The Gryphon (Der Greif) Season 1 Review: A promising fantasy series that doesn’t live up to its potential


Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3/5


Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video is The Gryphon (also known as Der Greif), a six-part fantasy series based on the bestselling book by prolific German author Wolfgang Hohlbein.

The series is set in 1994 Germany and centres on a teenage boy named Mark (Jeremias Meyer) who, on his 16th birthday, learns of his family’s connection to an alternate world where a power-hungry monster – the titular Gryphon – exists. The world is known as the “Black Tower,” and Mark is introduced to this parallel dimension by his older brother Thomas who tells him about the beast that lives there and the threat it poses to humanity.

For some reason, the male members of Mark’s family have been tasked with stopping this powerful brute but the confused young teen is reluctant to pick up the baton, not only because he is afraid to hop between dimensions, but because he has a part-time job to go to and the remainder of his school year to complete. There’s also a girl that he likes and spending time with her is far preferable to venturing into a place that holds all kinds of potential dangers.

But when Thomas goes missing, Mark realizes his brother may be trapped in this other world. At this point, he throws off all of his other responsibilities and ventures into this fantastical place. Does he find his brother? And more importantly, does he defeat the beast that wants access to our dimension? We aren’t going to go into major plot details here so you will have to watch the series if you want to see how Mark’s journey plays out.

The premise for this series is quite good. It brings to mind the works of Stephen King, most notably The Talisman and the recent Fairy Tale, which both feature teenage protagonists who embark on quests in parallel worlds. For all I know, the book might be comparable to King’s works (I haven’t read the novel) but if it is, something may have been lost in its translation to the screen as it lacks a sense of wonder.

The biggest problem is the fact that the world Mark ventures into is too similar to our own. Aside from a looming great tower that rises above the land below it, the environments that Mark finds himself in are disappointingly ordinary. Fans of 70s Doctor Who will be right at home as most of the action takes place in dusty quarries that are not unlike the alien worlds that Tom Baker’s incarnation of the Time Lord often found himself in. But those hoping for a world that is like none other may be left unsatisfied after watching Mark traipse through locations that are all too familiar.

That being said, there are some differences between the world of Black Tower and our own dimension. For one thing, the rivers are full of fish that, once caught, scream in pain when they are impaled on a knife and cooked for dinner. There is also a race of stony-faced beasts; an army of beings that, in their appearance, are a cross between the devil and the miserable-looking Kraals from the classic Doctor Who serial The Android Invasion.

Unfortunately, we don’t spend a great amount of time in this other land as most of the action takes place in our world as Mark deals with the various pressures that await him at home and at school. As such, The Gryphon is not quite the dark fantasy series that it could have been. This doesn’t mean it’s not compelling. The struggles Mark has with his mental health and his attempts to find his place in society are quite relatable and they draw us into his personal situation. But if you’re hoping for a series that is as fantastical as the King novels we mentioned or any other quest-driven fantasy novels, you might be a little disappointed.

The series begins strongly as Mark discovers his dark legacy and takes his first bold steps into the world of the Black Tower. It continues to hold the attention as Mark’s friend Memo (Zoran Pingel) travels with him to this alternate dimension and accidentally ends up getting trapped there. But for all its potential, the series starts to go downhill after the midway point. This is mainly because some of the focus is taken away from Mark and is moved onto secondary characters, not all of whom are integral to the plot. If there were more than six episodes, this could have been excused, but as there isn’t, a lot of time is wasted on people we don’t really care about.

Despite the flaws in the narrative, there is room for improvement if a second season is given the green light. Mark’s quest isn’t quite over by the time Season 1 ends so there may be potential for something far more exciting and otherworldly than what we have been given with this first run of episodes. But as our streaming services have a habit of cancelling series before they have found their footing, there is also the chance that the cliffhanger ending at the end of this first season won’t be resolved.

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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