TV series review: Babylon Berlin – season 4 (Sky, 2022)
tl;dr: The season where EVERYTHING happens and it’s FABULOUS.
This review contains spoilers for Babylon Berlin season 3!
We open the fourth season on New Year’s Eve 1930. Aspiring homicide investigator Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries) buys a record, which also happens to be this season’s recurring song, and if you’re not humming Ein Tag wie Gold by the end of the first episode … well, I can’t help you. It’s an incredible earworm. At home, Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) is practicing his dance moves. He’s, uh, found some new friends, it soon turns out.
Gereon’s nephew Moritz (Ivo Pietzcker) is happy to spend more time with his uncle, especially in the company of their new friends. His mother Helga (Hannah Herzsprung) has married Alfred Nyssen (Lars Eidinger), the eccentric steel magnate who is now trying to build a rocket to go to the moon. Or blow up a neighbouring country. Either/or. The marriage hasn’t gone down well with the Nyssen matriarch (Marie-Anne Fliegel), and she really hits the roof when her decidedly common daughter-in-law wears a rare blue diamond to the party. The diamond was presumed lost or stolen, and now it’s on show in all the papers. Its rightful owner, Abe Gold (Mark Ivanir), hears about its sudden appearance from across the Atlantic. The blue diamond is one of this season’s major plot arcs, with loyal manservant Wegener (Holger Handtke) and Jewish jeweller Grün (Moisej Bazijan) caught in the middle.
Lotte’s sister Toni (Irene Böhm) has been living on the streets since we last saw her, robbing department stores with some other street kids. They’ve gained quite a reputation among the police, which sets up another of this season’s major plot arcs, because this time the robbery doesn’t go to plan in many ways.
Elisabeth Behnke (Fritzi Haberlandt) and pro bono solicitor Hans Litten (Trystan Pütter) conspire to keep journalist Samuel Katelbach (Karl Markovics) out of prison. Marie-Luise Seegers (Saskia Rosendahl) is casually hooking up with Colonel Wendt (Benno Fürmann) on the one hand while partaking in communist plots with Dr Völcker (Jördis Triebel) and a Russian spy (Lenn Kudrjawizki) on the other, while Wendt is trying to ensure the hotheaded Walter Stennes (Hanno Koffle) doesn’t use the Sturmabteilung (SA) to cause unwarranted (read: unsanctioned by the NSDAP leadership down in Munich) problems.
There is no one overarching plot this season, it’s more of a free-for-all, expanding the series to a true ensemble piece. It follows a whole number of them, as you can tell, and I haven’t even got to the last one (that I’m planning to mention) yet. This is where the Moka Efti crew comes in. With Edgar Kasabian (Mišel Matičević) surprisingly out of the picture, you’d expect his wife Esther (Meret Becker) and best friend/associate Walter Weintraub (Ronald Zehrfeld) to be together, considering they clearly had a thing for each other last season, but things seem awkward between them. Before the show gets to the point of explaining what happened to the Armenian, I was wondering if they simply weren’t going to bother explaining it, considering it took them about half the episodes before it’s addressed. Before then there’s absolutely nothing, which was confusing and disappointing.
Anyway, Esther is entertaining at nightclub Moka Efti where she wants to start a sort of talent show, while Weintraub seems to have taken over the Armenian’s gangster empire, and added a boxing ring to it. Boxing, and especially sports betting, is lucrative business. It’s not without its competition, naturally, and gangland Berlin is about to blow up, it’s just waiting for someone to throw the first punch …
And boy howdy are punches being thrown in this season. It starts early, in episode one there are a fair few already (some of which had me go “I’m sorry, what?!”), and it doesn’t really let up. Nazi in-fighting! Assassination plots! Secret societies! Corrupt judiciary! Cold-blooded murders! Prison breaks! Experimental drugs! Kidnappings! Dance marathons! In my veins a 100 000 volt!
Part way through the final episode, however, all the plot lines, both major and minor, seem to have been wrapped up fairly neatly, so I couldn’t help but wonder what else was left to fill out the rest of the remaining episode with. Not to worry, they of course have to set up a few things for season five, which I’m seriously looking forward to, despite being frustrated by the actual final scene.
The problem here is that I can’t go into details about what I thought was air-punching awesome, and some things I may or may not be salty about, because that would give away some major plot twists (oh yeah, there are a few of those, some more surprising than others). There are some exciting character developments going on, which is going to be interesting going forward. Suffice it to say there are many things that could be said about the fourth outing of Babylon Berlin, but “boring” definitely isn’t one of them. Okay, some plot lines are more fun or interesting than others, obviously, but you get that in any show.
The costuming and set design and attention to detail are still absolutely wonderful, and it doesn’t fail to transport you back to a time when people still used Zeppelins/airships for intercontinental flights. The acting is great, even amongst the youngest cast members. The Nazis are looming larger now, and the show’s creators have said they’ll finish it when Hitler comes into power, because they specifically wanted to highlight the years leading up to it, when Berlin was a kind of Babylon, and it now being 1931 in show means the clock is ticking.
For anyone keeping score, yes, Dr Schmidt (Jens Harzer) is still there, sadly, but if you lifted out any of the related scenes it wouldn’t really change anything about Gereon’s plot, unless I’m completely misremembering. They just seem oddly out of place, and even more distant from the rest of the plot – season three at least found some other ways to draw him into the plot that weren’t to do with weird medical experiments. Hopefully there’s some kind of future payoff, because at the moment he seems superfluous to the plot, like some kind of “oh yeah, him, I completely forgot. We should use him for … uh … something, I guess?”
Gereon and Lotte are still the main attraction, as it should be, and giving the other characters more space is good too. And the fourth season is tremendous. Plenty of hijinks. And that’s all I can really say without spoiling the plot twists.
5 out of 5 rope ladders.