In the grand tradition of spin-offs that should have never seen the light of day, Netflix’s Berlin, a prequel to the acclaimed Money Heist, arrived on the platform on Friday evening. Attempting to delve into the glory years of the enigmatic Berlin, played with a certain level of finesse by Pedro Alonso, the 10-episode series is as illogical as the plot itself, and a haphazard concoction of recycled elements, endorsing problematic themes without any hint of self-awareness. Also read: December web series to check out
The plot: a masterclass in coincidence
Set in the pre-Money Heist era, Berlin decides it’s time to showcase his brilliance by stealing €44 million worth of jewels from a Parisian bank vault. What could go wrong? Well, apparently, not much in the world of Berlin. The plot unfolds with the precision of a drunkard stumbling through a field of banana peels, relying heavily on good luck rather than any semblance of a well-thought-out plan.
In a stunning display of originality, the series shamelessly borrows characters and roles from its parent show, as if hoping we wouldn’t notice. Apart from Berlin, the group consists of a contemplative yet restrained genius, who serves as the intellectual force (embodied by Tristán Ulloa in the role of Damián, an older, bespectacled counterpart to Álvaro Morte‘s El Profesor), a charismatic but simpler-minded individual (Joel Sánchez as Bruce, a less nuanced version of Jaime Lorente’s Denver), and an adventure seeker haunted by a previous relationship (Begoña Vargas, seemingly destined for disappointment as her character, Camerón, closely mirrors Úrsula Corberó’s Tokyo).
The parallels in the show are openly acknowledged, and the characters are not all unoriginal; an example is Keila (played by Michelle Jenner), a new and distinctive addition as a timid hacker. However, it comes across as an inside joke that one character, Roi (portrayed by Julio Peña Fernández), has a name that is an anagram of Rio, the character played by Miguel Herrán in the original series.
It’s a cut-and-paste job that leaves you wondering if the creators, Álex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, were on a tight deadline or just taking the lazy route for kicks.
If there’s one thing Berlin is consistent about, it’s its endorsement of misogynistic behavior. The female characters, unfortunately, fall into the tired tropes of being naive, irresistibly drawn to the men around them, and unable to think clearly when love and desire come into play.
The show’s attempt to discuss misogyny and sexism is like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound – it doesn’t make the problem disappear, it will make you wince instead. It’s almost that the writers thought that throwing words around like “misogyny” and “sexism” would make the series seem aware of it, but it ended up like they wanted to say, “We know it’s wrong, but let’s do it anyway.”
Pedro Alonso: chaos enthusiast
Amidst the rubble of misguided plotlines and questionable character choices, Pedro Alonso emerges as the saving grace of Berlin. His portrayal of Berlin showcases a character thriving on chaos and adrenaline, reminding us of the brilliance one may witnessed in Money Heist. Alonso’s performance injected life into a series desperately gasping for substance.
In fact, the only “heist worth” element in the series is the ensemble cast. While the plot may be flatter than a pancake left out in the sun, the ensemble cast manages to salvage some pride for Berlin. Their performances have energy and moments of genuine connection, providing occasional relief from inducing yawns, thanks to the tedious narrative.
In conclusion: A slog with no stakes
Berlin doesn’t just fail to live up to the legacy of Money Heist; it stumbles, falls, and faceplants into a pit of mediocrity. The attempt to humanize Berlin backfires spectacularly, leaving us with a character study that lacks depth and purpose. What could have been an interesting exploration of a dark character turns into a heist of missteps, endorsing questionable themes and relying on coincidences like a crutch.
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