by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Schwarzes Marken ?
In a police state like East Germany, keeping secrets is paramount to survival even as the state seeks to learn all of them. This episode, though, shows that the time for keeping secrets is over. All of the big ones comes out, both for the better and for the worse.
The biggest reveal for the audience is who Lise is working for, and her turning out to be a member of the Werewolf Battalion – and thus loyal to what the writing calls the Russian Faction – should not come as too much of a shocker. How quickly she turns frigid and bitchy to an evil degree is a little disturbing, as she apparently has no qualms about arranging the torture of her fellow compatriots in the 666 Squadron; she personally orders subordinates to make Pham wish “she hadn't been born,” for instance. That suggests that she was like that before and her whole sweet persona was just an act. What apparently wasn't an act was her affection for Theodor, as she is shown still pining for him even in situations where she doesn't have to pretend anymore and is still intent on winning him over ever after he escapes with Katia on Irisdina's order. Meanwhile, her Russian Faction compatriots have seized full control in Berlin, which raises the question of whether or not we'll see Axmann again. Somehow I think we haven't seen the last of him. Still, the Russian Faction's game plan is also now clear: by having power and still having their country geographically serve as a bulwark against the BETA, they can pretty much force Western forces to acknowledge and work with them against the BETA. That's how they can get away with (or at least why they think they can get away with) utterly alienating – if not outright destroying – the most effective anti-BETA unit the country has.
The one thing that the Russian Faction doesn't have under their control is Katia, and their concern over trying to secure her and pinpoint her real identity is warranted; after all, given that her father was a hero, she could become an anti-Stasi rallying point as someone who had returned to East Germany to renew her father's efforts to protect the country. That is the one trump card that the anti-Stasi forces didn't know that they had, and the one thing that can save them in light of Irisdina being unavailable to be the rallying point herself. Katia decides the time is right to reveal that little secret after she and Theodor manage to hook up with Gretel and some anti-Stasi resistance, and then through them connect with the general Gretel had spoken to earlier, who knew Katia's father and is influential enough to make things happen if he has a symbol to unite people behind. Unfortunately for Major Brehme and Lise, none of the rest of the 666 Squadron beyond Irisdina know that, so their torture efforts are going to be ineffectual. Unfortunately for the 666 Squadron members, the Russian Faction doesn't know that they don't know that.
The episode mostly spares viewers the visuals of the torture scenes (except for one scene of Lise slamming Pham's face into a table) but not the sounds, which makes one mid-episode scene where Annett is shown cringing in a cell as she can hear compatriots being tortured in adjacent cells very disconcerting. The artistry wastes no effort on shading Lise's visage in a thoroughly depraved direction, primarily by putting shadows beneath her eyes, which makes for a jarring contrast to the sweeter look she normally has. A more pleasantly affective artistic twist is a late scene where Irisdina is shown symbolically standing behind Katia in Theodor's vision as Katia makes her stand.
Interestingly, Irisdina is just strung up but not tortured; Brehme apparently wants her to just “rot,” as she sees giving her time to contemplate her failure as even better than torture. That does, however, give the rest of the cast a chance to rescue her whole. (And after all, messing up one of the main love interests is a no-no, isn't it?) That logic seems a little weak. Still, the episode does a pretty good job of showing how people can be trapped into a system they hate because they don't have the ability effectively resist and how a single well-used example can turn that around. That should keep the upcoming plot developments quite lively indeed.
Schwarzes Marken is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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