The Typist

4 out of 5

Created by: Nina Grosse

The Typist, a German miniseries starring Iris Berben as Freya, a transcriber of interrogations for the police, seems very much to be following in the footsteps of the popular Nordic noir subgenre, with moody music, quiet, contemplative characters, and cryptic scenes which seem to be setting the pieces of a mystery in place.  Freya is haunted by dreams of a girl we find out is her missing daughter; her brother, Jo (Moritz Bleibtreu) may have some type of dealings with an escort service; Freya – otherwise something of an isolationist – seems to chat up a fella at a bar, only to have a clandestine meeting with him in which some type of secretive plans are discussed…

But before long, The Typist makes it clear that there’s not exactly a mystery to solve; the show’s focus is more on understanding the motivations as to why our characters to behave the way they do, and it’s immensely satisfying the way plot pieces are confidently slid into place along the way.  What’s most surprising, though, and where the setup diverges from series with a similar, moody tone, is the way it doesn’t hold back regarding Freya: an early event – a crime – undeniably shapes how we must view her character, and there’s no tricksy avoidance of what actually occurred.  Even then, instead of the show backpedaling and turning into a cat-and-mouse affair – which, again, would be a typical premise for like-minded TV – The Typist presses on, Freya continuing in what we learn is her pursuit of information regarding her daughter, or at least some sense of closure regarding it.  Berben is phenomenal at portraying the effects of this quest, with it having completely taken over her life, and her inability to allow herself the simple pleasures of, for example, the company of friends.

On the fringes of this story we get a new police captain, Henry (Peter Kurth), who has his own ghosts – a reputation; a history of drinking – and is in the process of course correcting that, trying to reconnect with his son and maintain the right impressions with his subordinates.  The Typist weaves Henry’s story into Freya’s effectively, never taking away from the focus, but making the duality of their trajectories a powerful component of the setup.  However, some side stories aren’t afforded this same care, with Jo’s personal life sort of wedged into things, seeming to be more important than it ever really is, and some of the other police crew given names and occasional subplots that are also rather window dressing.  Kept down to a relatively short runtime of 5 episodes, though, The Typist’s missteps in these directions are small.

A fascinating blend of psychological drama with noir elements, told with a refreshing upfrontness and patience that respects its audience.