Season 3 picks up at the end of Season 2, which was released in most places with Season 1, so most people will have watched them back-to-back (review here). It begins in the autumn of 1929 when there was a massive stock market crash in Germany, which was also when the National Socialist German Workers’ Party more commonly known as the Nazis began to gain power. In the previous seasons they were very much in the background of Germany, and specifically Berlin, popping up only in a few moments. One of the few criticisms of the previous two seasons has been about just that—they had been gaining prominence since the early 20s. Interestingly, up to that point the show focused on the various Communist groups, who were equally power-hungry. In this series you really see that clash between these warring factions come to a head.
This season is wrapped around a mystery about the murder of a young actress named Betty Winter, a big star in German expressionist film who dies in a fairly shocking way on-set. Inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) and Charlotte Ritter (Liv-Lisa Fries) are investigating the murder, and it goes deep into who’s behind it. There’s a sub-plot about Ritter’s challenges as a junior detective in a misogynistic police bureau. The Nazis are infiltrating the police force as well.
The rise of the Nazis causes any idea of democracy to fall apart very quickly, crime is even more rampant than before, silent films are on their last legs and talkies are about to come in. The plot becomes more labyrinthian as the series continues, and this season even has some slasher/horror elements, which is a nice change.
Welcome to Berlin in 1930.
Both Bruch and Fries are great, and I’m sure they will both end up doing lots of work outside of Germany when the series finishes. The show is one of the most expensive European TV series ever made, so it looks like a movie in terms of quality. Of course, one of the directors is Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run and Cloud Atlas), which is one of the reasons why a lot of film people have been watching. It has great twists and turns, and they have really been able to replicate an era that the director himself says he was not taught much about at school. It’s hands down the most impressive show on TV, with an amazing opening credits sequence, great acting, great stories and fantastic cinematography. I can’t wait for what will come with the next season.
On the Series 3 DVD there is just a photo gallery. The previous Season 1/2 set has a making-of feature, so I would recommend buying the set with all three seasons as it’s not that much more and also includes that—especially if you are new to the show.