Episode 1 of We Children from Bahnhof Zoo starts with a group of young adults on a plane, flying through turbulence. Christiane sits confidently, “Don’t worry we won’t crash. I’m immortal.”
We then jump back 10 years earlier. Christiane gets ready to head out while Karin fusses over her daughter. Christiane leaves first and heads into the elevator. Only, it loses control and crashes down to the ground. At least, according to Christiane anyway.
As the camera pans out, we see Christiane telling this story to a group of incredulous students in class. Her nickname there is Banana and Christiane immediately takes a fancy to a girl called Stella.
At the train station, she runs into Stella and offers her a cigarette. The two sit and smoke, both going through some family issues. After sharing in their agreement that train stations can be sad places, Stella heads back to eat dinner with her Mother. Dinner soon turns to a party at the bar though, where Stella listens as Nati grabs a guitar and begins singing.
When Christiane eventually heads home, she finds her Father Robert has picked up a new dog for the family. Tensions between him and Karin are pretty high, threatening to spill over at any moment. This is only exacerbated the following day when it’s revealed that Karin is actually having an affair.
Christiane finds herself continuing to grow closer to Stella, smoking to fit in with her and her friends.
Meanwhile, new kid Babsi arrives on a train and begins wandering hopelessly around town, eventually bagging a lift from a DJ at the club, SOUND. As night turns to day, she awakens in his car and heads back home. She takes a mixtape with her though; a memoir of her brief time in his car.
Instead of facing her grandmother through the front door, she heads up and climbs through the window. Sneaking out of her room when everyone is asleep, she listens to the mixtape downstairs.
While this is going on, Axel manages to get himself a job at the factory. While working during the day, he starts taking heroin at night.
That evening, Christiane is allowed to attend the disco. She promises to get the last train home, as she arrives at the front to greet Stella. Axel is there too, along with Michi and Benno. They all throw a whole stack of pills in the air, prompting the kids to try and catch them on their tongues.
With the deed done, all of our characters prepare to head into SOUND. As they do, Babsi is carried out, escorted back to her Grandmother’s place.
As the episode closes out, the kids all start dancing together in SOUND. Our intoxicated children begin floating to the surface as their troubles seem to slip away.
The Episode Review
Given the hard hitting nature of the original book, this serialized, glossy version of We Children from Bahnhof Zoo is a real mixed bag. It’s also a show that won’t appeal to fans of the book, that’s for sure.
The visuals are certainly pleasing and there’s some nice character work done this early on, at least with the intertwined introductions anyway. The whole trap surrounding fitting in at school and smoking seems pretty accurate and does help ground this in realism.
Where the show is less accurate however, is in its depiction of drug taking and the club scenes at the end. There’s no way these kids would throw pills in the air like that, let alone doing it right in front of the bouncers and ensuing police.
It’s also questionable how these actors – all in their 20’s – are portraying kids as young as 13. While there’s no mention of that here, it is depicted as such in the book and feature film. Based on that, the show has sort of glossed over the heroin taking and prostitution scenes with a broad stroke, failing to really dive into the nasty implications of this which is a bit disappointing.
The club scenes are always difficult to get right in these shows but the music certainly isn’t 70’s inspired. Given techno was invented back in the early 80’s, this anachronism is distracting at best.
Still, it’s early days with this one and there’s still time for this to slip down a dark path into the horrors of addiction. Given the modern interpretation of this one though, We Children from Bahnhof Zoo gets off to a rocky start.