Airplane! The Sequel

NBC’s The Blacklist: Redemption is on the air for a few weeks now and as I predicted it’s utter dreck. James Spader is missing every second, and the entire premise just feels extremely forced. Tom “I just want to be a dad” Keen suddenly spends all his time at his mother’s beck and call instead of doing that parenting thing he always dreamed of. Liz doesn’t really seem to mind or even notice – and how could she when she’s out chasing bad guys for Reddington in the main series?

Without Spader, there’s no comic relief either – unless the computer nerd counts, but his kind of humor really doesn’t click with me. Or maybe Solomon? He’s cool, but he’s ultimately a bad guy (not unlike Reddington, but Red’s just more charming).

After all, however, Redemption isn’t so different from your standard Blacklist fare: the storylines are ridiculous, the computers can’t be controlled without hammering on some kind of holo-keyboard (ever heared of a mouse, guys?) and Famke Janssen plays every bit as terrible and wooden as Megan Boone. The only upside is Terry O’Quinn, but his character is just not written well enough to be of much interest.

This post is a bit long, read on if you dare.

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How to get arrested in Germany

Oh golly, The Blacklist is getting a spin-off series bearing the incredibly original title The Blacklist: Redemption. Ryan Eggold will lead as Tom Keen once again, who will work alongside his – surprise! – mother Susan Hargrave (Famke Janssen). What an awful idea, NBC, and good luck getting more than one season out of it without James Spader because he’s the only actor keeping The Blacklist together.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the latest episode of the original show, 03×22, where Tom Keen once again ventures to Germany to infiltrate the G8 summit. To quote for posterity:

Pruitt’s in Berlin staying at the Turkish Embassy as a guest of the Ambassador. He’ll attend a reception at the embassy for the G8 ministers.

Technically, it’s the G7 summit since Russia got the boot in 2014 for annexing Crimea but who’s counting?

Anyway, a visit to Germany on any given NBC show is bound to be a desaster. Tom has the brilliant idea to get into the country assuming the fake identity of Eugene Pavlenko, an Ukrainian man wanted in Turkey for money laundering. Fantastic idea, really. Here’s Eugene’s passport:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

He likely got this passport from the same forger who whipped up the other terrible fake last season because this one is just as bad! Here we go:

  • since 2007, Ukrainian passports feature laser imprinted black-and-white photographs
  • there’s no bearer’s signature on the passport even though real ones obviously feature one on the lower right side of the ID card
  • the nationality is stated as “Ukrainian” where official passports would read “UKRAINE” instead. Interestingly, the ukrainian text (Україна) correctly translates to “Ukraine”
  • the place of birth simply reads Україна (Ukraine) instead of stating the city and country. Maybe they just don’t know where Eugene is from but that’s quite unlikely.
  • it’s a bit hard to tell from the picture but the passport number isn’t properly replicated in the machine readable part (lower left corner of the page). Also, the line above that should start with “P<UKR”

There’s likely more wrong than that – the dates seem fishy –  but Google Translate only goes so far. If he wants to be arrested, he’ll definitely be just for presenting this obvious fake.

Anyway, Tom’s plan is to get into the Turkish embassy in Berlin by getting arrested for being a criminal. Since he’s wanted in Turkey, he should be brought to the embassy before being extradited, right?

This part of the plot is researched so badly my poor brain wanted to explode while watching the episode. German extradition law simply doesn’t work that way (PDF in German, page 10 is relevant). If Tom was arrested trying to enter Germany, he’d first be handled by German law enforcement and detained in a German prison. A German judge would have to conduct a hearing no more than 24 hours after the arrest and only after hearing Tom out the judge could decide if his arrest was even warranted. If it was, he’ll remain in jail until being extradited straight to Turkey – not in the embassy. Germany doesn’t simply hand over people to foreign countries, and turning Tom in to the Turkish embassy would be exactly that since the embassy is technically on Turkish soil.

But mere technicalities like that simply don’t matter in The Blacklist.

