Netflix has proven itself to be committed to bringing international programming to American audiences for a while now -- well before Parasite took the world by storm and placed a spotlight on foreign programming -- and it's done so through its ever-expanding library of original shows as well as its acquisition of exceptional foreign programs like Babylon Berlin, a stunning and cinematic crime drama from Germany whose first two season debuted on the streaming service in 2018. After a very long wait, the show finally returns to Netflix for its highly anticipated third season on Sunday, March 1, so if you haven't yet experienced the twists and turns of this neo-noir, now is the perfect time to jump in.

Set in 1929, during the Golden Years of the Weimar Republic, Babylon Berlin -- the most expensive series ever produced in Germany -- mixes crime, sex, drugs, and politics into an intoxicating cocktail that calls to mind the hard-boiled noir of Raymond Chandler. The show, which is actually based on a series of novels by German writer Volker Kutscher, follows Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), a young detective and a World War I veteran suffering from both PTSD and a big helping of survivor's guilt after he returned from the war but the older brother he followed to the Front did not.

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On assignment from Cologne, where his father is high up in the police force, Rath is tasked with investigating a pornography ring with his new partner on Berlin's vice squad, Bruno Wolter (Peter Kurth). An unscrupulous older detective who makes no attempt to hide his resentment for the republic or the communists in Germany, Wolter isn't above using violence and blackmail to get what he wants, especially as it pertains to his new partner, whom he doesn't trust, perhaps because Rath is also secretly attempting to locate a pornographic film that has been used to extort a top official in Cologne. And it's actually his search for this film that kicks off Babylon Berlin's thrilling multi-layered narrative, as it leads Rath into Berlin's seedy underworld where he runs into powerful gangsters, uncovers surprising traitors, and stumbles upon shocking conspiracies.

Babylon Berlin

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But he's not alone. Through it all, Rath is aided in his investigation by an unlikely partner, Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), an intuitive flapper from the slums who dreams of becoming the first female homicide detective in Berlin by day but spends her evenings either dancing in Berlin's popular Moka Efti cabaret or working in the brothel downstairs. Because of the sexism of the era, Charlotte is frequently underestimated by those around her, but she proves herself to be exceptionally clever and more than capable when it comes to detective work, and as the show progresses, the relationship between Rath and Charlotte deepens from one that is merely professionally beneficial to both parties into one of respectful friendship.

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But while Rath and Charlotte make an intriguing detective team, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, the city of Berlin and its political discord is the true star of the show. The city -- which is brought to life through impressive visuals and expert direction -- is a study in contrasts; as Charlotte and many more like her fill the cabaret night after night, the impoverished remain huddled in the streets begging for work. While the economy might be booming -- the series is set six months before the stock market crash that will plunge the world into the Great Depression -- civil unrest is growing and threatening to topple everything. Being able to weave together interconnected storylines involving so many different people representing different aspects of Berlin society -- Rath and Charlotte, Soviet agents, Trotskyists, revanchists, gangsters, various police factions, corrupt businessmen, and more -- is the show's greatest asset. And as the show highlights just how fragile democracy was in the years prior to the rise of the Nazis, who at this point are nothing more than a fringe group but whom viewers know are waiting in the wings, knowing what happens after the Golden Years of the Weimar Republic adds plenty more tension as the narrative threads slowly come together. When the show dives into Season 3, the strings are only going to be wound tighter and tighter, and it's going to be fascinating to watch.

Babylon Berlin Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix. Season 3 premieres Sunday, March 1.

Babylon Berlin

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Other Links From Babylon BerlinLiv Lisa FriesVolker BruchPeter Kurth