Berlin Station on EPIX – TTG


Berlin Station is a contemporary spy series that follows Daniel Miller (Richard Armitage), an undercover agent who has just arrived at the CIA station in Berlin, Germany. Miller has a clandestine mission: to determine the identity of a now-famous whistleblower masquerading as "Thomas Shaw." Guided by jaded veteran Hector DeJean (Rhys Ifans) Daniel learns to contend with the rough-and-tumble world of the field officer – agent-running, deception, danger and moral compromises. As he dives deeper into the German capital's hall of mirrors and uncovers the threads of a conspiracy that leads back to Washington, Daniel wonders: Can anyone ever be the same after a posting to Berlin? (EPIX)


After reading this intro on a new espionage series on EPIX, I had my trepidations. How they could refer to a CIA case officer working under official cover in an American Embassy as an undercover agent is beyond me. That’s a beginner’s mistake. But seeing this was filmed on location in Berlin, I had to take a look. 

I watched the first two episodes and was impressed. The action and intrigue is understandably compressed for TV. No one wants to watch case officers typing out the many clandestine operation proposals, contact reports and intelligence reports that are a large part of the job. Believe me, we case officers don’t like it either. 

The characters were recognizable. I’ve seen them all and, admittedly, saw parts of myself in some of them. The filming in Berlin was familiar to the point of drawing me deeply into the action. I was never stationed there, but I spent six years working there… a lot.

This passage from an  LA Times review hits the mark.


Apart from the cases at hand, the underlying thrust of the series seems to be that whichever side you work for — be you agent, double agent, lone wolf, acting on principle or just for the pay — espionage will mess you up. Steinhauer doesn't overplay the point — no one's clinically ill here, just navigating the emotional downsides of double-dealing as a daily grind. But we are never completely sure whom to trust and whom even to like, whether to root for the moles or the spooks.

Berlin, old and new, pristine and vandalized, streets bustling with life, still makes a fine setting for this kind of tale, even now that the wall is down, Germany is one and the Cold War, for the next 20 minutes at least, is over. (LA Times)


I heartedly recommend “Berlin Station.”


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21 Responses to Berlin Station on EPIX – TTG

  1. Cvillereader says:

    Richard Armitage is a great actor. He previously played the lead in several seasons of “Spooks”, a British TV series produced by the BBC.

  2. turcopolier says:

    Richardstevenhack and TTG
    I watched the first episode. I prefer any of the Bournie thrillers and for sure the last rendition of “Tinker, tailor…” I was unaware that CIA now has so many gay people in it. Out of date. pl

  3. Richardstevenhack and pl,
    I do like the Alec Guinness version of “Tinker, tailor…” I haven’t seen the newer version. I don’t expect Berlin Station to equal that. I also liked the movies made from Len Deighton’s hook, line and sinker trilogy. I don’t know if they’re available now. My first ops officer, a gruff former SF officer always at odds with higher up, turned me on to Bernard Sampson.
    Seems things have changed in the CIA. There is an officially sanctioned LBGT group there that just had a 20 year anniversary. I now remember the DIA hosting a LBGT celebration for the IC a year or so ago. I probably can accept this more than you. Those 20, 30 years younger than me can accept this better than all of us. Let’s face it. We’re dinosaurs. Having said that, I still sure sex of any type between a C/O and an agent would mean the end of both the C/O and the agent… but I know it has happened.

  4. TofuNFiatRGood4U says:

    What’s the best contemporaneous book on how government agencies like these conduct their business? I would have expected some physical affiliation with an embassy but after reading this posting I wonder if that ever done?

  5. LeaNder says:

    I can recommend a recent US-GB miniseries. Apparently an adaptation of a John le Carré novel, but updated with current events. Both GB and US services are involved. The US to a lesser extend, kind of cooperatively on the side of the not corrupt elements on the British side.
    One central part of the blog are weapon deliveries to Syria. A former MI6 agent manages to get into in the “fortress” of a rich weapons dealer by “saving” his son. … It also contains the necessary suspense elements: Upper layers in the British admin are somewhat involved in paybacks concerning the weapon deals.
    BBC One, 2016, The Night Manager.

  6. turcopolier says:

    “The Night Manager” was very entertaining. All these spook operas with the exception of things based on early LeCarre are focused on the business of covert action by governments rather than on what actual intelligence agencies do in life. That work is the collection, analysis and distribution of information. The bastardized role of CIA in carrying out covert action as well as collecting information using human agents confuses people as to what “intelligence” is about. A further confusion is created in the minds of 3rd worlders by the fact that organizations labelled “intelligence” in their countries are really secret police forces with very little information collection and analysis ability. This is not to say that governments do not conduct covert action in pursuit of policy goals but with the exception of the CIA in the US, these covert actions are normally conducted by very well hidden groups outside the intelligence agencies of the country involved. pl

  7. LeaNder says:

    “plot” not blog. Maybe blog surfaced since I looked up another recent British writer trying to follow in John le Carré’s footsteps: Charles Cummings.
    My struggles around the Philistines versus Pharisees seems to have left a little confusion on my mind.

