Remember how we all obsessed over Money Heist? That Spanish heist drama had us glued to our screens back in 2017, thanks to its thrilling bank robberies, genius schemes cooked up by The Professor, and the unforgettable crew in red jumpsuits and Salvador Dalí masks.
One of the standouts was Berlin, the terminally ill bank robber with psychopathic tendencies but undeniable magnetism. Played to perfection by Pedro Alonso, Berlin became a fan favorite despite his many flaws.
Now Berlin is back in his own Netflix spinoff series, also called Berlin. We go back in time to Berlin’s glory days before Money Heist, when he was in peak criminal form assembling a crew to pull off an epic 44 million euro jewel heist in Paris.
It’s a tempting premise for those of us needing our Money Heist fix. Who wouldn’t want more of Berlin’s sly charm and criminal masterminding? But as we’ll see, going back in time doesn’t guarantee this prequel will bring the same magic as the original. Strap in, because we’re about to unpack everything this flashy yet flawed crime caper has to offer.
The Story in a Nutshell
Berlin wastes no time assembling his crack team of thieves, including the nervous hacker Keila, the locksmith Roi, the scholarly Damián, and the deceptively smart Bruce. Their first mission is posing as cops to swipe a chalice from an antiquities collector.
This chalice is key to Berlin’s bigger score: swiping 44 million euros worth of jewels from a heavily guarded Parisian auction house. The plan is to age the chalice and pretend they discovered it buried under a church. This archaeological “find” will give them access to the catacombs underneath, which connect to the auction house vault.
Of course, timing is everything for this heist. The crew surveils the auctioneer’s apartment to pinpoint when a major jewel shipment arrives, so they can strike. But Berlin gets distracted when he becomes infatuated with the auctioneer’s wife Camille after seeing her sing jazz at a club. His obsession threatens to derail the entire operation.
After some close scrapes and lucky breaks, Berlin’s crew manages to pull off the brazen jewel theft. But their celebrations are short-lived once the heist kicks off a citywide manhunt by police. Berlin and company now must rely on their wits and expertise to lose the cops and secure their newfound riches.
With its elaborate schemes and captivating locales, Berlin delivers the thrilling heist storyline Money Heist fans crave. But it’s the engaging characters, from Berlin’s mercurial nature to the crew’s distinct personalities, that really drives the action.
Where Berlin Shines
One huge point in Berlin’s favor is Pedro Alonso slipping effortlessly back into the role of Berlin. Alonso just oozes charisma as the narcissistic criminal mastermind, perfectly balancing Berlin’s magnetism, ego, and psychopathic impulses. It’s easy to see why he became the breakout star of Money Heist. Alonso continues to captivate here, reminding us why we fell for this deeply flawed antihero in the first place.
The ensemble cast also gels nicely, with a diverse mix of personalities to liven up the heists. Michelle Jenner is endearingly awkward as the bashful hacker Keila. Julio Peña brings street smarts and grit as Roi the locksmith. And Tristán Ulloa excels as the scholarly Damián, providing a thoughtful counterpoint to Berlin’s reckless tendencies. The cast have an easy chemistry that makes you want to root for the crew.
Cinematography is another high point, with sweeping shots of Parisian landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and jam-packed jazz clubs. The camera lingers on labyrinthian streets and alleys, heightening the sense of mystery. You really feel transported to the City of Light.
Fans of elaborate heist plots will also appreciate Berlin’s intricate scheming, from aging the chalice to surveilling the auctioneer’s movements. It’s thrilling to see the pieces fall into place. And the crew’s methods, from disguises to diversions, showcase a captivating criminal creativity.
Of course, Berlin himself remains the main attraction. We get front-row seats to his bold plans, ostentatious lifestyle, and dangerous liaisons. Alonso perfectly embodies Berlin’s uncontrolled impulses when he becomes fixated on the auctioneer’s wife. This questionable moral compass makes Berlin more intriguing than your standard gentleman thief.
Finally, Berlin smartly builds on a popular Money Heist character, satisfying our curiosity about Berlin’s past. Seeing where he honed his criminal skills provides insight into how he eventually became the Professor’s right-hand man. As origin stories go, Berlin offers juicy glimpses into this fan favorite’s glory days.
Where Berlin Falls Short
For all its slick production values, Berlin stumbles in some frustrating ways. The biggest letdown is how the central heist concludes by the midpoint of the season. After all that meticulous planning, we expect an epic, multi-episode vault break-in. Instead, it’s essentially resolved in a montage, denying us that heart-pounding action.
With the main heist out of the way early, the show shifts focus to various subplots and relationships. But these feel contrived, with random obstacles thrown in just to pad out the season. The stakes also plummet after the jewels are stolen, draining the momentum.
Berlin relies heavily on coincidences and serendipity to progress the plot rather than intelligent schemes. The crew seems to get out of jams through sheer luck versus the ingenious plans we saw on Money Heist. It’s less satisfying seeing things work out so conveniently.
The show also falls into typical heist movie clichés, like the wise scholar, the nervous newbie, the charismatic leader. None of the supporting characters get meaningful development; they remain flat archetypes. This makes it hard to invest in anyone but Berlin.
Problematic for today’s audience is the sexist portrayal of many female characters. They’re naive, overly emotional, and defined solely by their relationships with men. Berlin does call out misogyny at times, but then continues to depict unhealthy relationship dynamics played for laughs.
