My Early Preparation for #BerlinStation

BeardBeGoneSo! Berlin Station… a 10 part original series scheduled for fall of 2016 on EPIX. Isn’t it exciting? I couldn’t have been more thrilled when we learned two weeks ago that Richard Armitage was cast as the lead character, Daniel Meyer, described as something of a rookie CIA case officer, evidently a former analyst… oh please, please, please let this mean he might have a bit of nerdy vibe, or even wear spectacles! Something I’ve been waiting to see… hot men in spectacles really do it for me!

From what I’ve gleaned, Meyer is to be stationed in contemporary Berlin with the covert task of spying on his own CIA colleagues to uncover a mole who leaked information to a “Snowden-esque” whistleblower Thomas Shaw. The fact that he’s more of an analyst than a seasoned operative should put an interesting twist on things. We know Richard’s talents in the spy and special-ops genres, but we haven’t seen him do much in the way of “rookie spook” and I wonder… will that open the door for a touch of humor? I’m not expecting heavy comedy, you understand… but certainly any rookie is bound to make a few mistakes, and mistakes can sometimes be comedic.

Since this is an original series, rather than based off a book that has already been written, like so many of Richard’s recent roles, I was a bit stymied. My usual pattern is to rush out and read Red Dragon, or Brain on Fire, or Summer, or Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew… but here, there wasn’t much in the way of advance reading material. Until I stumbled onto this blog post, read the line “The idea of Steinhauer penning an entire TV season (as crime novelist Nick Pizzolatto did so successfully on True Detective) is pure catnip for this spy fan.” Now I realized that I could at least check out the works of the series writer/producer Olen Steinhauer, to get an idea of his writing style. Not that it’s guaranteed that his script writing will be exactly like his novel writing, but I like a good book and this blogger said “catnip” which was good enough for me.

So, I opted to download the first book in Steinhauer’s Milo Weaver trilogy, titled The Tourist… and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought it was a taut, well-written book that made me care for Milo Weaver, had plenty of twists and turns, and even had me dreaming about some of the scenarios. I didn’t love the narrator, and was therefore really relieved when, upon finishing the audiobook this morning, I went to immediately download book 2 and found there is a new narrator (with better reviews) who narrated the next two books in the series. Milo Weaver’s story has nothing to do with Berlin Station, as far as I know, and he’s quite the opposite of Daniel Meyer in some ways, because he’s a seasoned CIA operative, (the author’s euphemism for this type of field agent is “Tourist”)… although as the novel begins, Milo is a bit “rusty”, having retired from field work and spent the last 6 years as an analyst after starting a family.  I was able to get a good impression of the author’s version, or vision, of how the murky world of “tourism” (espionage) operates, and the storyline was compelling enough for me to want to continue, regardless of it having no direct ties (aside from the author himself) to the upcoming Berlin Station. I understand that a succession of companies have acquired the rights to the Milo Weaver stories, but as far as I know, no adaptation is in the works as of yet. By the way, if you’re thinking of reading this, there are some spoilers below.

Aside from the obvious action and intrigue, what I particularly liked about Steinhauer’s writing was his portrayal of Milo’s disillusionment and the resultant paranoia rampant in the black op and espionage culture, his inability to trust and the ways that it influences his family life. The author also draws compelling secondary characters and even manages to get some humor in there. One of my favorite more humerous aspects was the (probably) mythical “Black Book”… the existence of which is a rumor that circulates among “Tourists” and comes up several times throughout the story. Exerpt:

“Let me ask you something,” Roth said. “What’s your opinion on the Black Book?”

“The What Book?”

“Stop pretending, please.”

Within the subculture of Tourism, the Black Book was the closest thing to The Holy Grail. It was the secret guide to survival, rumored to be planted by a retired Tourist, twenty-one copies hidden in locations around the world. The stories of the Black Book were as old as Tourism itself. “It’s bunk,” said Milo.

