Berlin 1946, a city flattened by bombs and defeat. The war is over, but the peace is fragile, with Allied troops still in occupation alongside Russian forces in the East, and the city is rife with corruption, poverty and destitution.
Hey, not the brightest of intros, but The Defeated is a thrilling German language series blending rich human stories with the world-shaping events of 1946.
Attempting to build a new police force in the vacuum of security is former teacher Elsie, played by Nina Hoss, known to English-speaking audiences from Homeland. Inevitably she comes across the somewhat appropriately named Taylor Kitsch who plays Max McLaughlin a Brooklyn detective who finds himself in the US part of the occupation zone facing off some angry Russians. Elsie and Max soon come to realise, however that their biggest foe isn’t said Russians, but a Berliner known as The Angel Maker, whose prime motive is to enrich himself via the misery of others, mostly by securing backstreet abortions for the thousands of victims of rape.
Notwithstanding the slight parody of a Brooklyn cop coming to the rescue, this makes for compelling television, all set against a recreation of post-war Berlin, in an old Soviet sugar factory outside Prague.
In The Telegraph Ed Power describes The Defeated as a “thriller unfolding in the shadow of Europe’s apocalypse, [it] plays out like True Detective crossed with Laurence Olivier’s The World at War.” He concludes that there’s “little humour or light relief. But The Defeated serves up a new twist on the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, and weaves in a compelling mystery to boot.”
First shown August 2021, and in Germany in 2020 with the title Shadowplay.