The Defeated Season 1 Review – An engaging post-war thriller

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8


The Defeated’s story takes place in post-war Berlin. Germany is a mess, split into four different sectors occupied by the Russians, French, British and the US, respectively. With each country vying to strengthen their hold, at the center of this is Brooklyn-based policeman Max McLaughlin. He’s tasked with getting the police force of Berlin back up to scratch.

Max takes his orders from Tom Franklin, his superior. And as we soon come to find out during the first episode, Max’s real reason for arriving in Germany is to try and find his older brother, Moritz.

In order to pursue that thread, Max shows up at the police station, currently run by professor-turned-police officer Elsie Garten. The death of a girl called Anne Friedrich sparks an investigation while hostilities continue to spill over outside. Namely, this comes in the form of Russian Military Officer Alexander Izosimov.

Whispers of a man known simply as “Angel Maker” simmer in the background, caring for a young woman called Karin who may or may not be involved in some way to all of this.

These seemingly disparate storylines do eventually collide together, with mafia ties, secret letters, espionage and some well-timed shocking twists throughout the 8 episodes. All of this builds up to a somewhat polarizing ending, one with enough in the tank for a second season but a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion on its own.

There are a couple of contrivances with the main plot but for the most part it’s easy to look past in the wake of such an interesting setting. The smart choice of cutting from the uplifting news reels at the start of the show across to the war-torn buildings of Berlin serves up a wonderful juxtaposition and visually, The Defeated is fantastic.

The cinematography and set design of The Defeated are both excellent, showing off the ruined buildings through establishing shots and with enough variation between the different districts to keep things engaging.

The set design in general is wonderful too and each area – from the bustling streets to the war-torn ruins – feel like they have a rich history behind them. It also helps that this level of detail extends across to the characters too, with shades of grey for almost everyone… except for the Russians.

Despite such great work done to humanize the German soldiers, it’s perhaps a little disappointing to see the Russians portrayed as the big bad villains. It feels like an overdone trope by this point.

There’s also an awful lot going on here. Multiple subplots interweave together and early on it all feels rather busy, with the run-time split between various different subplots – to varying degrees of success.

During the later chapters, when the action picks up and some of the more dramatic elements spill over, things do improve but it could well put some people off – especially given the middle chapters are a little overlong.

While this is a far cry from the excellence of something like Babylon Berlin, the great set design, an interesting story and likable protagonists are enough to make The Defeated worth checking out.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

6 thoughts on “The Defeated Season 1 Review – An engaging post-war thriller”

  1. i am in season 3 and so far like it – i’m not sure how “historically accurate” but i def plan to do my own research . i have not realized the f bomb yet lol. Every movie from historical to fiction sure has a lot of cigs !!!. i find myself having an odd sort of understanding and alliance w Moritz!! Poetic justice appreciation or just thinking of how could anyone have participated in the horrors of those camps .

  2. Actually quite a thrilling movie until the very end. The dying brother. The detective brother what goes. THe alcoholic wife of the crooked State Department official could have had a nicer ending with the Brooklyn detective cop. Also left open was the murderous compliant women taking care of the woman’s two children.

  3. I’ve watched Episode 1 and am into Episode 2. As I’ve watched I’ve compared it to the Lowe book “Savage Continent” – which describes Europe in the first months and years after the end of the War. While, of course, the story is fiction, the kinds of things depicted are comparable to realities described in the book. If one thinks the dark portrayal of Russian occupation troops is overdone, one should probably check into the history of Russian occupation troops.
    No fiction is perfectly accurate – but this is quite good based on what I’ve seen so far.
    I saw some reviews complaining about the “F” word. It may be over-used in the show, but it was certainly used in WWII and thereafter. The acronyms “snafu” and “fubar” originate in the allied military – most attribute them to the US military (Marines?). By war’s end they were quite common – and the “f” in each of them is exactly what you’d think it is. The “f” word was regular parlance after the war.
    I’ve also been to Berlin and seen some of the remains like the Kaiser Wilhelm church. The depiction of Berlin post-war is stunningly well done.
    I’d rate this better than “Berlin Babylon” (which I loved). Why? For all that it lacks the flash of that production, it gets us in the grit of a world that needs exploring. The exploring in “The Defeated” is good.

  4. Beautifully reconstructed…beautiful camera work. A bit slow. Nina hoss fantastic not so sure about Taylor …..the use of the word f……was not spoken back then. A total mistake. Look at wilder…foreign affair. Same period. A good series. Just saw two episodes.

  5. Peace of trash. Totally Unreliable lack of basic research. So inaccurate that I do not where to start.

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