But Milo, and apparently all the spies, nevertheless have at various times tried to track it down, and though of course Milo never found a copy, he isn’t above pretending that he did, when it comes in handy to impress (and distract) a younger agent Milo is forced to collaborate with later on in the story. I found this to be quite comedic, and I can’t help but hope that perhaps Steinhauer has some similar devices in store for the presumably somewhat naïve character of Daniel Meyer.

If his script writing follows his novel writing style, we can definitely count on plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and possibly some time jumps as well. Steinhauer has a pattern of laying out certain aspects of the story, placing his characters in situations that don’t seem to follow logically from the previous chapter, or introducing new characters that don’t seem to make sense, making the reader think “Wait… how the hell did that come about” or “Just a minute… who the hell is this guy?” and then, sometimes several chapters later, going back and laying the groundwork for how these characters fit into the story or what happened before to bring us to the current action. For instance, Milo may be on the run for his life in one chapter, and then undergoing brutal interrogation, having turned himself in, the next chapter. Only later does the author reveal the scenario that led to him turning himself in, and still later reveal the master plan that has been cleverly set in motion by these events.

So if Daniel Meyer is the protagonist and is anything like Milo Weaver, we can probably expect him at least eventually to have a deeper game than what is at first apparent, and there may be more to his history than meets the eye. I’m definitely looking forward to this movie. If the script is as well done as the one novel I’ve read, and the characters as well-drawn, it’s going to be some great material for Richard. And, well… Richard can take even pretty lame scripts and make the most of what he’s given. So I have high hopes for this one!

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24 comments

  1. Guylty · September 24, 2015

    Interesting stuff. And kudos for reading this well before the series will ever see the light of day. A slightly rookie agent would be a nice change for RA after seasoned operatives like Lucas and Porter. Otherwise it might be difficult to distinguish between the three characters. Unless the beard stays on… *meh* 😉

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    • jholland · September 24, 2015

      LOL. While I’m certainly not in the anti-beard camp, I must admit my preference would be clean shaven but maybe with slightly longer hair than Porter or Lucas, for this role, with spectacles added to differentiate Meyer from North and Porter even further. Time will tell. =) It was no hardship jumping into Steinhauer’s writing, if you’re into espionage genre. Just started the 2nd book and the narrator is excellent so it should be a winner for me. I can hardly stand the thought of waiting for a year, but at least there is a definitive time frame here, unlike most of the other projects he’s done lately. Although, it was a bit disconcerting to learn that the production offices have been given over to the refugees. (Good for them, but might cause production delays… bad for us!)

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      • Guylty · September 24, 2015

        Ah, I don’t think that the delay will be significant. There must be hundreds of available offices in Berlin.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · September 24, 2015

          I would hope so… but there may be more than hundreds of families needing accommodation… I don’t have a grasp on the numbers of refugee families the various places are anticipating.

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        • Guylty · September 25, 2015

          In total they are expecting to have about 40.000 refugees arrive in Berlin until the end of the year. The senate of Berlin is responsible for finding accommodation for them.

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        • jholland · September 25, 2015

          Flooding in, then. Wow. First priority is people…. film making may have to take a back seat. Hopefully the German people will handle it with efficiency as I believe Suzy wrote about recently.

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      • Hariclea · September 27, 2015

        Oh the production offices are not that much of an issue, you can build some with prefab, or the kind of boxes used in construction if you need to, as they can be too far from set, the studio is the much bigger problem in this case as they have been left without a location for indoor shoots. But places like this with electricity and facilities would be the first to be used to house large numbers of people. Unfortunate circumstances, not so much for the series which can be shot later, but if the actors become unavailable due to schedules and delays, a much bigger problem… It is a very tricky situation actually as Berlin is great for the outdoor shoots but it would be very complicated if they had to go somewhere else for the indoor, it can be done for a movie but not for a series as they can’t shoot quite as much out of sequence…
        It is unfortunate but it speaks well of Berlin to put people first. But it does result in a very complicated situation for the film itself. If it is going to be based around Berlin and have 10 eps they need at least about 20 weeks worth of shooting time and to find a place available for this long is very tricky. They might end up having to chance country…

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        • jholland · September 28, 2015

          Is there a confirmed problem with the studio location, or are we speculating? =)

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        • Hariclea · September 28, 2015

          it is confirmed, i think another actor tweeted they lost production offices and studio to the council who needed it for the refugees..

