Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Fox, on MHz

She was trained to do evil, but now she uses her skills to solve crimes. That is not exactly how Anna Marie Fuchs saw it, while she was blinded by her Socialist ideology, but her relationship to her former Stasi masters is definitely complicated. There is a new murder for each episode, but Fuchs keeps wrestling with the same historical baggage throughout the first season of The Fox, which premieres Tuesday on MHz.

Fuchs is somewhat unusual amongst former Stasi agents. She was both tried and acquitted of treason. Her earning power is still limited, but she keeps rejecting job offers from her former boss, Olaf Ruhleben, now the powerful president of a dodgy private security company. Suspecting (with good reason) Ruhleben was behind the abduction and forced adoption of her presumed-late son, Fuchs distrusts her old colleague, but she still keeps trying to pump him for information.

Almost by accident, Fuchs teams up with naturalized Youssef El Kilali, the husband of Simone Pabst, the pregnant proprietress of her favorite coffee shop. Suspiciously, Pabst’s wastrel brother has disappeared, following the murder of his squatter mate. The couple contracts Fuchs’ services with a decidedly low stakes deal, but she and El Kilali work so well together, they decide to open a detective agency.

Their first case with a proper retainer is a bit of a family affair. At first, they are hired by a provincial anti-development activist, but when she is murdered, her daughter maintains their services, even though the son-in-law is a leading suspect. Meanwhile, Fuchs uncovers clues that suggest her son Florian might not have died in a GDR orphanage, as she was told.

Things really come to a head in the fourth episode, when Fuchs intends to confront her ex-husband regarding their son, only to watch as he is gunned down by a mystery assassin. Their family history was about as complicated as it gets. She was assigned to spy on him, but Fuchs only recently learned she was also his snitch assignment as well. Fuchs continues to deal with family issues in the fourth episode, while a new case hits close to home for El Kalili’s family.
 Frankly, the fifth installment, a murder set within the fashion world, is a bit anticlimactic in comparison to the previous two episodes.

Each of the episodic mysteries are okay, but not remarkable. The chemistry between Lina Wendel and Karim Cherif is also pretty good, but not extraordinary. What really distinguishes the show is the murky but fascinated intrigue derived from Fuchs’ Stasi service. Clearly, the oppressive group remains a source of mystery and fear for average Germans. You really get a sense of how the crimes of the Socialist era continue corrupt and warp German society.

Torsten Michaels is also a series standout as the icily manipulative Ruhleben, who is smart and charismatic, in a stone-cold sinister way. The real strength of the show is the way he and Wendel circle and play-off each other. They convey a sense of decades of shared history, of an especially thorny variety. It is not exactly Stockholm Syndrome, but former boss-and-employee dynamic is massively dysfunctional, in a highly realistic way.

When the truth comes out in episode three, it takes on classically tragic dimensions. Admittedly, most viewers will guess the big revelation, but it is still potent stuff. Recommended for the cloak-and-dagger elements more than the murder-mysteries,
The Fox starts streaming Tuesday (5/18) on MHz.