Deutschland 83 – ‘Bold Guard’ and ‘Able Archer’

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Episodes 7 & 8

CONTAINS SPOILERS 

In the UK, these two episodes were broadcast as one 90 minute feature-length episode, so that is how I’m going to review it. As a whole, it feels very epic, with the stakes the highest, namely that they may be bringing about a nuclear apocalypse.

Moritz gets a message from the East that Able Archer is a nuclear attack, and they are preparing for war. However, in a meeting Wolfgang tells all the soldiers that Able Archer is merely a practice, a simulation of what they will do in the event of a nuclear attack. Ironically, in the East they are doing the exact same thing, preparing for what they will do in a real nuclear attack.

Moritz finds out that the West’s simulation will be very realistic. They will be using real activation codes, but no missiles will actually be released. A desperate Moritz calls Lenora.

She is at this point having a meeting with an official from Mozambique (which includes snogging him!). Moritz tells Lenora that the East are making a terrible mistake. Lenora thinks he is naive, but Moritz counters that they are overreacting. The West doesn’t want a war. Moritz says if she doesn’t believe him he will warn the West. (Interestingly, during this conversation Lenora calls him by his real name, Martin, rather than his fake name or his code name).

Annett had been intending to invite Thomas over for dinner so that Walter could arrest him. However, Thomas took a last minute trip. Annett made sure to note down his car licence number and to tell Walter where Thomas was going though. Walter stays for dinner. Ingrid is a bit suspicious that Walter and Annett know each other, and the dinner is very silent and awkward. Ingrid and Walter have met before, he was one of her lecturers while she was a uni student, which would have been a couple of years before the Berlin Wall was built. (The Berlin Wall was built in 1961, 22 years before 1983. This is a HUGE hint to a twist that will come later).

Walter gives Annett a backstage pass to the Udo Lindenberg rock concert. He wants her to go as a ‘Welcoming Committee’, meet General Edel’s daughter Yvonne, show her round and take her home. Then he will come and interrogate her. Walter then gives Annett a photo of Yvonne and Martin together!

There are half a million anti-war protesters at Bonn university, and 50 protesters at the Western army base. Tichsbier has turned up at the latter after being informed by Lenora what Moritz has told her.

Wolfgang gives Alex a megaphone to tell the protesters to leave. Instead he drops the megaphone and joins the protest, partly because Tichsbier is there. Wolfgang orders Moritz to bring Tichsbier to him.

Moritz is puzzled as to how Tichsbier and Alex know each other, but says the West have no plan to attack. Tichsbier says Moritz is in no position to deduce that, to which Moritz replies that of course he is, he is the only one with first hand information. The commanders are back in East Germany.

Tichsbier and Wolfgang meet. Wolfgang wants to protesters gone, but the conversation turns to Alex. While not outright stated by either, the implication is that Wolfgang is aware that Tichsbier and Alex are in a relationship (or have been). In any case, he wants Tichsbier to leave the base immediately. This conversation contains the best quote of the series. Wolfgang says to Tichsbier “Stop pissing in my soup and saying you’re cooling it down!”, which reminds me of something Judge Judy might say.

Moritz pleads with Tichsbier to get the East to call off their plan of attack. Tichsbier threatens to put Martin’s unborn child (and therefore Annett) in custody of state authorities. Tichsbier then calls Lenora, saying that Able Archer is definitely a real attack. Lenora calls Walter with this news, but says she has doubts because of what Martin told her.

Alex goes up to Tichsbier, hoping there is still a chance for them to be together. Not only does Alex get rejection, he is told by Tichsbier he has to get himself tested for AIDS. Your heart will have to go out to Alex at this point.

Moritz leaves the secret code he was given by the East German government by a computer for Western military intelligence to find, but they are unable to decode it. Knowing that it will take too long for them to decode it, he asks for a private word with Wolfgang. Moritz confesses that he is an East German spy, that the East think Able Archer is real and they have to do something or the East will attack. Wolfgang seems mostly concerned with the fact Moritz is a spy, and is about to arrest him, but Moritz runs away, goes over a wall and steals a car.

