It would not be too wrong to consider the German crime thriller series Sleeping Dog to be part drama as well, considering that it covers a number of elements that are part of the genre. Beginning with the estranged relationship between protagonist Mike Atlas and his wife Lenni to the effect this has on their teenage daughter Tinka, the show covers a slight bit of family drama as well. In fact, the strongest facet of Sleeping Dog happens to be its range of characters, who are all stuck in some own internal struggles between being good and bad, and this article is going to discuss a few of them.
The protagonist, Mike Atlas, is a good starting point, considering that the mysteries and main tension revolve around him. After escaping from his known life one sudden day, Mike lost his memory as well, making it a convenient method to tell us the story of his past. The man can be clearly separated between his older self and new self, with the revelation about his crimes in the past being the point of distinction. We are not given any idea about how his life had started or how he had found himself in the profession of a police detective, but Mike was no different from a usual police officer. He did not shy away from any illegal acts or opportunities that came his way, and the man was definitely not bound by any moral restrictions. He was loyal to his wife Lenni, though, and was even quite loving towards his daughter Tinka, all of which changed when he was nearing mental burnout.
When Luka finally gave him the drug to help with his stress, Mike started to change into a different man even faster. He soon abandoned his wife and daughter, along with his career, to be succumbed by the guilt and depression that came from having killed a man in a road accident and burying the truth about it. The reason why Mike had forgotten about his actions happens to be that he had desperately wanted to forget about it. The man had possibly tried every method to achieve this forgetfulness, perhaps even taking stronger drugs for it. But Mike is also marked by a very natural human curiosity, which pokes out of the surface the moment Abou Basher beats him up and mentions his involvement in his brother’s death. This curiosity perhaps ties in very well with Mike’s profession, for a police detective is mandatorily curious about things more than anyone else. Soon Mike goes snooping around looking for an answer to his blurred memory, and what he finds out surely shakes him apart.
It is this realization that he had accidentally killed a homeless man and had then got his friends to hide the body and the incident altogether that makes Mike Atlas into a different man. After getting to know the whole truth, Mike is extremely guilty and remorseful of his actions and now finally decides to face the consequences. While he had arguably also been hit with guilt earlier, after killing Polyphemus, he was more afraid for himself than guilty for having taken a life. But now, Mike wants to change his old ways and actually serve the punishment for such reckless behavior. Despite there being no evidence that Mike was under the influence of drugs while driving, the man willfully admits to his crimes and is released on probation. During this time, he also does community work for the very same homeless community in a desperate attempt to right his wrongs. Mike Atlas had been a rough and insensitive man at one point in his life, but he now realizes his mistakes and wants to undo them.
Mike had abandoned his wife Lenni in the worst of ways, with no prior information and no legitimate reasoning either. Lenni was first shocked, then grieved, and then, with time, accustomed to the fact that her husband had just decided to pack his things and leave one fine day. The woman has nobody to support her mentally and emotionally, and so when her estranged husband’s best friend, Luka Zaric, comes to provide support, Lenni is more than pleased. There is a romantic and sexual tension initially felt between the two, while neither of them do anything about it. But this later changes when Lenni initiates a moment of lovemaking, and the two get physically intimate with each other. It is easy to blame Lenni for being adulterous, but then again, there are enough reasons for her to have come to such a decision. The woman had tried everything she could have in order to bring her husband back to her life, but Mike had also apparently grown distanced from her, emotionally and sexually, even before going away. The husband was obviously nearing his mental burnout at the time, but he never told Lenni about any of this, and he even rejected her advances to understand him better. Lenni had no other choice but to get accustomed to the life of a single parent, who had to find little moments of warmth wherever she could. Lenni later admits to Mike that she had slept with Zaric, and the husband understands why she had done it.
