BABYLON BERLIN. Sky 1, a German-language entertainment channel broadcast by Sky Deutschland, premiering on 13 October 2017. The first broadcast consisted of a continuous run of sixteen episodes, with the first eight officially known as Season 1, and the second eight known as Season 2. Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Matthais Brandt. Teleplays by Henk Handolegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim Von Borries (series creators also directors of all sixteen episodes), and author Volker Kutscher.

   Currently there seems to be a taste in Europe for noirish gritty cop dramas, and few of them are grittier or darker than Babylon Berlin (available on Netflix) set in a handsomely rendered Weimar Berlin circa 1929 as the leftover guilt and humiliation of the Great War, the rise of National Socialism, the decadence that inspired the Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye Berlin and the musical Cabaret, and good and bad people caught up in events they can’t control combine with the inevitability of history.

   Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) is a policeman from Cologne, a troubled veteran of the war with PTSD (called here the trembles) and repressed memories. He has been assigned to Berlin on a mission to find a pornographic film the mayor of Cologne is being blackmailed over and assigned to Vice with fat, corrupt, but effective cop Chief Inspector Wolter (Peter Kurth).

   The plot of this sixteen part series that ran two seasons spirals out from that basic situation. A train traveling from the Soviet Union is hijacked by Troskeyites smuggling a car carrying gold to Istanbul to be used against Stalin unaware the train also carries illegal phosgene gas the Soviets have sold to a secretive right wing military group (who Wolter, among others, belongs to) hoping to restore the Kaiser by bringing down the democratic government.

   Meanwhile there is unrest between the police and communists in Berlin threatening to end in violence, Rath and Wolter are closing in on the pornography ring, and a powerful gangster the Armenian (Meisel Mateicvic) tied to the porn ring runs a decadent night club where the chief performer is a crossdressing singer Sevetlana (Severijia Janusauskaite) playing her Trotskeyite lover, the Soviets, and the industrialist importing the poison gas who is also her lover all against each other so she can get the gold.

   Did I mention the May Day riots that kill two hundred communist protesters that the police are trying to cover up, or that Rath is having an affair with the wife of his brother missing since the war whose disappearance is tied to Rath’s illness, the Soviet Secret police, an assassination plot meant to trigger the overthrow of the Weimar government, or the mysterious scarred doctor (Jens Harzer) who has ties to the gangster and an unnatural interest in Rath including substituting his own drugs for the one Rath secretly takes?

   There is also Charlotte Ritter (Fries), living in a hovel with her dying mother, two sisters, evil brother in law, and senile grandfather. Lotte is a party girl, dancing her nights away madly in the club owned by the Armenian and working part time as a prostitute in the basement while by day working for the police as a piece work secretary to keep a roof over her family. Lotte develops a crush on Rath and an ambition to become an assistant investigator under him even when Wolter blackmails her into spying on Rath.

   Also involved in Commissioner Brenda (Brandt), a moral Jewish policeman who represents the best of Rath’s ambitions as the world around him and his own morality become ever more difficult to balance against the pressures of a city and nation in turmoil, both moral and political.

   The cast is uniformly fine, playing believable wounded individuals whose innocence can be as damning as their sins. No one emerges unsullied by the world collapsing around them, and even victories are tinged with the viewers knowledge that history is going to test them far beyond the corruption of their modern Babylon.

   Scenarist Volker Kutscher wrote a novel based on the series and since has written several novels based on the further adventures of Gereon Rath though whether any of them will be dramatized is uncertain. Babylon Berlin is an involving mystery, complex as a Chandler plot, morally questionable as Hammett’s world, and handsomely realized, perfectly designed for binging. For all its darkness it is a highly satisfying excursion into modern European noir.