Berlin Station has been officially cancelled by Epix after three seasons but, for the moment, in the UK, it lives on on More 4. Yes, a mere four months after we finished season one, season two appears on our screens tomorrow night (Thursday) at 10.05pm and I’m torn. I wanted to love season one, with its tremendous cast and its intriguing premise and its SPIES (I’m really into spies on tv) but, despite some great moments, the first season somehow ended up being slow, frustrating and significantly less than the sum of its parts. I want to love season two but, if it’s anything like season one, I don’t actually want to have to sit through it. The Richard Armitage, Michelle Forbes and Dr Dubenko triple whammy of performances is worth another shot at least, though, so I’ll review episode one and see where we go from there.
One of the principal flaws of both episode 9 and this first season of Berlin Station as a whole has been the writers’ unshakable conviction that the life, loves and regrets of one Hector DeJean are all utterly fascinating. If someone had disabused them of this notion early doors, the season might have been half as long and twice as interesting, and episode 9 itself wouldn’t have happened. Sadly, and turgidly, however it did: an hour or so wasted mostly on flashbacks lovingly but wholly unnecessarily illustrating the history of the DeJean/DeVos partnership, at a pace akin to that of a lot of UK living rooms at 9.30pm on Christmas Day. By which I mean SLOW and BORING.
Ep 9 isn’t a complete wash-out though. Michelle Forbes and Dr Dubenko start talking to each other (ok, it’s more like sniping, but still), Creepy Cheekbones takes the long way down and out of the series, and we find out who the real big bads are on all sides. Oh, and Frost is arrested, but it’s all good, since that just means everyone can work together in ep 10 – Daniel, Dr Dubenko, Michelle Forbes, Sandra, even Johnson finally gets stuff to do, bless him – to sort the whole sorry mess and expose Hans and Clay Williams for what they are. Bafflingly, while all this is going on, Hector is able to pose as a special envoy of the Director himself and spring Faisal from a Saudi jail, as opposed to being stopped as soon as he tried any of that and renditioned so hard his sunglasses break, but see above re: fascination, the writers’ etc. Anyway, ep 10 is pretty great nonetheless – properly exciting spycraft with high stakes and all the Richard Armitage super-spy stuff I tuned in for in the first place. The season overall has been glacially-paced and so obsessed with saying something profound that it didn’t really say or do anything at all, but the episodes which worked best were the ones like this, which focussed on action and thrills as opposed to flashbacks and fretting. Good episodes or dull ones, however, the cast have been uniformly fantastic, with Michelle Forbes, Leland Orser and Richard Jenkins in particular turning in stellar performances, and Richard Armitage a handsomely brooding presence at the centre of it. Would I watch a second season? If the Shaw stuff is over – which seems likely – I’d at least start it I think, but I’d have a hard time recommending it to anyone else unless it got significantly faster than this one. No official word yet as to if/when More 4 will be showing it though, so if this is where Berlin Station and I end up parting ways, das ist gut.