Lenni was in an even worse situation as the mother of teenager Tinka, who was clueless and confused about why her father had suddenly left their lives. Whenever there would be any chance to meet or talk to her father, Tinka would grab it with both hands and then hope that her family would be reunited again. While Lenni eventually got tired of waiting for Mike to return to his senses, Tinka kept believing that her father was doing his best to help his family. Perhaps this is out of very childish hope and desperation, because of which Tinka almost blindly believes and wishes that her father would return home. Therefore, whenever Lenni expresses otherwise or tries to convince Tinka that they must move on with their lives, the daughter is irked by her mother and misunderstands her.
This entire situation is solved by Mike’s change of heart and decision to step up and take responsibility for his actions. He knew very well that it was he who had abandoned his family and not the other way round. Therefore, the man understood why his wife had cheated on him and why his daughter was so desperate for his return, even to the point of getting herself into trouble. Mike’s transformation into an ideal man also involves reuniting with his family, and he returns to their house to start a fresh life with his wife and daughter. Both Lenni and Tinka had done things out of their confused and lost mental state that they could have easily avoided, but they had no ill intentions, and that is what ultimately counts.
The police colleagues of Mike are also marked by this same change of heart after their respective moments of realization, with Britney Adebayo being a prime example of this. While on an investigation, Britney is upset by the casual racist and sexist remarks of one of the witnesses, and in her desperation to find out what is wrong, she kicks a door open. A young girl hiding behind this door was seriously injured because of this act, and ever since then, Britney cannot get over the guilt of having done this. She goes to the extent of planning to adopt the girl and even pretends to mend her relationship with her ex-girlfriend only to ease the adoption procedure. But Britney is then reminded or pointed towards the fact that she would actually not be able to provide much support to the young girl. Instead, she was just trying to use the girl to fill the empty void and loneliness in her life, which she was increasingly scared of. Ultimately, Britney decides to let go of the young girl and then genuinely attempts to mend her relationship with her ex-girlfriend. At this moment, it is not the end that Britney is thinking of, but the means or the journey of apologizing for her cold behavior in the past and settling with her ex-lover. It is, therefore, this attempt that finally works in her favor.
This hollow, void-like emptiness that Britney fears is, in fact, present in each of the police detectives’ lives, other than Mike Atlas. Roland Sokowski lives by himself, only with a stuffed groundhog, the hair of which he had used as false evidence at a crime scene. It can be argued that it is this loneliness that ultimately makes Sokowski take so many lives, for without any personal life, his professional partners had become like brothers to him. When he saw his colleagues, the two men he considered like close brothers, in trouble, Sokowski did not hesitate to help them out, even if that meant killing people. The man was desperate not to lose the only two close bonds that he had in life and had therefore gotten rid of every individual who could pose a threat to them.
Similarly, the character of Luka Zaric in Sleeping Dog can also be looked at through the same lens of desperately trying to avoid loneliness in life. Zaric was genuinely affectionate and caring towards his best friend Mike, and he had no ill intention behind giving the man the nerve-relaxing pills. This is why Zaric’s negative moment comes when he finally succumbs to the advances of his best friend’s wife and then even professes his love for her. Zaric also clearly dislikes his solitary existence, which is probably why he had first gotten sexually involved with the DA, Corinna Steck. This later became an indirect exercise of power and a sort of professional negotiation between the two, but ultimately, it seems like these two broken souls are left by themselves to come together to start a bond.
Perhaps the only characters in Sleeping Dog, or at least the ones with the most one-sided shade to them, are the DA Corinna Steck and young prosecutor Jule Andergast. While Steck mostly comes off as a corrupt and power-hungry official who does not mind hampering the lives of others, Jule arguably does hardly anything wrong and ultimately has to walk away from the cruel and twisted profession altogether. Both characters are perhaps given one minor change from their usual selves, which mark as the respective white and black spots in their personalities. In the end, Corinna Steck seems to surrender herself to her fate, as she can no longer manage her way out of the situation, and this realization is probably a positive thing about her to cherish. On the other side, the illicit affair that Jule was involved in with a married man who was also a lawyer in the DA’s office seems to be the only black spot for her. Other than this, the young woman struggles through the demeaning workspace, finds and then loses a genuine connection in Schlefski, and then also leaves the profession.