Martin is in hospital in East Berlin for his mother’s kidney transplant, and he doesn’t want to go back to Bonn; he’s appalled by what he’s let himself become, and he wants to stay with Annett and be a father to their unborn child. But Schweppenstette – significantly, after being briefed by Annett – manages to persuade Martin to return to the West, on the basis that there’s a first strike coming and East Germany needs to know about it. And as the episode makes clear, yet again, this was a time of increasing geopolitical tension: as well as the deployment of Pershing II missiles, which to many in the East was the preface to the first strike they expected and feared, the temperature is turned up by the Soviet Union shooting down a Korean Air passenger jet.
Although this incident gives the episode its context, the main event of the week features Alex Edel. West German intelligence has started to work out that there’s something going on with young Herr Edel, and even his father finally works out that he’s not hiding in his room with a virus. (Although the AIDS hint dropped last week will be picked up in another storyline, and one which might yet lead back to Alex.) Having been cleverly wound up by Tischbier, over the last few episodes, to a pitch of revolutionary frenzy, Alex decides that direct action is appropriate. Last week, we saw him offering his services at the East German embassy, although in doing so – as Lenora and Schweppenstette immediately realise – he becomes useless as an asset, because the West knows who’s going in and out of that embassy.
Maybe Alex realises it too, because his next step is even more desperate: he storms into a high-class brothel and takes Major-General Jackson hostage at gunpoint. He then forces Jackson to read aloud a statement denouncing the West’s military ambitions, which Alex videotapes. This is a high-stakes moment for the show; Alex is kind of an idiot, and occasionally the plot stumbles towards farce. (Although I did like the sex worker wondering whether it was all just a role-play scenario.) But the writers get away with it, just about: the East is listening to the whole thing on a live feed, the West scrambles to deal with it, Martin turns up to get Alex out. And there are consequences, in particular the death of an established character; presumably, also, Alex and Martin will now have questions to answer. As far as Martin goes, in fact, I’m starting to wonder at point General Edel will notice that things have being going wrong ever since “Moritz Stamm” turned up.
But as Deutschland 83 goes on, it’s becoming clear that although Martin is the main character, Walter Schweppenstette’s at the centre of everything: his final act this week is to ensure that the briefing on the decoded NATO report is rewritten to maintain the position that NATO is planning a first strike, even though the information he has makes it clear that isn’t in contemplation. His reasons for doing so weren’t entirely clear to me, although it may be that he’s just another of the people, on both the left and the right, who have found that keeping people in a state of fear is profitable, whether personally or politically. Anyway, this is another excellent episode; as the end of the season approaches, Deutschland 83 is hitting top form.