Tom manages to escape the interrogation room by means of force (what else) and quickly dresses up as a waiter. Of course, he speaks Turkish fluently enough to keep up his charade and of course nobody really pays any attention to a waiter who’s wandering aimlessly around the rooms instead of doing his job. He quickly finds his target who’s addressing him in incredibly mangled German for some reason. It’s clearly not his mother tongue which makes the scene a little bit strange since he continues to speak English in all remaining scenes. As an international guest in a foreign embassy, you’d expect the staff to be fluent in English anyway so why bother attempting to speak German if everyone would understand your first language anyway? Oddly enough, despite Tom speaking German in that one short scene, he drops it entirely in later shots and addresses the target in English as if nothing happened, and the target is even confused about his ability to speak English – again, something you should definitely expect in such an environment. That was a long sentence.

Tom and his team escape the embassy with their target in an ambulance. The license plates actually look alright this time, which is definitely an improvement over last time, but the dialogue feels off:

You have Landespolizei units approaching to your south.

Nobody in Germany would say “Landespolizei” – not that the term doesn’t exist, it’s not used in everyday language. “Landespolizei” is just a term for all police forces in a state, not some specific unit of the police. In Berlin, there’s indeed a “Landespolizei” but again, that’s just an all-encompassing term for every police unit except the Landeskriminalamt (criminal investigation unit). The dialogue makes it sound like “Landespolizei” is some special unit while it simply isn’t. The only intention seems to add some locale to the dialogue which just doesn’t feel right given that they could have just said “You have police units approaching …”. Okay, maybe I’m even more picky than usual here but it just didn’t feel right to me.

The operator is directing the team to Wilhelmstraße and while she’s doing that, we can see the map she’s looking at:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

I honestly have no idea which city this map is of but it doesn’t look anything like Berlin (the marker points to Wilhelmstraße which does indeed exist):

Image (c) Google

Image (c) Google

From the grid layout, the map could be of some American city, but certainly not Berlin.

The team runs into some trouble because the target was drugged and his pupils are too dilated for a retinal scan. Tom claims the poor sap was administered 200mg of Fentanyl. So far, so good, although the Fentanyl dose was so high the target could have been killed by it. According to (German) Wikipedia, the effective dosage is 0.01mg per kilogram body weight. The guy looks a bit on the heavy side so I’d say his weight is around 90kg. A dosis of 0,9mg Fentanyl would have been enough to knock him out. However, Tom administered him 2,22mg per kilogram body weight, which is far too much. According to the dialogue, he even gave him Fentanyl twice for whatever reason which would put the dosis way over the 3.1mg needed to kill a rat – for humans, the lethal amount is way less.

But the target doesn’t die. Instead, the team breaks into a pharmacy to obtain Tropicamide, a drug indeed used by eye doctors to widen pupils (because that’s the only worry the poor sap has right now). The pharmacy really doesn’t look anything like a real one because in German pharmacies, the shelves usually only contain common over-the-counter drugs, not prescription stuff. They would have to rummage around the drawers (of which most are in the back of the store, away from customers) to get eye drops containing Tropicamide. I’m not even sure if it’s even stocked in a pharmacy since it’s a drug not commonly needed by patients. Also, in the only wide shot of the pharmacy interior, it looks like it’s actually a cosmetics store – while German pharmacies do offer a variety of cosmetics, they don’t usually look like this:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The police finally arrives:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Hey, the fake number plates are back! German plates simply don’t look like that, nor do police patrol cars. This is how they look like:

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Geman patrol cars are usually Volkswagen Passat, the cars in The Blacklist look like they could be Toyotas although the logo is really hard to see. Also, the police crest on the cars is all wrong, the real one (for Berlin) looks like shown on the left. It’s also in the wrong place as the crest is usually on the rear passenger doors. EDIT: Not true. They can be on either door. Apologies.

Why do I even bother? They clearly never learn! But then again, what do I expect? Without the brilliant James Spader, The Blacklist would just be another typical NBC show. Like Crisis, for example. Ugh, Crisis.

