17 February 2017 | Red_Grim_Grumble
Old Money, New Problems
Gotta love the Germans for finding a new and extreme way of tackling an ancient dilemma. Who does the dying family patriarch leave his money to? The moneybags in question is Rachensteiner(Udo Kier), the head of an Austrian "commission" whose elaborate business arrangements seem to extend into both legal and illegal territory. Real estate dealings are mentioned as much as cocaine shipments. The clash of old world standards with new world thinking is a theme throughout the series. His second(trophy) wife never criticizes the means in which her lifestyle is maintained. But when her expiring spouse bothers to explain himself to the help, that draws her ire. Rachensteiner's plight might not be new, but his solution is. It seems that with a new liver he would easily recover from his two types of Hepatitis. So he lays out the standards for his estate to his family and anyone that will listen: Whoever supplies him with a healthy liver will get the entirety of his fortune.
The problem with that formula is that most of this old baron's children are too aloof and idealistic to care for the money. His daughter Jana is an avant-garde modern artist that views her life as bit of a performance piece. She friends thousands of people on Facebook, yet has tried to kill herself 14 times. Her only interest in the family reunion is trying to pull her brother back into her twisted romantic clutches. Jakob is the younger of the two boys that Rachensteiner envisions as heir to his throne. But, just like Michael Corleone before him, has no love for the family business. He is more interested in doing humanitarian work in Africa than rescuing his father. It's only his girlfriend that first introduces the moral relativism of sacrificing one African life to save thousands with the money. The only offspring with any financial incentive is the older brother Zeno, a type of Falstaffian tragedy in motion. Drinking too much, gambling too much, and carrying on an affair with his step- mother he seems to be too self-destructive to ever live long enough to inherit. But perhaps his Serbian wife and her ex-convict brother can prove up to the task.
Fortunately there are all sorts of minor characters and devious subplots that keep this series running at a frenetic pace in multiple directions at once. This show has so much personality that even the supporting characters to the supporting characters are interesting. There's the executive assistant who is really a ex-journalist seeking revenge, Jana's boyfriend of convenience who is really a cop looking to bring down the family business, an eccentric dog-trainer that frequently proves he's more than he appears, a priest-like underworld gambler that takes all of Zeno's money and gives it to charity, and a rival party leader that would normally be strong- armed if he wasn't recording his every social interaction. That's not even including the less than capable henchmen that try to carry-out their missions with their limited capacity.
Yet all of these unique characters with their own conflicting motivations combine into what can only be described as a sublime black comedy. There is enormous entertainment value in a narrative that doesn't play it safe at all, and careens towards its own delightfully disturbed ending regardless of who is hurt in the process. Behind all great fortunes lays a great crime. And when that fortune is in Austria it comes from the greatest crime of them all. Making this family among the greatest criminals of all. They are old money and they are not going anywhere.