  8. LeaNder says:

    Definitively entertaining, after all we obviously have this protective instinct as audience for the main character, and he constantly felt somewhat threatened to be uncovered. I loved the camp meeting encounter close to the Syrian/Turkish border.
    Strictly I would put it on the very top of mini-series I have watched recently. But I also loved one thriller series on European cooperation in the organized crime field, admittedly. 😉

  9. TofuNFiatRGood4U,
    CIA collection activities overseas are normally conducted out of the US embassy. The CIA station is physically located in the embassy and CIA officers are given a cover for status job as State Department or some other government agency employee. They almost all have black diplomatic passports. As I understand it, most CIA operations consist of bilateral operations with the host nation intelligence services. That’s seen in “Berlin Station.” The CIA will also try to recruit host nation intelligence officers as clandestine agents. That’s also seen in “Berlin Station” with disastrous results, but it’s how the game is played.
    I never worked out of an embassy and avoided being anywhere near one. An embassy is nothing but a nest of spies to everyone not working in an embassy. I was prohibited from ever using official cover in any of my operations and never had a black passport. Working with the host nation intelligence service was out of the question. They were the opposition.
    As for books, I would start with “The Craft of Intelligence” by Allan Dulles. It’s old, but so is the craft of intelligence. This was required reading when I entered the profession. Outside of this book and our host’s “Intelligence: The Human Factor (Securing the Nation),” I haven’t read many books on intelligence. I’m leery of tell-all exposés written by angry former employees.

  10. turcopolier says:

    TTG et al
    My little book “Intelligence: The Human Factor” was something I did as part of a textbook series just after 9/11. In the end the publishers decided that the series was too frightening for students and cancelled the series after the first two or three volumes on different subjects in national security. There is nothing classified in my book. It is basically a description of the operational cycle in clandestine HUMINT, a cycle followed by all substantial intelligence services. the cycle is described in my book using historical examples. This cycle is basically an exercise in applied psychology in which the recruiter seeks to establish an apparent identity of interests and needs between him/her and the target. when that at least imagined identity of interests is made the target often foolishly volunteers to “work.” Sounds easy? It is not. For one thing the psychological damage to the recruiter is considerable. To be a really accomplished recruiter one must be deeply empathic in a situation in which the recruiter/handler must be prepared to sacrifice the “asset” to the national interest or what is imagined to be the national interest by some selfish bastard on high. As TTG wrote 90% of what a clandestine recruiter/handler does is paperwork designed to enable superiors to judge the worth of what the operator does or plans to do. BTW I hate the name of my book. the publisher picked that. “The Craft of Espionage” is what I would have called it. I would like to revise and re-publish but the company was acquired out of existence and I am unable to buy the copyright. pl

  11. oofda says:

    Can we still purchase your book? The three volumes that were printed, that is.

  12. SAC Brat says:

    I have a copy, and it seemed to appear (and the working with tribes article) at the same time I was being sent out often to organize people and clean up problems for the company I worked for.
    It all made sense to a military brat.

  13. SAC Brat says:

    What’d you think of Len Deighton’s spy with no namebooks, some of which became Harry Palmer films? I like how the protagonist makes mistakes and nothing is ever cleanly settled. In “The Billion Dollar Brain” he calls out right wing groups really well.

  14. SAC Brat,
    Deighton is a great writer,but I still prefer the exploits of Bernard Sampson to the unnamed C/O who became Harry Palmer. Bernard’s more recognizable and relatable to me. Except SWMBO never worked for the KGB.

  15. SAC Brat says:

    No worries. I thought the Sampson series had some excessive drama but still liked them since I had visited Berlin just after reuninfication and had many German friends from the war years. I was always sympathetic to the Berlin residents having lived on military targets in my past. The pressure there in Berlin must have been intense during the Cold War.
    I always liked the Colonel Stok character in the no name books. It reminded me of the Soviet agent Yaskov in the Walter Mathhau movie “Hopscotch”. Why fight when you can do business that doesn’t hurt either side?
    There was a CIA couple from the Moscow Station who wrote a book about their experiences there and had a PBS show about it. I lost the name of it but always wanted to read it.

  16. As I mentioned earlier, Berlin is a special place for me. I first worked there just as the Wall was coming down and saw the city change over the next six years. Everything about Berlin and my life there was fascinating. I only wish I had the opportunity to be stationed there earlier with 10th Group’s Det A. That would have been better than any Deighton, le Carré or Fleming novel.
    Funny you should mention Hopscotch. I love that one and everything Matthau did do his bosses.

  17. LeaNder says:

    Yes, easily, oofda. It’s a slim volume. Do not expect the the “Truth will set us free” type of literature. No harm meant, seriously. Got into the fangs of the lover’s of fiction=reality for a while in the 9/11 aftermath. Interesting self-experiment.
    Intelligence: The Human Factor (Securing the Nation) Hardcover – January, 2004
    by W. Patrick Lang
    Check, or any alternative used book channels you prefer.

  18. LeaNder says:

    Interesting, Babak, I wasn’t aware of the man. You don’t have an idea what associational chain that triggers. Or maybe you do. Interestingly it has Berlin angles, art scene Berlin angles. 😉
    Has anything changed?
    No obviously not. How could it be otherwise? Ask Yanis Varoufakis. It’s the same approach all over again only shifted from land into the realm of economical matters: “If greed did not cause it, what did?”
    The euro, it must be remembered, was conceived at the height of the Grand Hoover’s reign. Germany thought that it could extend its growth model to the eurozone. Convinced that the Grand Hoover would continue to suck in its surpluses, Germany thought that its surpluses could expand further within Europe if deficit countries like Greece, Spain, Italy etc. were given a strong DM-linked currency. Germany’s condition for sharing its currency with the rest was that nothing else would be shared except for the common currency: Debt, taxes, government expenditure would be all nation-state-specific. Each euro of debt would belong to one country only and no surplus recycling mechanism would be set up.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You asked: “If greed did not cause it, what did?”
    The answer is usually referred to as “The Crooked Timber of Humanity”.
    It is an incurable affliction; the patients change, the condition remains and the deaths and maiming continues.

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