Babylon Berlin Season 1 Episode 3 Recap
A complex web of plots and mysteries makes everyone in Babylon Berlin a “fool in the dark.”
We catch up with Kardakow’s no good, very bad day as he crawls naked from the sewers only to have his coat stolen and get himself cut for his troubles, leaping from police pursuit onto a passing coal barge.
Meanwhile, Sveta sneaks aboard the incoming train from Leningrad and finds a car full of gold bars bound for Trotsky in Istanbul. (The shot of her hot little hands pawing the caged gold was a nice touch.) She tries to reroute the train to Paris, but Kardakow’s associate gets suspicious and calls security, who amusingly refer to her as a “termagant” when she gets upset, at least in the English subtitles.
Rath seeks out one of the participants in his mysterious photograph, a woman named Mutti whose butcher/pimp is chopping up maggoty meat for dogs—note the lavish close-up, not the first time the show has emphasized the consumption of flesh in more senses than one. Rath pays the fee, and is confronted at the top of the stairs by a matronly type who shoos her husband and kids out of the kitchen and asks Rath to make a fist so she can show him her “specialty.” When it’s clear he has a somewhat less invasive agenda, she explains that she doesn’t know where the photo was taken because her face was covered on the way to the shoot, although she points out a picture of a horse on the wall in the photograph which she remembers.
At police headquarters, the chief of police emerges amid a very unnerving series of chanting and finger snapping, recalling the “automatic” nightclub dance of the previous episode. He announces a taskforce to put down upcoming May Day demonstrations, and puts Wolter in charge of one division.
Elsewhere, Lotte is struggling to continue the gruesome work of cataloguing crime scene photos and she manages to pawn the job off on a friend—after a quick rate negotiation, of course. Frau Ritter meets with a smoking lady doctor and finds out that she has syphilis, likely contracted from an affair she had twenty years before. Back at home, Lotte snaps and beats the shit out her terrible brother-in-law for his insinuations about how exactly she earns her money. Times are hard and tensions are high, and survival is on everyone’s minds. In this context, Lotte’s outburst feels like it’s been a long time coming.
Kardakow makes it back to his debris-strewn flat shoeless and limping, finding it empty, as if in the aftermath of a wild house party. The contrast between the luxurious building and the hollowed-out living space is an interesting one, another reminder that appearances are not to be trusted.
Junior policeman Jänicke observes Wolter’s meeting with a mustachioed official known as “the general,” reading their lips to glean information about a planned assassination. Later, we’ll see Jänicke narrating radio programs to his deaf father using sign language, a sweet, human moment in a show that so often dwells on the grim and bestial.
Wolter returns home to find his wife, Emmi, staring into space while the oven belches smoke from what was once a roast (more ruined meat—food for thought). Apparently it’s not the first time something like this has happened, and they share a tender moment as he comforts her. Later, Rath comes over for dinner and he and Emmi trade memories of Cologne. He and Wolter discuss the upcoming operation, which Wolter cheerfully characterizes as “pure harassment.” He presses Rath about his involvement in the larger scheme, saying he doesn’t want to be a “fool in the dark.”
Upon leaving, Rath visits the same bar where he previously cut footloose. A voiceover reads the innocuous letter he’s composed to his wife, at odds with the darkness that surrounds him—especially as he saws the top off a morphine vial and throws it back with beer at the neighborhood watering hole. Back home, he finds his landlady Frau Behnke tied up in a closet. She’s been attacked by Kardakow’s associate, whom Rath finds asleep in his bed (Rath is staying in Kardakow’s old room). The two have a scuffle, and the man jumps from the balcony, only to get picked up by a couple of goons who tell him Kardakow is dead. Under threat of having a car run over his hands (urgh), he reveals the source of the gold on the train: Sorokin.
Rath has a heart-to-heart with Frau Behnke over drinks and cigarettes and learns a bit more about her former tenant, who she thinks is on tour playing violin with an orchestra, though she confesses he used to talk politics and had a strange kind of magnetism. Talk turns to the war, as it often does, and a catalog of losses—he, a brother his mother loved more than him; she, a husband.
Moments of connection on Babylon Berlin are rare and fleeting, often overshadowed by the need to keep the wolf from the door. As the narrative strands begin to touch, so too will the characters have to form deeper bonds to pull themselves, and each other, out of the dark.