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Comrade Detective - Season One - Review: "The Other Side of the Iron Curtain"

Comrade Detective - Season One - Review:

Amazon it seems have been quietly putting out a staple of quality television content that doesn't seem to be getting the popular buzz of many Netflix series, but it still manages to be entertaining and watchable. Mozart in the Jungle and The Man in the High Castle have both excelled, but this latest offering, a Cold War meta-comedy set in 1980s Romania, entitled Comrade Detective, is an excellent treat particularly for Cold War history buffs, and those who like shows like Deutschland 83 and The Americans, as although it doesn't necessarily involve spies, it tackles similiar themes in a similiar era.

The show itself actually has an interesting quirk to separate it from the rest. It's filmed entirely in Romanian, using a largely Romanian cast, but when the switch to an American audience was made it was dubbed, rather than simply subbed, something that allowed both A-List talents Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who need no introduction, to lend their voices to the two characters, Romanian detectives named Gregor Anghel and Iosif Baciu. Their Romanian counterparts who do much of the heavy lifting acting-wise are Florin Piersic Jr. and Corneliu Ulici, who make for a perfect pair of crime-fighters who are staunch believers in the Communist Regime, as is much of Romania at the time. Whilst shows like Deutschland 83 and The Americans have shown characters go from the East to the West, Comrade Detective very much stays in the East, not leaving Romania and opting instead for some good old-fashioned police-work, as the two detectives chase a killer straight out of Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break, a mysterious man wearing a Ronald Reagan mask who has just killed Gregor Anghel's partner in front of him.

The subtle meta comedy of the Cold War genre is ever present throughout the film but it can be watched on its own without an in depth knowledge of the Cold War at the time. The two Detectives, Anghel and Baciu, are both thrust into a conspiracy that plans to destroy Communism in Romania. The very concept alone makes it different from most shows, as we're getting a look into the other side of the Iron Curtain. The show itself almost works as a show within a show, posing as a lost 1980s drama Tovarasul Militian that has been found for the first time as a result of an international effort led by the Romanian Film Preservation Society. The fans of Tovarasul Militian reportedly include the great director Stanley Kubrick himself, but then again, none of this is true. It's all part of the charm of Comrade Detective, which has Channing Tatum and journalist Jon Ronson both playing themselves, occasionally offering tidbits of information that went into the making of the Western dub of the show.

We're thrust into a world things like Monopoly and Coca Cola are smuggled across the border and if they get caught, citizens will be arrested. The Reagan masks are all part of the tone and setting of the series that helps immerse you in the era, something that the show does so well it could almost pass off as an actual drama, nailing the period aspect to create an authentic drama. But look behind the surface and the cracks are there - clear signs that this is a comedy are present with plenty of references. The whole idea sounds something of a gimmick and couldn't work if it had a larger episode count, or was something of a recurring series like The Americans, but as a six episode show that is presumably mini-series, it works just fine, holding its own. The star voice talents that the show brings to the table as well as Tatum and Gordon-Levitt also include the likes of Nick Offerman, Jenny Slate, Chloƫ Sevigny and Jason Mantzoukas, as well as Daniel Craig, whose voice-acting presences are certainly felt. But it's the likes of Adrian Paduraru, Olivia Nita, Florin Galan and Diana Vladu who do much of the heavy lifting, portraying the characters very well. They're all perfect products of the 1980s that the show exploits effectively, subverting common American tropes and approaching them from a different perspective, for example, the mysterious antagonist is an American villain who would have been a Russian in a Bond movie.

Full of intrigue and action, the show itself has plenty of crime drama elements that will suit fans of series like Luther, the tone is a dark one even with the meta-comedy aspect. It isn't quite a laugh-per minute show but then again, it does what it sets out to do better than most proper out and out comedies. In the matter of weeks before the en masse return of fall TV, Comrade Detective is absolutely worth your attention, and coming in at six episodes, it's perfectly binge-able over weekend, or even a day. Allow yourself to be drawn in and you may find yourself looking at one of the most underrated series of the year so far. It's a pure delight.

Comrade Detective is currently streaming in its entirety on Amazon Prime. What did you think of the first season? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Black Sails, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Mist, Star Wars Rebels, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Snowfall, Succession, Star Trek Discovery, and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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