Babylon Berlin Season 1 Episode 4 Recap
Violence comes for the innocent on a captivating Babylon Berlin
A gorgeous shot of the city opens Babylon Berlin’s fourth episode. It shows a body lying facedown in a canal as a mournful song about the highs and lows of life in Berlin rings out—sung by Svetlana, perhaps? (The show continues to make artful, pointed use of music—and was that Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry I spotted with a music selection credit? Yes!) Turns out the cadaver is Kardakow’s old associate who met with an untimely end after being questioned about the gold.
May Day demonstrations have erupted, and Rath finds himself on the front lines about to be beaten by police, only wriggling free at the last moment. The swinging of nightsticks seems choreographed, a touch uncanny, like the policemen snapping their fingers in the previous episode. Everything’s moving like clockwork, each person a cog in a machine that seems destined to lurch toward violence. Wolter drags Rath along on a search for illegal firearms that he conducts with his usual vim and vigor, but the only gun he finds is an eighteenth-century musket, which he puts to his temple in a darkly comic little sight gag.
In the street, shooting breaks out, with an armored car tearing down the road and gunning people down indiscriminately. Wolter and Rath find cover in a doorway and eventually clamor inside the building where two women on the balcony have been shot. Volker Bruch plays the moment when Rath’s hand starts to shake with brilliant subtlety, before the two of them race upstairs. There’s a lovely moment when he comforts a woman who is bleeding out on the floor. She calls him beautiful and notes, “you’re shaking,” saying, “I’m cold, too.” Wolter is surprisingly tender with her, telling her to hang on to see the springtime as Rath races to find the “doctor for the poor,” Dr. Völcker, who diagnosed Frau Ritter in the previous episode.
By the time she arrives, it’s too late, and the good doctor immediately rages against the police for killing innocent women and attempting to cover it up when Rath and Wolter protest that they had nothing to do with it. She insists on attending the autopsy, where the trio find the body from the canal—and Lotte, who has volunteered as a clerk due to a distinct lack of squeamishness.
The medical examiner notes that the dead man “looks Slavic” (I guess his doctorate is in phrenology), and Rath explains he’s a Russian with a penchant for jumping off balconies. Lotte notes that the injuries to his hands seem symmetrical, and gets herself kicked out for her trouble. The detective sergeant throws out the case over Rath’s protest that the man was clearly tortured, because, hey, who can keep track of all these crazy Russian factions? Out buying smokes, Rath and Lotte bond over what an asshole their boss is, unaware that Wolter is watching very intently from a nearby car (there’s a lot of that going around).
Elsewhere, Svetlana returns home after being released from train jail (?), only to find that Kardakow is 1) alive, and 2) less than pleased. He slaps her around and threatens to kill her for her betrayal until she swears she saw the gold herself and shows that she was arrested to throw him off, slapping him back for good measure. Always one step ahead, she’s switched the train car markers so the Soviet inspectors won’t find her stash. Honestly, The Legend of Trotsky’s Gold is starting to become my least favorite subplot, and I hope we either get more reasons to care about these characters or it wraps up before too long.
Lotte runs into her old friend Greta who is in Berlin looking for work and treats her to lunch. The camera lingers on Greta’s empty plate in another of many references to consumption, and Lotte takes advantage of being higher up in the food chain for once to spin tales about how she’s an “assistant investigator” on her way to becoming an inspector and invites her friend for a night on the town later. When Lotte inquires about making her fib about becoming a police inspector a reality, she’s told to apply for the female police—no women work in homicide.
Back at the club, Lotte dresses Greta in borrowed finery and plies her with champagne, before duty calls her down to the basement. She’s surprised to find Wolter, who shakes her down for her nighttime work and recruits her to spy on Rath in exchange for keeping it to himself. Up to this point, Wolter has been portrayed as a gruff but affable type with moments of gentleness, so seeing him casually coerce Lotte into sex is a genuinely shocking reminder that on Babylon Berlin, appearances are never to be trusted.
Lotte calls Rath then and there to arrange a meeting, and he asks her to look into Svetlana, who his fellow lodger has informed him is Kardakow’s lover. Greta, meanwhile, becomes overwhelmed alone in the club and leaves its artificial splendor to seek lodging for the night at a homeless shelter—a stark demonstration of the precarity these characters face.
We close with Svetlana, never one to waste any time when there’s a pot to be stirred, on the phone with the Soviet embassy. The screws are tightening, but it remains to be seen who’s holding the wrench.