Berlin’s own behavior is also questionable, given his toxicity and manipulation in pursuing women. But the show fails to seriously address his immoral nature. At times it even seems to condone his harassing tactics. Berlin too often comes across as a cool antihero versus a dangerous sociopath.
With lower stakes, a rushed heist, and one-dimensional characters, Berlin lacks the urgency and suspense that made Money Heist so gripping. In the end, it coasts more on nostalgic references to the original versus delivering a compelling prequel story. It’s an enjoyable reunion with Berlin, but not much more.
Berlin’s Most Memorable Moments
One of the best parts of Berlin is those standout scenes that stick with you. The opening sequence smartly kicks things off by showcasing Berlin’s magnetism as he smoothly assembles his crew. Their banter and distinct personalities pop from the start.
The first heist also cracks open Berlin’s criminal world, with the crew posing as cops to slyly steal a chalice. The tension as they sneak through the mansion party hints at the bigger thrills ahead.
We get an adrenaline rush when Berlin brings in new crew member Cameron, a wildcard who pulls reckless stunts like riding on top of a speeding car. Her dangerous past adds intrigue.
Of course, Berlin becomes most unhinged when staking out the auctioneer’s apartment as part of the jewel heist prep. His growing obsession with the auctioneer’s wife Camille signals big trouble for the job. Alonso perfectly captures Berlin’s shifting moods during this questionable pursuit.
One clever sequence involves the crew fooling a priest to get access to the catacombs by pretending to discover a historical artifact. This ingenious manipulation sets the jewel heist in motion.
And Money Heist fans will appreciate surprise cameos by characters from the original show. These nods help organically tie the prequel series together with the Madrid heists we know and love.
While light on substance, Berlin manages to deliver some visually memorable and character-driven scenes to satisfy our nostalgia. These flashes of inspiration suggest the potential for a truly great Berlin-focused story.
How Berlin Compares to Money Heist
It’s impossible not to measure Berlin against the original phenomenon that spawned it. And while the prequel offers some fun parallels, it ultimately falls short of capturing Money Heist’s magic.
The main heists in Berlin lack the mounting tension and unexpected twists that kept Money Heist viewers buzzing week to week. We don’t get those urgent hostage negotiations or expert manipulations by The Professor that created such high stakes.
Berlin’s schemes also rely more on luck versus the ingenious plans that defined Money Heist. The prequel leans into relationships over heist details, draining some of the rebellious spirit that intrigued us.
The Professor simply made a more compelling criminal leader than Berlin, carefully maneuvering law enforcement like chess pieces. Berlin is too reckless and uncontrolled to match The Professor’s calculated genius.
The side characters also can’t compete with Money Heist’s ensemble. Berlin’s crew, though enjoyable, remain pretty one-dimensional. There’s no one as complex and endearing as Tokyo, Helsinki, Nairobi and others from the original.
To its credit, Berlin does try to organically tie itself to the flagship series, from recreating the red jumpsuits to those welcomed cameos. Fans will appreciate these respectful nods to the Madrid heists. But overall, the prequel lacks the emotional stakes and riveting thrills of Money Heist at its best.
Berlin carries its predecessor’s DNA. But it relies more heavily on nostalgic references versus forging its own distinct criminal universe. The parts are all there, but the execution can’t rekindle that initial flame. Berlin offers a pleasant reunion with some beloved characters, but not an essential chapter.
Berlin Ultimately Disappoints
When all is said and done, Berlin fails to deliver a compelling backstory for one of Money Heist’s most beloved characters. The flashy production and Pedro Alonso’s performance briefly recapture that old thrilling spirit, but the flimsy plot and one-note characters render it a mediocre addition to the franchise.
The show’s strengths lie mainly in nostalgia versus inventive storytelling. Fans will enjoy seeing Alonso slip back into the role of Berlin, and the nods to Money Heist are appreciated. But the heist wraps up too quickly, and Berlin’s questionable behavior goes unexamined.
Most side characters feel like archetypes rather than complex personalities worth investing in emotionally. The central relationships are also unconvincing, making it hard to care about the romantic subplots.
For all its cinematic style, Berlin ultimately lacks the substance and ingenuity that made the original Money Heist so addictive. The prequel leans heavily on convoluted schemes versus intelligent writing. In the end, it feels more like a rehash of familiar scenarios than a compelling exploration of Berlin’s past.
Casual viewers may come away disappointed. But die-hard Money Heist fans eager for more of Berlin’s peculiar charm will find enough here to entertain them, even if the series adds little meaningful insight. Think of it as a decent piece of popcorn TV, but not an essential chapter in the saga.
Berlin may steal a few evenings of your time, but won’t leave the same thrilling imprint as its predecessor. This flashy yet flawed prequel proves trying to recreate magic is harder than executing the perfect heist.
Overall, Berlin is a lackluster spinoff that fails to recapture the ingenuity of Money Heist. Despite flashes of potential, the mediocre plot and one-dimensional characters render this prequel an unnecessary addition to the franchise.
- Strong performance by Pedro Alonso as Berlin
- Good chemistry among the ensemble cast
- Gorgeous cinematography of Paris locales
- Creative criminal schemes and heists
- Builds on backstory of a popular character
- Main heist wraps up too quickly
- Overuse of convenience in plot instead of intelligent writing
- Underdeveloped side characters
- Problematic/sexist portrayal of female characters
- Fails to examine Berlin's immoral behavior
- Lower stakes compared to Money Heist
- Contrived relationship subplots
- Lacks suspense and twists of the original