He changes his clothes, and I guess at this point he leaves “Moritz Stamm” behind for good. Martin hears on the car radio that the West German police are looking for him. He abandons the car, and runs into the woods. The next morning he stows away in the boot of a family’s car so he can get back into East Germany.

Western military intelligence question Wolfgang about Moritz. Wolfgang says there is something very important they have to consider. Moritz mentioned that the East Germans think Able Archer is a cover for a real nuclear attack, and he was clearly in a lot of distress about it. He must have believed it was true, as if he didn’t, why did he blow his own cover?

Lenora is informed that Martin unmasked himself and is on the run. She comes to the same conclusion as Wolfgang did. He must have believed it was true if he was prepared to voluntarily confess to being a spy over it.

Thomas is arrested and interrogated by East German authorities. Ingrid goes to confess that she is just as guilty as Thomas is. She tells Walter she wants Thomas released. During this conversation it is confirmed that Walter and Ingrid had an affair. There is also a translation difference. In German, it is also more or less confirmed what the big twist is. It’s more ambiguous in the English subtitles, but even so you can probably guess what it is going to be…

One of the most interesting scenes in the episode is where Annett and Yvonne meet. There’s a clear contrast between the blonde, pregnant, scarf and jumper wearing Annett,
and the brunette drinking, smoking, drug taking, leather and boots wearing Yvonne. It’s the old “Good Girl/Bad Girl” Betty and Veronica thing, but in a way it’s inverted. Unlike how that is often portrayed, Yvonne is the nicer of the two, she is even quite naive, whereas Annett is the scheming, malicious one.

But really, what the contrast is more than anything is East vs. West, Western decadence vs. Eastern oppression. It isn’t even just subtext either, it’s in the text. Most of their conversations are based on the differences between the East and West.

I thought Lisa Tomaschewsky (Yvonne) and Sonja Gerhardt (Annett) were both great in these scenes, showing Yvonne’s blissful unawareness and Annett’s thinly veiled loathing and jealousy of her. It’s very well illustrated by this picture, which I’m not sure if it was fan-made or officially from the show, but either way it does convey the symbolic conflict well.

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The next morning Yvonne wakes up, and finds a photograph of Martin and Annett together! She runs outside, but is caught by Hartman. Martin makes his way back home. He sees Annett and warns her that she and the baby are in danger. He goes upstairs to find Ingrid, but finds Yvonne instead! Martin works out that Annett is an informant for the East German government. He knocks out Hartman and restrains Annett, saying he is going to take Yvonne to safety. Annett sobs that she is carrying Martin’s child, but he seems rather unmoved by this. I have to admit, I felt a little bit sorry for Annett here, even though she’s bought it on herself because of the terrible things she’s done.

Martin drives Yvonne to the West German Diplomatic Mission, where as a West German citizen she’ll be safe. He says he’s sorry. Yvonne leaves the car without a word.

Ingrid returns home and finds Annett. She tells her that Thomas has been released to the West, and questions whether Annett wanted Thomas locked up in prison for the rest of his life. Annett says she turned him in to protect Ingrid. Ingrid thinks it’s more likely she turned Thomas in because Annett had feelings for him and wanted to put temptation out of her way. But in any case, Ingrid admits that of course she knew about the books. Annett says she didn’t want Ingrid to be arrested. Ingrid says that would never happen, as Walter is Martin’s father.

The East are preparing to launch a nuclear strike. Lenora calls Commander Fuchs to tell him that Martin insists that the West aren’t planning an attack. Commander Fuchs asks to
see the original NATO report, he finds out that Walter deliberately left out the information that NATO didn’t believe there would be a winner in the event of nuclear war.

