At the end of the last season of Berlin Station, both Germany’s alt-right and an unruly US Ambassador had been brought to heel, and the CIA’s Berlin branch only had to fake one death to do it. So season three of spy novelist Olen Steinhauer’s take on the morally grey world of espionage (with a strong nod to the gripping style established authors like John le Carre) should see everyone kicking back and putting their feet up, right? Hardly.
Set over a nail-biting eleven days, this season sees mysteries resurface, allegiances tested, and the uncovering of a plot that could send Europe down the path to a new Cold (or even Hot) War. So how did we get here?
There’s a new boss
For two seasons now, Valerie Edwards (Michelle Forbes) has been after the CIA’s top job in Berlin. Season one saw numerous people jockeying for the position after the retirement of Steven Frost (Richard Jenkins); season two had Edwards fuming as the top job was taken by outsider BB Yates (Ashley Judd). But as season three opens, finally Edwards gets to settle into the role of the CIA’s Chief of Station in Berlin.
After a flashback to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the series opens with Edwards sending Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage) and Robert Kirsch (Leland Orser) off on a diplomatic mission to Estonia, where they promptly find evidence of a covert Russian invasion. And that’s not the only thing they uncover: Daniel stays behind in the former Soviet republic when he finds a vital lead on “Diver”, the mysterious spy who – he believes – killed his mother on the night the Berlin Wall came down.
She’s not the only one with a new job
Yates didn’t vanish between seasons. She’s been promoted to play with the big boys on the National Security Council, which is a position that’s going to leave her facing some very difficult choices as the season goes on. Also promoted is junior CIA officer April Lewis (Keke Palmer), who now gets to handle an asset on her own, while German spy Esther (Mina Tander) is working extremely closely with Miller on his quest to track down his mother’s killer.
As for the former Chief of Station Steven Frost (Richard Jenkins), he’s found new purpose in life putting his spy skills and extensive contacts to work in the private sector. So while he’s clearly no longer an official part of the CIA’s battle against the forces of evil, there’s no doubt he’ll be turning up here and there (plus he’s in all the advertising for the new season).
There’s a new spy in town
While in Estonia, Miller and Kirsch meet up with Rafael Torres (Ismael Cruz Cordova), a much more modern kind of CIA agent. While most of the Berlin Station team have had their attitudes shaped by the Cold War and its aftermath, Torres is an veteran of special forces work in Iraq and Afghanistan whose approach to spycraft is a little bit more… pro-active.
With Miller now off on his own personal mission, Torres comes on board to handle some of the more hands-on assignments. Being part of the team means he gets to spend serious time with Kirsch – who isn’t exactly okay with this self-proclaimed wild card – and also meet up with Hector DeJean (Rhys Ifans), who you may remember didn’t actually die at the end of last season, despite getting a decent funeral.
They’re being squeezed from both directions
As you might expect from a series that dealt with the rise of the far-right in Europe last season, Berlin Station likes to keep its finger on the pulse of geopolitical events. So when the CIA uncover evidence that Russia is meddling in Estonia in a very serious way, they soon discover that 2018 isn’t exactly a time where the White House can be relied on to do the right thing. What happens when they have evidence of a Russian plot that strikes at the very heart of NATO but the people they report to either don’t care or actively want to bury it?
Hey, isn’t that James Cromwell?
Just to make things even more difficult for Edwards and her team, retired spy and CIA legend Gilbert Dorn (James Cromwell) has decided now’s a great time to start talking about his past missions – on a podcast, of all things. But while revealing where the bodies are buried makes things more difficult for Edwards, he’s just the man Miller and Esther need to fill in the gaps in their quest for Diver. That is, if he’s not working some agenda of his own. And let’s be honest, he almost certainly is.
Cromwell’s always a welcome addition to a series, in part because he’s the kind of performer who’s so charming you don’t mind when his character turns out to be evil. He’s also becoming something of a spy drama regular; it’s also been announced he’ll have a recurring role in the next season of parallel world espionage thriller (and SBS On Demand hit) Counterpoint.
Berlin Station is streaming anytime at SBS On Demand. New episodes from season 3 stream weekly: