Babylon Berlin is now on its fourth season, and probably has one or two seasons left. Given the budget of the series and the time it takes to make, we probably won’t see another season until 2024 at the earliest. The plan is to end the series around the time of the Nazi seizure of power, just before the Reichstag fire in 1933—at least that’s what one of the writer-directors, Achim von Borries, has said. The book series by Gereon Rath is up eight books so far, and even goes into the 1936 Olympics, but the filmmakers are of not planning to follow along that far.
The third season capped off with the Great Depression in full force in Germany, which gives the Nazis a way in towards gaining the political power that Hitler craved. They are not in control quite yet, but the Nazi brownshirts are more visible and violent than they have been in previous seasons. Detective Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) is investigating the Nazis. He is in the ranks of the Sturmabteilung (SA), but they are unaware that he is an undercover agent. Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries) is risking her position within the Berlin police to help her sister who is living on the streets. Industrialist Alfred Nyssen (Lars Eidinger) has cosmic plans, and Germany is creeping closer and closer to the inevitable fascist takeover.
Over the space of the first three seasons, Babylon Berlin has been hands down the best television ever made, so it’s sad to say that the fourth season is mildly disappointing. The world-building, the intrigue, the twists and the production quality were all so high that cracks were clearly going to appear at some point. Saying all of that, a mildly disappointing season of Babylon Berlin is still better than 99% of anything on television. There are at least two subplots that you could easily excise from this season and not lose anything. The show, however, continues to avoid plunging fully into the abyss, instead showing all the what-ifs, wrong turns and missed opportunities that could have made a difference in Germany at the time, instead of falling for the biggest failure of humanity in living memory.
The Stennes Revolt is the main crux of this season. If you don’t know about this, it was a conflict between the SA and Adolf Hitler’s policies, and almost destroyed the Nazis from within. The leader of the SA, Walter Stennes, was expelled, and it’s widely believed that he was paid by the government of German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning to cause infighting within the Nazis. The show definitely suggests that there was some form of conspiracy involved, but you obviously have to watch the show to find out.
The production design continues to be some of the best you’ll ever see in the medium, although it’s a lot less flashier than previous seasons. There is less pulsating energy than before, but that’s due to where we are in Weimar Germany: the ’20s are over, after all. Visually, it is far less expressionistic than third series, which had a whole sub-plot about murder on a German expressionist film set, so that’s somewhat expected. Bruch’s Gereon has a consistently interesting character arc, although I think him becoming a Nazi instead of just being undercover would be quite interesting. Fries continues to absolutely shine in every scene, although her story is less interesting this time. It will fascinating to see if she can achieve any big crossover into film, because she has so much charisma and talent. The entire cast is great: Lars Eidinger, who is probably the most recognisable actor for non-German audiences, continues to be fantastic, although his bleached-blond hair is a bit silly in this season.
Babylon Berlin’s fourth season continues where it left off. It has some minor narrative issues, and hopefully in fifth season they will all mesh together more organically. It’s still one of the most enriching television experiences you can possibly have, and with all of the first four seasons now available, it’s a good time to continue where you left off, or finally dip your toes into a show that I’ve been raving about for a few years now. I do miss the way that the first seasons were six episodes each instead of the current 12-episode format, but given how many storylines are going on now, it would be difficult to condense it down to six. If you are in the US, the show is normally on Netflix. However, there is no release date in sight for the fourth season, so you may want to import the DVD set so you can see it as soon as possible. So far the show has only been released on DVD in the UK, which is a shame—and given that it’s so visually rich, a Blu-Ray release would be very welcome at some point. The extras, as with the third season, consist of only a photo gallery.