Martin drives to the East German military base, dodges security and storms into a meeting with the top commanders. Walter says Martin is a traitor. Martin says his job was to gather information, and he did, but he wasn’t listened to. Commander Fuchs says they should listen to Martin as he is the only one in the room that has actually seen Able Archer. Martin says it’s just a deterrent, the West don’t have a death wish. So the East decide to call their attack off.

But that’s not the end.

There’s the heartbreaking scene of Alex getting tested for HIV. The nurse tells him that he may already be infected despite having no symptoms yet. She tells him the symptoms are severe, it is highly contagious and there is no cure.

Wolfgang goes home to find that his wife has left him. Alex later comes home, and we hear a gunshot, implying either Alex or Wolfgang are killed. I hope neither die, as they are both good characters.

Thomas is sent to the Western border, where Tichsbier is there to meet him.

Lenora is seen shredding all her official documents, packing a suitcase and leaving for Mozambique.

Martin is finally reunited properly with his mother. Ingrid tells him Annett is in the house waiting for him. While I think Martin and Annett will stay together for their baby, I imagine their relationship is damaged beyond repair now.

A couple of funny moments I want to mention from these episodes.

Wolfgang has to sign for Diet Coke for General Jackson. Frau Netz says “It’s new, without sugar”. Wolfgang replies “Sounds disgusting”. I’m not keen on Diet Coke either.

A stressed out Lenora ripping the leaves off her bonsai tree.

There were lots of contrasting pairings in this episode. Yvonne and Annett is the most obvious one, but we also had

Fuchs/Stepanov – This has been building over the last few episodes, but Commander Fuchs was consistently worried about starting nuclear war, whereas Stepanov was more focused on the Soviets being able to gain the upper hand at any cost.

Wolfgang/Tichsbier – On surface level, this looks like military action vs. pacificism, though it isn’t sincere in Tichsbier’s case, and he seemed eager for the East to attack.

Alex/Moritz – Alex sees Moritz as a “born soldier” and a good, honest man. He admires him, and compares himself negatively to him. Maybe he thinks that Moritz is more the sort of son Wolfgang would have wanted? As if poor Alex doesn’t go through enough in this episode, he finds out that Moritz, someone he thought so highly of and befriended, was a spy.

While Deutschland 83 isn’t a true story and other than the people who appear in stock footage the characters are fictional, it is based on real events, many of which are referred to over the course of the series.

Able Archer was a real military exercise NATO was enacting in Western Europe in 1983 as preparation for a nuclear attack. It was so realistic, that the Soviet Union were suspicious, and prepared their nuclear arsenal in response. These events have even been thought by some historians to be a turning point in the Cold War, or even the beginning of the end for it. For example, when the British government learned about how the Soviet Union was reacting, they were extremely worried, and the Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, ordered that they had to make it clear to their American allies that it would be much too dangerous to try such an exercise again in the future.

Deutschland 83 was very, very good. You want another series to see what happens to these characters.  The series was dramatic, compelling, well acted and nicely filmed. It has a good mix of light and shade. It’s fun, but gets darker. The characters aren’t black and white, but shades of grey. Martin is basically a nice, well-meaning guy, but he doesn’t behave perfectly. Some of the more malicious characters, such as Walter and Tichsbier are still fully rounded, and Annett you can see why she believes herself to be in the right despite how bad she acts.

It’s interesting to view as it is depicting fairly recent history, and it is refreshing that a drama or indeed any TV programme can overcome a language barrier. Certainly here in Britain it has been very popular. It deserves to win awards.

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2 Responses to Deutschland 83 – ‘Bold Guard’ and ‘Able Archer’

  1. kathy icenogle says:

    I have just heard about this series and would really like to view it. I have emailed Sundance to learn the viewing schedule, but have received no reply. When can Deutschland 83 and follow-up Deutschland series be viewed? Thanks so much.

    • fused says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m sorry to say I can’t help you though, I don’t even know if a second series is definitely happening. I’m also not based in the US, so I really have no idea about the scheduling over there. I’m just a viewer in the UK. But again, thanks very much for reading and commenting.

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