Sunday 4 December 2016

East meets west in German spy drama

John Boland

Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30

Deutschland '83
Deutschland '83

Cold War thrillers are back in fashion, with Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies receiving a lot of praise, and RTÉ2 is doing its bit for the cause by screening the eight-part German-language series, Deutschland '83.

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This begins with US president Ronald Reagan making belligerent nuclear noises and the East Germans deciding they'd better do something about it.

And so they take fresh-faced young Communist soldier Martin (Jonas Nay) and give him a new identity as aide to a West German official, from whom he can surreptitiously glean secrets about US military plans and report back his findings to the Stasi, represented here by Martin's sinister aunt, who rants that "the West is going crazy" and Reagan "is a threat to mankind".

An older spy, masquerading as a university professor in Bonn, offers some handy espionage tips to the initially reluctant and lovelorn Martin, who's pining for his girlfriend back home. "No one pays attention to you," the professor assures him, adding derisively that "they call that freedom".

How it will all work out remains to be seen, but this week's first episode was strikingly filmed and persuasively performed and had enough tension to warrant viewer loyalty.

There's lot of tension, too, in The Bridge (BBC4), which has now developed a satisfying cast of intriguing characters who may or may not be linked to the gruesome murders being investigated by the sublimely emotionless Saga and her enigmatic Danish colleague.

Meanwhile, the tension has become almost unbearable in Fargo (Channel 4), with this week's episode featuring a pre-credits sequence of bloodbaths that had me gasping at its audacity and its brilliant editing. And a later showdown in a hotel room was just as startling in its speed and ferocity.

The human element, though, remains to the fore and you spend each week dreading what might befall the two main cops and the hapless couple whose cover-up of a road accident in the opening episode have made them targets.

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