Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pilot Review: Berlin Station

Berlin Station (Epix)
Premiered October 16 at 9pm

This series marks the first foray for relatively new network Epix into original programming, along with “Graves,” which I’ll review shortly. This is arguably the less buzzed-about series, mainly because star Richard Armitage, a Brit not so well-known in the United States, adorns the poster, and Nick Nolte has a far more recognizable face. Armitage, however unfamiliar to American audiences, is joined by an impressive cast of veterans who, individually, are all quite impressive. Michelle Forbes was terrific on “True Blood” and received an Emmy nomination for her role on “The Killing.” Leland Orser recently recurred on “Ray Donovan” and is letting his rage bubble over in this role. Rhys Ifans, well known for comedic turns in “The Replacements” and “Notting Hill,” played a shady government part in “Snowden” and now gets to tone it down to a far more relatable handler. And Oscar winner Richard Jenkins was a fantastic part of “Six Feet Under” and has delivered many solid performances since then. With so many great actors in the cast, this show should be great, but unfortunately it just doesn’t deliver. Its casual opening credits were the first indication, much lighter than expected, and while tis show wants to be a sleek spy drama, it just doesn’t contain stirring dialogue or the energy that it needs to in order to fit that bill. Shaw is this mysterious whistleblower wreaking havoc on foreign intelligence in Germany, but he’s not nearly as compelling a figure as he’s meant to be. The dramatic music finally kicks in when Armitage’s Daniel is tailing someone, but by that point, it’s far too late to salvage interest.

How will it work as a series? Ten episodes should be ample time to weave a narrative related to the pursuit of Shaw and mix in the various elements related to each of the handlers and agents that complicate their work. It could become intriguing as it goes on, but I don’t see much hope for this becoming must-see television.
How long will it last? As the first original show on its network, it’s impossible to know what standards Epix will hold it to in terms of ratings. The reviews have been pretty good, and at this juncture it’s just as likely that it will be back as that it won’t since it’s really anyone’s guess.

Pilot grade: C

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