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        • jholland · September 28, 2015

          Oh, I hadn’t seen that. Well, there goes my pleasure in a definite time frame… but maybe they’ll get it ironed out and stay on schedule…

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        • Hariclea · September 28, 2015

          i’m crossing fingers for that too 🙂 when he works we normally get some tidbits 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Teuchter · September 24, 2015

    Thank you so much for this! I have neither the talent nor the know-how to research stuff like this so I appreciate those who do so (and share it) even more! I’m very excited at the thought of seeing this series. Personally I’d vote for a “designer stubble” but could handle pretty well any amount of facial hair, not being averse to the beard! It is the gorgeous Mr A who is wearing it after all. 🙂 Even clean shaven would be okay! I’d love some nape curls too but they might be too much to ask for! My only worry is, will it be shown on Canadian TV or at least one of the US channels I have access to? If all else fails I’ll have to hope it will be available on DVD! 😉

    I had to smile when I noticed this sentence when I went to double check the spelling for averse! “as a former CIA director, he is not averse to secrecy”! How apt when discussing this series! 🙂

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    • jholland · September 24, 2015

      Nape curls… dare we hope? LOL. Yes, very apt sentence there on your spell check. =)

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  3. linnetmoss · September 25, 2015

    The analyst thing does suggest a pair of spectacles, something I would love to see!! I think it will be a fun series.

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  4. Perry · September 25, 2015

    Sex appeal is very useful for a spy, and for increasing the viewing audience. I’m pulling for a beardless, longish haired, Lucas/Porter look – but since he is not actually undercover ( well he is, sort of) he will need to look like a CIA employee, so probably very generic. ( If Richard Armitage could ever look “generic”). Anyway, thanks for this. I think I’ll try out the books myself. Especially if there’ s a good reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · September 25, 2015

      The narrator on the first book wasn’t so terrible that he ruined the book for me, but wasn’t anything special. I like the voices of the narrator in the second book far more! And yes, I think we’re due for some longer hair! I wonder… what are the chances that the average CIA analyst wears black leather? LOL

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      • Perry · September 25, 2015

        I don’t know. Thinking about it, someone who stays at a desk looking over dossiers, computer screens and satellite photos, may look more like a nerd than anything else. We could be in for a Gary Fuller look.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · September 25, 2015

          Well, as “The Dad Look” goes… there’s nothing wrong with Gary Fuller. But… no. I hope not. LOL

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  5. Hariclea · September 27, 2015

    Thanks for much for the research! I definitely like spy books so will pick these up, i am starting to regret having given up my audible membership as i enjoyed quite a few audiobooks this week. And i can see the advantage of being able to listen when i can’t read (and that is on any moving transport as it makes me dizzy).
    Sounds like a good writing style and interesting and effective story lines, i think you must be right in thinking the script should also have those qualities.
    And it will be definitely interesting to see him play the less experienced spy! I am also with you on the hope for some humour, that would be a blessing.
    As for looks i’d really like a change… i’d a Guy without sideburns and yes, why not, with glasses… but he would probably be way to pretty for a spy then! 😀

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    • jholland · September 28, 2015

      I’m enjoying book 2 a lot, and have downloaded book 3 as I’ll likely finish later today. LOL- there’s no such thing as too pretty of a spy- at least not on television! =)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariclea · September 28, 2015

        slaps forehead! silly me! why did i think TV needed to have anything to do with reality 😉 Well to those in production (as i am sure they are reading this :-p) we want Mr A pretty-as-a-picture! 🙂

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