'Berlin' series review: High adrenaline rush, low narrative gains

When the series was first announced as a prequel tracing the life of Berlin before the events of Money Heist, it did sound like a fascinating idea.
A still from the film
A still from the film

“Where you see risk, I see adrenaline,” says Berlin, the most beloved and notorious jewel thief from Money Heist just before he embarks on a heist in his titular prequel series. But as much as the parent show made us love the character despite his hedonism and coldness, Berlin indulges itself in moments of adrenaline rushes that it forgets to delve into how Berlin aka Andrés de Fonollosa came to be.

Set against the picturesque canvas that Paris is amply blessed with, Berlin follows the trope of the jewel thief, who is once again planning a heist, this time sans his friend Professor, but with his fresh-faced recruits, including Cameron, Keila, Damian, Roi, and Bruce. As they plan to loot a bunch of jewels belonging to some of the powerful families across Europe, Berlin severely becomes underwhelming with its lackluster narrative and twisted but bland romance. Yes, one cannot forget romance in Paris, and Berlin inevitably gets bitten by the love bug in the due course of his heist plan. Multiple players get their fate determined by love. If there is a Camille, a forbidden fruit for Berlin, there is Berlin’s gang whose romances stand as an obstacle in their paths. But the series never uses them to its full potential.

When the series was first announced as a prequel tracing the life of Berlin before the events of Money Heist, it did sound like a fascinating idea. Knowing the mindset of a character who lacks empathy and is cutthroat, yet blankets unresolved finding for love, is an idea brimming with opportunities. But Berlin fails to use this to make a character study of who he is; instead, what we get is a diluted version of the mastermind who whips quick plans to save his troupe. If jewel heists are what pumps Berlin in his adventures, the failed romances fall flat.

There is an inevitable attraction between Berlin and Camille, and to an extent, it is this angle that provides fodder for the story. But somewhere in between, it foils the story and makes it crumble to nothingness. The same pattern follows for the rest of romance tracks as well. As for the easter eggs and callbacks, we have a mention of the Professor, with La Casa de Papel music along with the return of the sleuth women, Alicia and Racquel. But you don’t tend to herald these entries because they seem to be just set properties in Berlin. And the treatment is not restricted to only the women in uniforms. In the world of Berlin, the women are unidimensional and act as damsels in distress, almost pleading to be rescued. They are either mere pawns or love-lorn individuals awaiting to attract men.

It is not that the backstory of the terminally ill Berlin was not offered a glimpse in the Money Heist installments. We know how his multiple marriages did not work, and how his son chose to elope with his wife at the time. But as much as the parent show tried to offer details of Berlin with a tinge of mystery, the prequel series fails to unravel any of them. We never know why and how Berlin became what he is, or why his luck never circled romance as much as it did with jeweled possessions.

For a series that is nearly eight hours long and revolves around a beloved character from a series that broke international barriers, Berlin falls short of inquisitiveness and interest. Lethargic stretches, unresolved arcs, and unidimensional characterisations make Berlin a series that sums up to being nothing.

Series: Berlin
Creator: Esther Martínez Lobato, Alex Pina
Cast: Pedro Alonso, Michelle Jenner, Najwa Nimri , Itziar Ituno, Begoña Vargas, Julio Peña, and others
Streamer: Netflix
Rating : 2/5

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