Have current events got you down—and longing for some escapist entertainment? With many of us spending quite a bit of time indoors for the foreseeable future, now is the perfect time to dive headfirst into an immersive new show—and we can’t recommend Babylon Berlin highly enough. This historical mystery series is set in Berlin after World War I, during the Weimar Republic. The decadence of the Roaring Twenties combined with the tumult of a teetering democracy provides a rich historical backdrop to a compelling neo-noir mystery saga involving murder, corruption, and, of course, Nazis.
New to Babylon Berlin? Allow us to introduce you to this under-the-radar show, which is based on a series of novels by Volker Kutscher. The show premiered in 2017, and season three quietly dropped on Netflix in early 2020. Its success has been a slow burn among American viewers, perhaps because the show is in German. But don’t let that scare you away from watching. English subtitles are available, as well as a dubbed English version. Frankly, the all-German cast only adds to the atmospheric thrills and historical accuracy that distinguish the show. Convincingly set in the past and with no references to the modern era, this is the perfect escapist series that earns our binge-worthy stamp of approval.
A troubled police inspector and his propensity for sniffing out trouble are at the heart of the series. Volker Bruch plays Inspector Gereon Rath, a World War I veteran who struggles with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. He’s joined by Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a rebellious flapper who works as an archivist at the police station and has aspirations of becoming Berlin’s first female homicide detective. A frequenter of cabarets and a resident of the slums of Neukölln, Ritter has access to the thriving Berlin underworld and proves a sharp counterpoint to Rath’s by-the-book investigative strategy.
Together, they unravel conspiracies involving war secrets, Communists, a mysterious and incriminating film, government coups, and more. Intricate details about interwar German culture and politics add a fascinating immersive quality to the series; for example, in one episode we’re introduced to a secret gathering of people who circulate the “stab-in-the-back myth” that Germany did not lose World War I on the battlefield, but through the actions of unpatriotic civilians.
Of course, the rise of the Nazi party casts an ominous shadow across the series. In fact, Babylon Berlin season three sees the party transform from thuggish criminals to a real destabilizing presence in Berlin and beyond. As the Nazis’ grip on Germany tightens, characters that were once naive to their growing power are shocked to find that the Roaring Twenties aren’t all glitz and glamour. Danger lurks around every corner in this absorbing series.
Whether you’re a historical mystery fan or you’re looking to try something new, Babylon Berlin is the perfect escapist series for anyone who has some extra time on their hands this spring. All 28 episodes are available on Netflix, so you can start your next mystery binge right away. With a noirish ambience, compelling characters, and devious Nazi plots, you’ll be addicted before you know it. Check out the trailer below, then stream Babylon Berlin today.
Featured still from "Babylon Berlin" via Netflix