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Deutschland 86: the verdict

Updated: May 15, 2021

By Tom Carson

The successor show to 2015’s international hit, Deutschland 83, continues its portrayal of the Cold War in much the same vein: Slick, witty, stylish, well-produced, sharply acted, and littered with 80s chart classics.

After RTL pulled out of funding the show, Amazon swooped in and bought the rights. It shows. Deutschland 86 raises the stakes narratively and stylistically.

Gone is the fresh-faced Jonas Nay that wowed critics in 2015. Exiled to Angola after his role in 1983’s events, we find Martin cut adrift. During his isolation, the GDR has grown economically weak increasingly and desperate. At ground level, there are growing food shortages; at the upper echelons of society, power brokers are seeking ways to finance their failing economy.

The solution? Turn to capitalism.

Martin is once again sucked into the heart international affairs by Maria Schrader’s chic Leonora Rauch. Initially, this means brokering shady arms deals in South Africa.

Deutschland 86 threatens to lose itself in the vastness of the African content. Only when Martin returns to more familiar soil, that of continental Europe, do the various narrative strands start to fall into place.

Whereas in Deutschland 83, where Western officials were once honest but troubled, and Stasi members were manipulative and coercive, the distinction is now blurred. The result is a free-for-all: Libyans, South Africans, West Germans, Americans, French, East Germans. None of them are to be trusted.

“East, west,” says Martin “Who are the good guys?”. Indeed, Kolibri.

In the end, Deutschland 86 manages to match is predecessor show in balancing international events (Chernobyl to name but one) with local and familial complications. However, despite widening its narrative sphere, the threat of disaster never seems quite as high as in Deutschland 83.

The result, rather like the Cold War itself, is tense, complex and paranoid, but without ever exploding into full-blown action.

All in all though, Deutschland 86 is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor.

Bring on Deutschland 89.


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