Author’s note: Two of the ten episodes were provided for review by Epix. The show returns on Sunday, December 2nd at 9pm ET.
There is an immediate notice of change in Berlin Station in the beginning of the third season. The Epix spy drama was bumpy in its first two years, its plotting a little murky and its focus a little sporadic. In these two episodes, however, the show finds its footing in equal parts under a new filmmaking style which lends a sense of urgency to its look and feel, and a renewed purpose through its once lacking characters.
Season three begins with the rumblings of invasion in the air, and Berlin Station is tasked with sussing out the threat and piecing together assassinations and Russian plants in Estonia. As was the case with the previous season, there is an air of the real world’s landscape in its political stage, of testing barriers in systematic invasion. Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage) is also seeking the truth of a defining moment in his life while on a mission in Estonia, while those back at Berlin Station try to put it all together. Valerie (Michelle Forbes) is now head of the station, with Robert (Leland Orser) and April (Keke Palmer) at her side. There’s a good dynamic with them now, their characters more at ease and established in their roles.
The visual style is more handheld and energetic this time, one extended sequence at the end of the first episode more tense than the show has done before.
The stakes these characters are playing with is more tactile and feels deeper. The powers standing against them are more vicious in terms of getting their way. It’s a more dangerous season, with a feeling of dread present in even some simpler scenes. The present day events lend themselves well to the season, hints of cyber warfare through fake news and commenting on sowing chaos through division.
The initial two episodes sidelines a lot of the other major players of the series, focusing in on Daniel, Robert, Valerie, and April. Ismael Cruz Córdova joins the cast as Rafael Torres, a capable but unorthodox agent who helps assist on the ground in Estonia. He is a slick presence on the show, Córdova pulling off the role with the right amount of flair and mysteriousness. Armitage is playing Daniel with more conviction this year, as well, selling the character more than previous seasons allowed.
Berlin Station had some stumbling in its initial two seasons, but in its opening hours under new showrunner Jason Horwitch, the show has hit its peak and is incredibly strong. It’s a bold start to the season, and one which took me by surprise. Taking on such a big story is paying off, and leading to some great television.