SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Berlin Station Season 2 finale.
EXCLUSIVE: “I wanted to leave them with a sense of a satisfying end to an extremely complicated narrative landscape,” says Berlin Station executive producer of tonight’s Season 2 finale of the Epix spy series. “Also, whereas our characters started with a certain set of assumptions at the beginning of the season only to see many of those assumptions turned inside out, I would hope that the viewer feels a similar sense of surprise,” the showrunner added of the twists, turns and resurrections of sorts that culminated in the “Winners Right The History Books” episode.
Starting with a new boss in the form of Ashley Judd’s BB Yates at the CIA station in the German capitol, a protocol busting ad power flexing Ambassador, unsanctioned operations and an election seemed certain to herald a return of the Far Right to the Bundestag, the October 15 debut of the second season of the Olen Steinhauer-created series also saw some familiar faces up to their old tricks in new circumstances.
Riddled with uncanny similarities to the real politick of the past several months, Yates, Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage), Robert Kirsch (Leland Orser), Valerie Edwards (Michelle Forbes) plus new addition April Lewis (Keke Palmer) and local spy boss Esther Krug (Mina Tander) all try to prevent a terror attack and assassination ploy orchestrated by the Far Right to influence the German voting. Add to that a compromising and potentially compromised hardliner in PfD second-in-command Joseph Emerich (Heino Frech). Then there’s return of ex-Station chief Steven Frost (Richard Jenkins) and the semi-retired Hector DeJean (Rhys Ifans) to Berlin Station and, after the cavalry almost make it, you have a scampering series that literally ends with DeJean’s presumed death to save U.S. and German relations and a sail off into the sunset.
With the consequences and deflection of the spy game, the shifts on the international landscape and some narrative nimbleness all in hand, Winters spoke with me about tonight’s finale and the weaving road to get there. The EP also discussed working with Judd amidst the unfolding Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations. Additionally, The Americans alum addressed he and his writing staff’s political prophecy and whether or not Berlin Station will actually be back for a third season.
DEADLINE: In the end, Season 2 really played out as the return, downfall, death, and redemption of Hector DeJean. Rhys’ character feels like the heart and primary stimulant of Berlin Station, was that why he couldn’t ultimately die in the end?
WINTERS: We went into the season with very open minds as to what to do with Hector regarding the situation he was in post Season 1. How can he join the fold of the station again given his status? One of the great creative challenges of the second season was how to make the Hector character fit into things in a natural way — in a credible way. We obviously discussed a lot what to do about Hector and killing him off. We were very open to it. You always want to go with the movement of greatest creative integrity even if you don’t want to say goodbye to the character, but we really did discuss it a lot.
DEADLINE: How did those discussions lead to the sailing off into the sunset of the finale?
WINTERS: Keeping the Season 1 Hector storyline in mind — and this sort of self-punitive torture that he went through as Thomas Shaw, as Daniel said in Season 1 — letting Hector go free was not necessarily equivalent to liberty for Hector.
When all the narrative streams converged as we broke the finale we realized Berlin Station is in a serious fix with the threat of expulsion from Germany. What are they going to do about it? That’s the essential question of the final episode is what do they do about the fix that they’re in? The apparent death of Hector seemed to be their best way out in a sense. So it sort of was taking care of more than just the question of what do we do about Hector.
DEADLINE: In a pretty close to home and reality season, at least geopolitically, what were the other questions you pondered?
WINTERS: I think now, at the end of the finale, where, scene-to-scene, you get to sort of transition from heart-wrenching emotional material to action-packed material. I think that’s where the show can be strongest and certainly most sort of exciting and satisfying to write for is that fluidity and not having to be pigeonholed in the slow burn of a character drama or the plot-centric ways of a thriller. There’s nothing wrong with either of those but being able to transition between those two at will, I think, is one of the ways that Berlin Station hopefully has distinguished itself.
DEADLINE: So, with all that, what are the prospects looking like for a Season 3?
WINTERS: Obviously there’s been the new management with MGM and then Michael Wright taking over at Epix so I know it’s a time of great transition. Joslyn Diaz and Epix at large have been great supporters of this show, real advocates, real supporters as have Paramount. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of true support from the studio and network but we’ll see. One has fingers crossed.
