Deutschland 83 s1 ep 3

Martin’s task for the week is to spy on a NATO meeting in Brussels, at which strategist Henrik Meyer is, once again, the voice of reason, calmly but persistently reminding all present that every single first-strike scenario leads to catastrophe; even a “successful” attack on the East might lead to nuclear fallout all over the West. SS-20s, SS-21s, détente: yes, this is how we spoke in the nuclear-war-haunted 80s, even those of us who weren’t military strategists.

For Martin, it means another taste of the pleasures that the West has to offer, none more exquisite than when he buys a hooky Walkman and hears Duran Duran for the first time. But his job is to get close to Meyer’s secretary Linda, with whom we saw him flirting at the end of last week’s episode, and thus to bug Meyer’s office. Linda turns out to be susceptible to Martin’s advances, and I found myself hoping that he doesn’t break her heart.

Martin is able to plant a listening device in her office when the two of them go shopping and she buys a semicircular rosewood Art Deco desk; knowing this, he’s able to break into the furniture shop and hide the device in the desk before it’s delivered. The desk itself, incidentally, might be one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen on a TV show, human females included.

While Martin is seducing Linda, mind you, an even more delicate seduction is taking place, as Alex Edel starts to fall under Professor Tobias Tischbier’s spell. It starts with Alex becoming frustrated with Tobias’s well-meaning group of student activists, and as someone who was a student in the 80s, I recognised much of it with a squirm of embarrassment: the hand-holding protests, the sanctimony. Edel Jr. points out, quite rightly, that that sort of nonsense isn’t going to make the slightest difference to NATO and that something more, uh, radical might be required if minds are going to be changed. Tobias doesn’t jump in immediately, but lets him start to come to his own conclusions, then gently suggests that if he really wants to make a difference he might want to consider dropping into the East German mission along the road. It’s masterful.

As well as the Walkman and the music, the period detail this week comes from the East German security forces, staring in bewilderment at the floppy disc Martin recovered last week, and wondering what the hell to do with it. It goes in a computer, they eventually decide, but not the primitive ones to which they have access. The best comedy of the episode comes from the taciturn Schweppenstette, having to swallow his pride and concede that an American computer might be needed to extract data from the floppy disc, while still stubbornly maintaining Communist standards under technological, cultural, and linguistic pressure from the West: “Cool.” “Don’t say cool.” “OK.” “Don’t say OK.”

And elsewhere in East Germany, something is starting to simmer in the house of Ingrid, Martin’s mother. Despite what Lenora is telling Martin, Ingrid doesn’t seem to be anywhere nearer to her kidney transplant. (And what, incidentally, was that blood sample all about?) Annett has moved in, though, and vomits within minutes of the start of the episode, so we know she’s pregnant, although her protestation that it’s definitely Martin’s might not stand up to a careful parsing of the timeline. The other potential candidate for paternity, Thomas, is still hanging around Ingrid’s house for what looks like no good reason, until Annett sees Thomas leaving the house with some boxes, then finds a secret basement room filled with what look like forbidden books. So is Ingrid involved as well; and, if so, did Lenora suspect something and install Annett to investigate?

‘Atlantic Lion’ might have been a little slighter than the first two episodes, but it was at least as enjoyable. Anyway, it’s more or less impossible not to love a show in which the lyrics to ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ are turned into a plot point, and I’m not about to try.

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