I don’t usually watch detective/murder mystery programmes, but this one appealed because it was set in early 20th century Vienna – and what a brilliant evocation of time and place it provided. We got the elegance, the buildings, the music, the art, the development of the study of psychology … and, beneath it, something sinister, which the viewer knows will come to the surface in the 1930s. The actual detective stuff was fairly bonkers, but it was worth watching for the setting.
Two lots of serial killing (so far, with a third episode to come). Mostly involving women. Either the scriptwriter or the author of the books on which it’s based is weirdly obsessed with violence against women and dead female bodies, which is a bit creepy. The first one involved a séance and someone getting shot on the Riesenrad. The second one involved a duel and someone murdering people he thought represented characters from an opera. As I said, a bit mad. But the solving of them using Freud’s new science was pretty interesting.
Our hero is Dr Max Liebermann, a British junior doctor living in Vienna for nebulous reasons to do with his dad’s emporium. He’s working alongside a rather useless inspector, Oskar Rheinhardt. Max is a devotee of Freud. We also got a musical evening at which Mahler played, and an art exhibition given by Klimt. And all those lovely, elegant buildings. Beautiful, beautiful Vienna. The only thing lacking was the coffee house culture. No Sachertorte. No strudel. What was going on with that?!
But there were unpleasant elements to it too. Max was frequently called “Dr Jew” by colleagues, and the subject of some other nasty anti-Semitic cracks: a review in the Independent compared it to reading a Momentum member’s social media feed. And there was an extremist group mounting attacks on black people and immigrants to Vienna from the Slavic parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vienna is beautiful … but dangerous. As is the study of psychology – we were actually shown electric shock treatment being carried out.
So there was a lot going on. This is something very different – it’s been compared to Sherlock Holmes, but Sherlock Holmes isn’t set in the fascinating cultural melee that was Vienna in the early 1900s. I’m quite sorry that there are only three episodes. Another series, please!