TV: Biohackers (Season 1)

In a television genre that often leans into heavy stakes, high concepts, and hokum, Germany’s Biohackers is a tightly constructed, refreshingly down-to-earth science fiction series that doesn’t over-produce its futurism or over-reach its scope. At the University of Freiburg, Swiss medical student Mia Akerlund (Luna Wedler) arrives for her freshman year. Outwardly, Mia appears to be a driven student, determined to work her way into the good graces of a brilliant scientist and professor named Tanja Lorenz (Jessica Schwarz)—so much so that she labors to get close to Lorenz’s teaching assistant Jasper (Adrian Julius Tillmann). Quickly, though, Mia’s simple professional ambition falls away to reveal her hidden agenda: to investigate Lorenz’s clandestine private research, in order to solve the mystery of Mia’s tragic past.

Zipping past in six efficient episodes, Biohackers is near-term mundane SF that deploys just enough skiffy world design to ground the viewer in its slightly advanced scientific and technological backdrop, which is vibrant and convincing. Narratively, it plays out with the suspenseful rhythms of a standard conspiracy thriller, with Mia as the amateur spy protagonist and Lorenz her officious scientist antagonist. But that conspiracy has a neat science fictional core, and the scripts are nicely structured to build a solid atmosphere of intrigue before peeling it away in a series of tense, revealing escalations. Overall, it’s not earth-shatteringly innovative TV or anything, and there are a handful of iffy character decisions that conveniently drive the conflict. But it’s a brisk, professional, and solidly produced entertainment, anchored by Wedler’s appealing lead performance.

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