The Defeated, originally titled Shadowplay, arrived on Netflix on Thursday, August 19, with little fanfare. These days, if you aren’t a live-action adaptation of a beloved animated series, an A-list fronted blockbuster movie, or a new season of an existing hit, you may not get much of a marketing push from Netflix. The streamer releases more than 350 originals per year, after all. But The Defeated has put together an eye-catching cast of underrated talents and coupled it with a unique concept that is worthy of a perusal.
Netflix’s official synopsis reads: “Max McLaughlin is an American cop who arrives in Berlin in the summer of 1946 to help create a police force in the chaotic aftermath of the war.”
Taylor Kitsch, he of Friday Night Lights fame and True Detective Season 2 infamy, plays protagonist Max McLaughlin. Max is attempting to institute new reforms and improvements in Berlin’s police force, but must deal with the traumatic aftermath of war and internal opposition. Michel C. Hall (Dexter) plays Tom Franklin, a fellow officer helping to set up the new police force. Hall’s role is small, likely as he was busy filming the Dexter revival. Logan Marshall-Green (Upgrade) plays Moritz McLaughlin, Max’s brother, who can be both foil and ally.
Nina Hoss (Homeland) is cast as Elise Garten, a former linguistics teacher who joins the police force and must contend with gender politics from small-minded colleagues. She’s joined by Tuppence Middleton (Mank), who plays Claire Franklin, Tom’s daughter.
Is it a bit jarring to see Max, an NYPD detective from Brooklyn, flaunt about post-WWII Berlin to organize a makeshift police force? Yes. But there’s a grittiness there as he assumes command of untrained civilians armed with sticks and pipes who are attempting to curtail the chaos of Berlin. Not every streaming drama needs to be a blockbuster superhero series or set in Middle Earth to wring out a drop of drama.