Gritty, culturally relevant and incredibly endearing, the trailer for this crime thriller just does not do the show justice, especially with the amount of humour it shows. Split across 10 episodes, Dogs Of Berlin sees Germany on the cusp of a gang war. Tensions between the Turks and Neo Nazis reaches fever pitch and at the heart of this conflict are two troubled police officers, crooked cop Kurt Grimmer (Felix Kramer) and Turkish drug officer Erol Birkan (Fahri Yardim). While the opening few episodes keep these two separate, they’re reluctantly joined together over a common interest, building toward an explosive, climactic finale.
On the eve of Germany’s eagerly awaited friendly with Turkey, German football superstar Okam Erdem is found dead in the heart of German loyalist territory. Struggling to keep the secret under wraps, the early parts of the series predominantly focus on Grimmer. He leads an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened while grappling with crippling debts owed to some very dangerous people. On the other side of the police force, Turkish drug officer Erol is hot on the heels of the Tariq-Amir gang who he’s been targeting with his group for 18 months, whom we learn has secrets of its own and could prove crucial to Grimmer’s investigation.
While these two stories remain separate for the first few episodes, a breakthrough in the Erdem murder case sees Erol thrust into jointly leading the investigation as it’s suspected the Tariq-Amir gang have something to do with the football star’s death. From here, the middle portion of the series deals with the investigation, dragging the two investigators around Germany, uncovering the seedy underbelly of Berlin’s criminal empire while deceit, blackmail and danger lies around every corner. To make matters worse, Grimmer’s brother Ulf (Sebastian Zimmler) happens to be one of the key members of the Neonazi gang who have a long, bitter rivalry with the Tariq-Amir gang.
As the storyline progresses and tensions boil over between the two gangs, Erol and Kurt find themselves right in the thick of the action, culminating in a breathtaking finale that sees the two gangs clash and big questions answered over who killed Erdem and why. Along the way numerous supporting characters flesh the story out, including one of Erdem’s team-mates Bou ‘Penga (Tyron Ricketts) who finds himself way over his head as the pressure mounts on him.
The two women in Kurt’s life also feature heavily here, with single mum Sabine (Anna Maria effort) and Kurt’s wife Paula (Katharina Schüttler) both sharing the spotlight as they add an extra dimension to the show. In truth, when they’re not sharing the spotlight with Kurt they don’t really add anything extra to the series but given how tense large segments of the episodes are, it’s a welcome change of pace to see the series let up a little. There is humour used at times too but while the trailer gives the impression this will be a large component of the series, in truth there’s only a few instances that include this – all of which shown in the 2 minute preview of the show.
Stylistically, the show looks great and the grimy, dark locales are a great touch to the series. The two different gangs are given an equal amount of spotlight too and the way Dogs Of Berlin humanises these characters while giving each a compelling and realistically depicted motive makes these scenes all the more powerful. With the main theme here being racial tensions and the growing gang war between the two factions, it’s somewhat ironic the way Dogs Of Berlin plays out. Without giving too much away, there’s a cruel sense of irony and bittersweet humour used to depict just what happened to Erdem and in a way, what transpires makes perfect sense given the tone of the series.
A show like this can live or die by its ending and thankfully Dogs Of Berlin keeps things very interesting right through to its finale. A 5 minute musical montage shows us where all of our characters are, ending on a satisfying but somewhat unresolved note, with the potential for a second season seeming like a very real possibility despite the main plot threads being tied up and compellingly ended. The characters are well written, the scenes engrossing and absorbing but most of all, Dogs Of Berlin is a culturally relevant show, one that speaks of the times but does so in a way that never feels overbearing or condescending. It won’t be for everyone but for those who can take to this German series, Dogs Of Berlin is one heck of a ride and one I’d happily take again.
Verdict - 8/10