Suddenly, Nazis

It’s always the same: as soon as (usually American) script writers run out of ideas, they add something about Nazis, usually set either in Germany or at least with some lines of German. If you aren’t German, well, you’ll likely not notice anything suspicious. If you are German, however, this often enough becomes an absolute riot and makes the whole thing so much more entertaining. That’s exactly what happened on the two most recent episodes of The Blacklist, a show I enjoy mostly for James Spader and less for the ridiculous story.

It started in episode 14 of the current second season. When Tom Keen – who isn’t dead despite being left for dead twice already – gets asked how his German is, I instantly knew this would become great, campy fun. Apparently, Tom is supposed to go to Dresden and infiltrate a gang of neo-nazis. Well, at least Dresden certainly has an abundance of neo-nazis, so that’s quite realistic. For this job he has to prepare.

First, put on German music, in this case “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling. It’s a track from the 80s and not related to Nazis in any way, but I guess the writer did like the play on the protagonist’s name.

Second, shave your hair:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Sexy.

Third, get inked while smoking and chilling to the haunting tunes of Major Tom.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The SS symbol is VERBOTEN in Germany and will get you arrested if the cops notice it. Well done, Mr. Keen, this should look convincing! Unless anyone bothers to check out his other tattoo …

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The SS logo on the right is mirrored, but that’s not what I’m getting at. You see, the neo-nazis use the slogan “Deutschland den Deutschen” to protest against foreigners in Germany. Translated into English, this would … ah, let’s do a little experiment, shall we.

  1. Go to Google Translator.
  2. Enter “Deutschland den Deutschen” into the left hand field, put it to “detect language”
  3. Put the output language to English
  4. Voilá, we get “Germany for the Germans”
  5. Now, reverse it …
  6. Aha, “Deutschland für die Deutschen”!

Funny how it works sometimes. With a tattoo like that, (Major) Tom would be discovered quite quickly. Hell, he’d be likely arrested on the spot when trying to enter Germany.

Fourth, he needs a passport:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

As you might have noticed, there are a few … problems … with this passport. Let me break them down to you:

  1. on EU passports, the photographs aren’t glued on, they are embedded into the passport and cannot be replaced without destroying the whole thing
  2. the color and background suggests its a passport from Poland, not Germany, but all text is in German – on a Polish passport, the main language would be Polish, of course. German passports are greenish and bear the “Bundesadler”.
  3. Tom Keen … sorry, Mr. Mannheim … is born on April 26th, 1979. Now while dates in the EU would be written either as 1979-04-26 or 26.04.1979 or 26/04/1979, the passport issue and renew before date are wrong as well. Unless Mr. Mannheim got his passport on his birthday in 1999, of course, but even then, the renew before date would be 2009, not 2019, since EU passports for ages 24 and up have to be renewed every 10 years.
  4. This is hard to read on the screen cap, but they managed to write “Unterschrift des Bearer” (Bearer’s signature) instead of “Unterschrift des Ausweisinhabers”. Any customs or police officer would spot that in an instant because the word’s length doesn’t match and it makes no fricking sense.
  5. Another obvious error: the number should be 790426 as its derived from Mr. Mannheim’s birthday.
  6. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the personal card of modern EU passports don’t bend because they are made from plastic instead of paper.

The main question, however, is – why does Tom Keen have a Polish passport if he’s supposed to be German? Why does his birthplace sound Polish? Given the history between Poland and Germany during WW2, wouldn’t that kind of detail make people suspicious?

Oh, and before I forget – in Germany, you don’t use your passport to identify yourself, you use your ID card. The passport is only for travel outside of the EU. It would be rather suspicious to a German police officer would you identify yourself with your passport, which by the way is called “Reisepass” in German – “travel passport”.

