What’s Worth Watching: Spying Over the Wall

Deutschland 83
Laura Deschner/Sundance TV
Deutschland 83

Deutschland 83 (Wednesday, June 17, 11/10c, SundanceTV)

If you (like me) are going through The Americans withdrawal, anxiously waiting for the fourth season of FX’s emotionally charged spy drama to begin (presumably in winter 2016), here’s an unusual little gem to tide you over. In what is said to be the first German-language import to air, with subtitles, on a U.S. network, Deutschland 83 is a quietly suspenseful thriller that presents as its empathetic antihero a young East German recruit going undercover on the West side of the Berlin Wall. Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay) is a most reluctant spy, coerced into duty by his duplicitous aunt (Maria Schrader), using his sick mother’s need for a kidney transplant—hard to get in repressed East Germany—to keep him on mission, although he often seems more concerned with being separated from his girlfriend.

Taking on a false identity to become a NATO mole with access to classified secrets at the height of Cold War nuclear tension, Martin is undeniably an amateur at the spy game, but a willing and apt pupil. Some close calls—one owing to his inexperience, the other testing his mettle as an action hero—will keep the viewer riveted to Martin’s precarious situation.