‘Berlin Station’ Finale: Michelle Forbes on Valerie’s Vulnerability and Trusting Other Spies

Berlin Station - Richard Armitage, Michelle Forbes, Rhys Ifans
Richard Armitage, Michelle Forbes, Rhys Ifans

Spies are a tricky bunch. It’s their nature to have deep, dark secrets and hidden agendas. But when they’re all on the same page, they can also be a pretty powerful bunch. That’s surely the case with EPIX’s Berlin Station, a drama about a group of CIA operatives, which wraps its first season Sunday.

In the season finale, former station chief Steven Frost (Richard Jenkins) has been imprisoned and the identity of whistleblower Thomas Shaw has been revealed (no spoilers here if you’re not caught up!), the rest of the spies come together to not only get him out but to also conquer some other forces that have been working against them.

TV Insider sat down with Forbes to get some insight into the finale, Valerie’s relationship with the crafty Robert Kirsch (Leland Orser) as well as why she’s excited to get back to Berlin to film the show’s second season.

There’s a great moment where we see Valerie pretty vulnerable. I feel like it’s been building all season but how was it to play that moment?

I always fought to keep Valerie’s femininity and her vulnerability, even though it’s a very ruthless cunning world that they live in. I reject that idea that women in a man’s world have to behave like men. I just reject it. I think it’s actually more damaging to everyone involved. That’s my own personal opinion. Please don’t send any letters! [laughs]

But to maintain your sense of humanity…there was a speech I had with Frost where I said, “You used to care about the human cost. You used to care about the repercussions. What’s happened to you? This is really just about your political ascension!” The two of them together are sort of two of the same. It’s sort of Valerie against these two guys.

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A bulk of the season saw all the characters off on their own journeys and they’d cross here and there but the finale sees a lot of you together again, like you needed to work together. It was necessary, right?

Yeah, and it was important that as we watched over nine episodes, this station falling apart and fragmenting, and relationships completely fracturing and imploding, again for it to come back at the end. Unfortunately, once Robert threatened Valerie, she wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She turned it around and wanted to see what he was up to, found out something about him and somehow they were able to heal this. I don’t know if they’ll ever truly trust each other ever, but it seemed to work in this moment. I think sometimes all you can do is fix that one moment.

In the finale, Valerie and Kirsch end up working together and Valerie even says, “I don’t know why I’m trusting you?” Why does she trust him in this point in the story when he’s given her so many reasons not to?

I think that hit such a crescendo at that point. When we first step into the story, we’re stepping into an earthquake of these leaks, right? We’re all dealing with the aftershocks and the infrastructure damage, and on top of that, it just starts spiraling into dynamics and betrayals and deaths and losses that people weren’t expecting. And [regarding Kirsch] how do you even cope with understanding somebody you’ve been working side by side with has betrayed you, and then he tells you he hasn’t?

We all lie. I think this is when you have to rely on your gut and your instinct. You can’t really because Valerie had relied on her gut and her instinct and knowing Kirsch was always a little shifty, a little dodgy, an opportunist and a company man. Knowing that he’s always going to do the politically right thing to get ahead. It’s so opposite to the way Valerie conducts her business. Still she respected him and respected his contribution.

Here’s a sneak peek of the finale:

When the world seems against you, you have a choice to shut down your heart, become incredibly bitter, and put up your dukes and fight everybody or do you try to keep your heart open and most importantly your brain open? I don’t think CIA people talk about keeping your heart open. Keeping your intuition and your brain open in case you’re missing something, that’s what I’ve learned about these people. They always have to have that third eye.

When do you go back to start shooting the next season?

It’s exciting for this year because we’re going back in April or May. Last year we went in November so we had a long cold winter in Berlin … super cold. Although there were many beautiful nights of delicious, hardy German soup and ginger tea locked in cozy little places, it’s going to be really beautiful to be there when Berlin is just vibrant and exciting and there’s so much going on and it’s green. The show has two such different moods and looks. The fact that we get to see both of these in two different seasons is really exciting.

Berlin Station, Sundays, 9/8c, EPIX.