The dirty, stylish Netflix original series Babylon Berlin captures the foment of interwar Berlin with an appealingly bleak romanticism. Every faction—from the Trotskyists to the city vice squad—seems imbued with terrible purpose; each individual seems driven by a second layer of motivation that only becomes apparent as the series unfolds.
After the first episode, a complicated flow chart quickly becomes necessary to track the relationships between the nihilistic Champagne-swilling genderbent club kids, the unscrupulous police, the secretive out-of-towners, the pornographers, the PTSD-wracked "tremblers," the revolutionary terrorists, and everyone in between. Babylon Berlin will have resonance for anyone who has felt that the political world is ending even as a new cultural world is on the verge of being born.
One note: American viewers should scrupulously avoid the badly dubbed version. The original German is quite good with the subtitles on.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Babylon Berlin".