TV Review: Beat (2018)

In this stylish, gritty, German-language thriller, I was attracted by the techno music, the nightclub and the promise of murder. In the end, I was entranced by the pure depth of plotting which took place – as well as the many twists and turns – however, left slightly bemused by the sheer number of unanswered questions about the sub-plots.

Indeed, I was left wondering what the main plot of the show was, as it seemed to change every couple of episodes. First of all, we are introduced to Robert Schlag (Jannis Niewöhner), aka Beat, and then later on, aka whatever the fuck he was called as a child. An attractive but drug-addled nightclub promoter, who helps run and takes part in parties, some of them featuring rather a lot of sex, all of them with copious quantities of cocaine, and mostly soundtracked with acid techno music. All good ingredients for a TV show, right? He’s got some link to the owner of the club, Paul (Hanno Koffler), whom he became friends with when he was younger and they presumably started it with. Anyway, so it’s all good fun and games. Until one night, body matter starts dripping onto the dancefloor, giving off a foul stench. The lights come on – and two twin sisters, disembowelled, are attached to the ceiling, their insides literally hanging out (and missing).

And then it gets dark. The European Security Intelligence (ESI) take a strong interest in the case, as it turns the nightclub was just bought into by a shady international businessman, Phillip Vossberg (Alexander Fehling), who has many fingers in many criminal pies. And Beat is manipulated into working with them, both by Richard Diemer (Christian Berkel), a supervisor who seems to have too much emotional attachment to the case, and by Jasper Hoff (Kostja Ullmann), an utterly psychotic man who has been apparently brainwashed by Diemer and lived at the same foster home as Beat when he was younger? Keeping up?

That’s not all that happens, but it’s enough to give you a picture. The sex, drugs and dum dum dum never stop, not until the very final episode. But if you’ve made it through the shocking (and devastating) conclusion of episode six, it’s very fitting that the finale has a silent soundtrack. The plot seems coherent for two and a half episodes, and again for the last three. But episodes three and four, it seems to drift into some form of chaos, where there’s sex, sex, more sex, drugs, more sex, more drugs, oh, and a lot of murder. Trust me, if you don’t like blood or titties (well), this might be a difficult watch. And don’t get too attached to any of the characters – they’ll probably end up dead or villains by the end.

For a show with a lot of sex, it seems like there isn’t much thought put into it, but there is. None of the main characters at any point have a sexualised relationship – thankfully, not least between Beat and Emilia, an attractive ESI agent who is working with (and at times double-crosses) Diemer. Honestly, fit male antagonist, fit female antagonist who’s probably the same age, probably both single and in situations with guns – wait a minute, a show that didn’t fall down that cliche? Thank god. Additionally, I noticed the only sexual relationship from the show which was even a tiny bit meaningful to anyone, was a gay one between Janik (Ludwig Simon), Beat’s flatmate, and Danilo (Julius Nitchkoff), a Russian gangster who’s caught up with Vossberg. Yes, it very quickly went downhill, and I honestly have no idea what the point of it was other than making Janik probably my favourite character, but I noticed it all the same. A telling inverse of the way LGBT relationships are often just sex, while heterosexual ones are given depth? Or just a way of filling up fifteen minutes of airtime? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

The episodes are between 50 minutes and 1 hour 5 minutes, supposing you remove the intro and the credits at the end. I wasn’t able to find that information ANYWHERE – I was expecting 7 episodes of 45 – and while it can be frustrating the subtle changes in episode length, it just adds to the whole illusion of ‘Beat’ for me. It felt like I was watching one very long, seven hour film, where lots and lots of characters flowed in and out, the outs weren’t always explained, the plot changed up every ten minutes and there were lots of questions which were never really resolved. But it wasn’t a bad thing. It is probably the darkest show I’ve watched in a very long time – organ trafficking isn’t my usual go-to – but it’s all portrayed well, even if felt at times it was trying to promote an international peace organisation.

Be there for the fun, the German accents, the really nasty plot, the really attractive cast, whatever. But take all of it in, because it’s one of the best shows around. And maybe, it will lead me to look more into what Prime Video really does have to offer.

  • ‘Beat’ is on Amazon Prime Video, free for subscribers.

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