10 reasons to watch Babylon Berlin

By Caitlin Kelly

I may have raved previously about this series — the most expensive German TV production ever made (2016) — “with a budget of €40 million that increased to €55 million due to reshoots” says Wikipedia — but am now re-watching it for the fourth time, both savoring the smallest details I missed or misunderstood before and the comfort of favorite scenes and moments.

It’s a neo-noir detective series that starts in Berlin in 1929, during the Weimar Republic, a period of incredible tumult and change.

And Season Four starts next week in Germany — not sure when we’ll have it here.

The many characters are indelible, including:

Charlotte Ritter, young, broke, working her way into becoming the city’s first homicide detective but working at night as a prostitute because she’s supporting an older sister and her deadbeat husband and their two infants, a younger sister, a mother and grandfather — all sharing the same squalid flat.

Gereon Rath, a cop who comes to Berlin from Cologne, both innocent and hardened by his WWI PTSD. He’s a “trembler”, much mocked by a colleague for his ongoing post-war trauma.

Helga Rath, his sister-in-law, with whom he’s been having an affair for a decade, with his soldier brother MIA.

Detective Chief Inspector Bruno Walter, whose heart harbors both compassion and terrible, deadly ambition.

If you’ve never seen it (on Netflix), 10 reasons why it’s worth your time:

  1. To understand the many currents of Weimar Germany — intense nostalgia for The Fatherland, humiliated and broke after WWI, terrible poverty, unemployment, major new cultural changes like cinema and women joining the workforce.

2) To watch Gereon’s face as he takes his first airplane flight, moving from terror and disbelief to wonder. Magic!

3) To appreciate Charlotte’s blend of innocence and optimism in the face of relentless poverty and odds against her, and her toughness and determination.

4) To enjoy the long slow simmer of love between Gereon and Charlotte.

5) The music and sets and costumes! The soundtrack is also available — and it’s so good.

6) If you’ve never been to Berlin, to get to know it a bit through location shooting.

7) To feel as though you’re living their life with them, in all its complexity and fear and small joys — like a sunny afternoon swimming in a local lake (Berlin has more than 50! I spent an idyllic afternoon at Schlactensee.)

8) To travel to Berlin vicariously — without a mask or jet lag!

9) To keep unraveling so many layers of deceit and betrayal — and surprising loyalty and generosity.

10) For sheer pleasure!

And enjoy this terrific blog about the series — lots of inside intel!

6 thoughts on “10 reasons to watch Babylon Berlin

  1. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, At your suggestion I’ve started watching this and am completely absorbed in it. I started last night and watched 4 episodes in one evening, very unusual for me. The grim mood, the sense of foreboding, was so troubling to me at first that I almost didn’t keep watching. Of course that’s realistic and that scene-setting is the only way the story could be told. Not the story for a Hallmark Movie vibe (not that I watch those).

    1. So glad you tried it. I just love it….the characters are so compelling.

      And the latest weird German news – with a prince in a castle trying to overthrow the government — is one of BB’s plotlines!

  2. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, I just finished watching the third season of Babylon Berlin and I was just completely enraptured with it every evening. It’s breathtakingly well- done. I feel a little sad that I am done for now, until season 4 is released on Netflix. But possibly my mood might improve meanwhile as the subject matter is incredibly dark. I recently saw an article I think in the Washington Post on parallels between the US and Weimar Germany, specifically how democracy can erode when you get enough corrupt judges in place. I don’t think our country is in quite as much danger as it was before the election, but still the parallels were very troubling. BTW Do you know when season 4 will be released? My Google research said by the end of 2022 so I guess it’s delayed

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