DEADLINE: More than crossed, have those fingers of yours been outlining some scripts for next season?
WINTERS: Well, fortunately, I think it’s a show that just lends itself to continuous story both in the global sense and in the character sense. I think the ensemble nature of the show undergirds it with such potential in terms of character-based storytelling. Looking at the world at the moment there’s just no shortage of arenas to dive into.
DEADLINE: A lot of this season mirrored almost real-time events, especially in a Germany that has stumbled into its own past and saw the return of the far Right to the Bundestag. How far into the process of Season 2 were you as such events began to unfold?
WINTERS: I knew before the room started back in September of 2016 that I wanted to deal with the rise of the far right and sort of take a lot of the issues that we in America have been wrestling with and kind of transpose it to a European context. We didn’t know then how our own election would turn out, let alone the elections in Germany.
So starting with the results in the American election — that was the first big surprise — even though we don’t deal with that in the show. But watching the real-time news unfold here, I mean, it’s been kind of surreal. I mean, we were working on this in the winter and spring and summer in the writing but much of this was done months ahead of the German election. I knew that, of course, the show would be airing right around the time of the German elections and that’s why we dove into this arena. In the end, the way it actually turned out is right on par with watching the show. That was the most surreal thing of all.
You know, we really did our best to approach this without any political agendas in play and to really let character lead the way and hopefully punch through caricature that has defined so much of the partisan debate on the subject matter. That was really the job, as I saw it and as we saw it
DEADLINE: OK, but you were very close to reality, very close…
WINTERS: I remember distinctly when the German election results came in and the numbers were pretty much [what] we were sort of guessing at in the show. What do you say? I don’t presume any particular powers in that sense and now that the coalition talks are really up again and they might be having another election, I mean, that I never would have foreseen.
DEADLINE: Surely another unforeseen element had to be the spotlight on Ashley Judd that started to shine as the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment first became public in that October 5 New York Times expose – less that two-weeks before the Season 2 debut. What was that like for the show, which Ashley was just about to make her first appearance on in a major role?
WINTERS: First of all, there was zero foresight of any of that. I mean, perhaps one might say maybe there was some foresight in terms of a German election but as far as that stuff, I was stunned when that came in the news. It came to the news so close before the show premiered. It was equally — if more surreal — than the German election just because of the nature of her character as a very empowered woman working for a very patriarchal institution.
I don’t really know what to say about that except that she brought a lot to that role — a lot. We knew going into Season 2 that we wanted to sort of turn the tables and have a woman come into fill the shoes of Steven Frost opposite the rise of Esther Krug and the DFA. That ended up being with Ashley, which was great.
Otherwise, I don’t know what to say about that because I distinctly remember sitting down with the New York Times that day in October and thinking this is…I mean, first and foremost it’s devastating and terrible. What else do you say? I was speechless then and I’m speechless now. All I can say is I think that role was created to exhibit exactly the kind of qualities that Ashley has showed in handling this whole saga.
DEADLINE: It is a vile thing she and others have seemingly been subjected to and even now it is out there, little of the stench of the behavior of Weinstein and those like him is easily washed off.
DEADLINE: In terms of Berlin Station, the second season ends with Hector assassinated and taking the fall but not dead. It also ends with Richard’s character sort of reconnecting with himself, the new leader of the German far right now basically in the pocket of the CIA, rogue elements in the intelligence community talking about things like the fatherland, rogue intelligence agencies and yet you have a blustery ambassador now much more reasonable to deal with…
DEADLINE: So, with all that and more, what do you want to leave viewers of Berlin Station Season 2 with?
WINTERS: I wanted to leave them with a sense of a satisfying end to an extremely complicated narrative landscape. Also, whereas our characters started with a certain set of assumptions at the beginning of the season only to see many of those assumptions turned inside out, I would hope that the viewer feels a similar sense of surprise. As well as [a] degree of both closure and open-endedness that this is a show that the viewer wants to go on.
I think the trick here was to bring this Season 2 storyline to a satisfying close but at the same time open up doors going forward. To do those both at once is certainly a great challenge in any show and all the more so with so many characters in play. So, I think a sense of just feeling satisfied is what I want to end with. That word keeps coming to mind: really satisfied — hungry for more, curious to see where this world might go next.
— Larry Cohen (@larryjcohen) December 3, 2017