Review HBO Max series ‘Two Sides of the Abyss’

Review HBO Max series ‘Two Sides of the Abyss’
Review HBO Max series ‘Two Sides of the Abyss’

The German police should file an appeal against a series that depicts them so unprofessionally.

Direction: Anno Saul | cast: Anne Ratte-Polle (Luise), Anton Dreger (Dennis), Lea van Acken (Josi), Ann-Kathrin Kramer (Dr. Aschhausen), Senita Huskic (Nadisa), and others | Episodes: 6 | Playing time: 43-50 minutes | Year: 2023

In the German Wuppertal there is something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world: the Schwebebahn, or a hover train. It is a means of public transport through the city, a kind of metro or tram that is not on rails but hangs on it – since 1901! Not only unique and built to withstand the test of time, but also very cool to see. It comes in purely for the latter reason Two Sides of the Abyss always in the picture, because the series has “You know what would be cool?” as foundation.

It’s been seven years since Dennis killed Officer Luise’s oldest daughter when she suddenly sees him in public. The killer went to prison as a fat, long-haired moron and apparently came out as an athletic, self-assured guy. When another murder is committed shortly afterwards, Luise is convinced that Dennis is behind it and that he is planning more evil. Her colleagues rather think that her suspicions are based on prejudices.

The Dennis from the past comes into view through flashbacks with a performance that is cringeworthy: the cheap make-up immediately gives away that the actor is wearing a fat suit and the character is played as someone who is extremely mentally retarded. It doesn’t rhyme with how Dennis is in the present, even if there is an explanation for that later. This is all an excuse for the plot.

Luise’s youngest daughter must fall in love with him and therefore not recognize him as the murderer of her older sister. Luise recognizes Dennis immediately, daughter Josi not at all. Luckily he also happens to be her type! It also works out nicely for the story that a police chief doesn’t take Luise seriously at all, even when she arrives with concrete evidence against Dennis in the new murder (which happened in Belgium, but Luise just happens to get something of it).

Two Sides of the Abyss uses two pieces of classical music several times, one more ridiculous than the other. Every time Dennis goes on the murder path, Mozart’s Larcrimosa sounds. Not very original and it does not provide a meter for the intended tension. The use of the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes’ Lakmé is not just a cliché but also nonsensical: it is the music that plays when we see Dennis’ landlady and ex-therapist training at home on her cross bike.

That woman apparently sports exclusively on this one classic piece. And it looks like she’s meant to be some kind of comic relief. She starts talking unsolicited about the preparation of sour meat. Furthermore, as a psychologist she is so unprofessional that this too becomes unbelievable. She’s even willing to give Dennis an alibi.

So that’s an unreliable woman. Luise’s oldest daughter has told a big lie in the past. Josi chooses Dennis even when she has found out who he is (again: her older sister’s killer) and lies to her parents. Separate choices for a series that seems to have the theme that women are not taken seriously enough.

Another point this series tries to make is that every story always has two sides. That is made by portraying Dennis, a murderer, a psychopath, as a victim of multiple heinous acts. Abused as a child, used as a young man, mistreated in prison; actually he is the victim here. Serial killers are made, not born. The screenwriters ignore the facts and present an example of how open-minded they are.

The small and large implausible actions pile up, until the laughably clichéd climax arrives. There was no higher expectation, because from the first episode the series has not been promising anywhere. New lesson learned: even outside the Netherlands, if the screenwriters use the English language in a crooked manner in their dialogues, you know that they are not particularly talented. The characters from this German series also throw a lot of American terms at it.

If Two Sides of the Abyss had at least been filmed well, she would have deserved an extra star. But even that is too much to ask. A boring scene between Dennis and Josi is filmed from the ground, purely so that the Schwebebahn above them can be properly captured. There are also rotating shots, “because that’s cool”. But not functional. Where the suspension train is solidly built, this series hangs loose from start to finish.


Two Sides of the Abyss can be seen at HBO Max.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Review HBO Max series Sides Abyss


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