So, Tom Keen is no more. Born from his ashes is Christof Mannheim the neo-nazi. He arrives in Dresden, Germany, and quickly finds new friends:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Honestly? They just look like bikers to me. Here’s a picture of real neo-nazis demonstrating in Germany:

Image (c) taz.de

Image (c) taz.de

Hrm. Okay, this might be me nitpicking more than usual, but …

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

… oh look, ZZ Top is there as well!

Oddly enough, they are not just drinking while listening to cliché metal music, oh no – they are playing games! What games, you might ask? Manly stuff like arm wrestling maybe? Or illegal nazi fist fights? Ah, you’ll be sorely disappointed:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

They are trying to drive nails into wood with one strike of a hammer. For cold, hard Euro no less. What kind of Kindergarten nazis are they? Do they have rug time? I loved rug time!

Anyway, Tom Christof quickly does the one thing I’d never do among an illegal group of hooligans – he introduces himself. His name is Christof. “Fair enough”, you say, “his name is Christof, so why not tell them?” Because he’s not content telling them his first name:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Might as well wave his fake passport around. Why would he tell them his last name, so every undercover cop in Dresden is aware of him? Great start there, Tom Christof.

Did I mention they all speak terrible German? None of them would pass for being German with that kind of mangled grammar, the pronunciation is way off, and they all sound like they have to try really hard to utter one coherent sentence. Shouldn’t be hard and/or expensive to find a few people in New York City who speak better German than these tools.

Onto the next episode, 2×15. The relevant segment of the episode starts like this:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

This could really be anywhere, so the subtitle is a nice idea to establish location. The security camera (top right) makes me wonder why neo-nazis would party there, but hey, maybe their Bier got stolen once too many.

Anyway, the scene is set to a Rammstein song I can’t identify because I don’t really listen to Rammstein – but neither would neo-nazis as they tend to enjoy music way worse than that. But it has German lyrics so it fits, right?

The Nazis are discussing their weapon procurement issues and in that context, they mention they don’t want to cross borders because that could spell trouble. That doesn’t seem to concern Tom Christof who quickly suggests he knows a guy in Salzburg – which is in Austria, across borders. No wonder his idea gets axed quickly, but that doesn’t get him closer to winning the Nazi’s trust, so he has to devise a different approach: he’s going to kill their arms dealer and bring in his own to save the day. Genius!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Here are the arms dealers dealing arms. Again, this could be absolutely anywhere, so this picture is just there for your enjoyment. But look, they must be in Germany because they are driving a BMW!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

However, with a license plate like that they are just inviting the cops because that’s not a German license plate, that’s just nonsense. This is how a real license plate from Dresden, Germany looks like:

(c) olavsplates.com

(c) olavsplates.com

Also, while the BMW is a German car – but they do have foreign cars in Germany, in case you are wondering – the model they use is the US version of the 528i xDrive. You can clearly see the car has space for the differently shaped number plates used in the US, as opposed to the German version which looks like this:

(c) auto-news.de

(c) auto-news.de

If that wasn’t enough proof, the next street scene shows yet another car with bogus Dresden plates, and from the small white stripe underneath the plate you can see its yet another US version. Also, the pickup truck in the center background proudly sports US plates just for the heck of it.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Tom Christof shoots the driver and flees the scene on his bike, leaving the driver-less car careen into the next wall. The entire scene doesn’t look like it could be set in Dresden to anyone who was even remotely near Dresden in the last decade, but you can’t blame them for trying. Look, there even is Bernds Brauhaus (brewing house, usually a place to drink freshly brewed beer) in the background, because as anyone knows, these things are like Starbucks in Germany – literally everywhere. And look, the building is “ZU VERMIETEN” (to let) as well! Looks legit!

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

What’s with the red arrow, you ask? Oh, that … I wonder what “Aperture” means and why it would be written across the facade of a Brauhaus in Dresden?

Image (c) Google

Image (c) Google

Oh, it’s the Aperture Foundation located at 550 W 27th Street in New York City? Huh, someone must have mixed up the footage there. Whoops!

And let’s just take a look where the car ended up after the driver died:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Right in front of a delivery truck covered in German graffito, if anyone still had any doubts about the location.