Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Marnow Murders, on MHz

These bad guys represent an unholy alliance everyone can root against. Two German cops will stumble across a GDR conspiracy involving the Stasi from the East and a Big Pharma company from the West. Unfortunately, their dealings followed according to the Stasi’s code of ethics—and inevitably it was average East German citizens who paid the price. Someone wants to keep their dirty business safely buried in writer Holger Karsten Schmidt’s eight-episode The Marnow Murders, which is now streaming on MHz.

Initially, Frank Elling and Lona Mendt assumed their first victim was killed as revenge for his crimes as a pedophile, based on evidence found at the scene. Then they are called to another crime-scene with a body murdered in an identical manner. Shortly thereafter, forensics informs them all incriminating material found on the first victim’s computer was planted post-mortem. Clearly, something fishy is afoot, but a strange woman claiming to represent a group of sexual-abuse survivors offers the financially-strapped Elling a sizable bribe to bury the case.

Elling suspects there is something wrong with her, but he takes the down-payment anyway. Rather inconveniently, the shadowy cabal uses video and audio recordings of the transaction to blackmail him. Even though he was an idiot, Mendt loyally agrees to help him deal with the extortioners. However, they will have to keep everything secret from Soren Jasper, their third subordinate team member, even though Mendt has been sleeping with the younger (and very much engaged) junior cop. Meanwhile, the killer continues to pile up more bodies.

Things get extremely messy incredibly quickly in
Marnow, named for a former GDR lake resort town, which all of the victims were somehow connected to. There is also a hospital there that has long been the subject of rumors. In terms of ideology, this series is scornful of anything big, including the big business of the West, the big oppressive government of the former East, and even the big dumb bureaucracy of the cops’ provincial police district.

Elling and Mendt probably have more narrow escapes than Dexter Morgan and end up with nearly as much blood on their hands, accidentally, metaphorical, and sometimes through very direct blundering. This case is just physically and emotionally exhausting just to watch, but Schmidt masterfully manages to cook up one-gosh-darned-thing-after-another to throw at them.

As Elling, Sascha Alexander Gersak often looks like a homeless derelict on the verge of cardiac arrest, but viewers sure can believe he is the cynical screw-up of the force. Petra Schmidt-Schaller also makes Mendt quite a self-destructive hot mess. Honestly, their department needs much better psych screening, but it is highly compelling to see them work a case with such grave stakes.

Our two heroes have a worthy antagonist in Bernd Peters, a spectacularly corrupt and slimy Federal Police Officer (sort of like an FBI agent) keeping tabs on them for the powerful string-puller. Played with gleeful relish by Jorg Schuttauf, he might be the most loathsome villain of the year, (at least among the fictional ones).

There is no nostalgia for the old days of Communism in
Marnow Murders, but it isn’t too crazy about contemporary Germany either. Maybe we aren’t either. The characters are hard to like, but that makes it easier to enjoy the mountains of trouble they build for themselves. It’s a seriously sweaty and hardboiled thriller in the tradition of sunny noirs. Recommended for fans of twisty international procedurals, The Marnow Murders is now streaming on MHz.