will happen to Germany in the near future of the show, it’s a not-so-subtle warning that modern society is on the same path to make the same mistakes. The rampant rise of radicalism as a solution to the chaos of modern democracy is a consistent motif in this world. “Good police officers don’t take sides,” Gereon tells his nemesis in the final moments of the season. Season three of “Babylon Berlin” is the most explosive season to date. Not only is it absolutely thrilling, but the world of “Babylon Berlin” itself stands as a dire warning about society, for Germany and the United States.