Sleeping Dog or Schlafende Hunde is an interesting new German mystery thriller series on Netflix that packs quite a punch in its roughly six-hour duration. The plot follows a former police detective now living as a homeless man on the streets, eight months after a horrible terrorist attack took place in the city. Along with featuring a dark and very realistic story at its center, the series also provides a team of convincing characters, all of which quite successfully create the sense of the world being a gray mixture of good and bad. But despite its positives, Sleeping Dog does not bring anything new either and overall has a lack of exciting action scenes.
Sleeping Dog begins with the death of a man named Mussa Basher in his prison cell, which is an apparent suicide. Mussa had been imprisoned some months earlier after being found guilty of murdering a distinguished judge named Herres. Although Mussa had desperately claimed innocence in the case, the gun with which the judge had been shot had been found inside Mussa’s car, and his hair had also been found at the crime scene. As it happened, this important evidence had been found by our protagonist, Mike Atlas (Max Riemelt). Having been a long-serving police detective in the on-call crime squad KDD, Mike suddenly lost control of his life and left home, never to show up again, even at work.
The man’s wife and daughter, as well as his colleagues at the police department, are aware that Mike had suffered severe PTSD from the time when he witnessed the crime scene of a horrific terrorist attack some eight months ago. According to their assessment of the matter, Mike had refused to receive any mental health treatment and had lost all balance because of this, abandoning his family and career to live the life of a homeless man. But as we are made part of Mike Atlas’ difficult life too, it becomes clear that the man has lost most of his memory from the time of the terrorist attack. The past comes back to hurt him, though, when Mussa’s criminal-minded brother Abou Basher finds him and burns down his trailer, holding him responsible for his brother’s death.
Around the same time, a young prosecutor named Jule Andergast (Luise von Finckh) starts her job under the District Attorney, Corinna Steck (Melika Foroutan). Jule’s mother was a renowned prosecutor who is still given the highest respect by others in the profession, even though the woman has passed away, and Steck seems to have given Jule the opportunity to work for her only because of her mother. After losing a case and finding life as a prosecutor very difficult, Jule is given the responsibility of finding out more about Mussa Basher’s suicide. She soon finds out about an individual by the name of Idris Kouri, who was supposed to provide an alibi for Mussa during the court trial of Judge Herres’ murder, but the man had left the country before doing so. While checking through the prison camera footage, Jule finds that Mussa had been visited by Idris Kouri recently, meaning that the latter man becomes quite important to solving the whole matter. However, when Idris Kouri is also found dead in the same manner as Judge Herres, it becomes clear that a more sinister plan is surely being carried out by someone else.
Sleeping Dog focuses a lot on ill practices and minor negligence in police work, which are all looked past and not taken too seriously by authorities. Many of the characters involved in the police force and even the prosecution are often seen taking drugs and pills to keep their troubled minds at peace. The effects of such grim and grisly work on the minds of the individuals also find a place in the series. Police work also involves making very quick decisions and acting them out in the most extreme of situations, and sometimes these decisions go very wrong as well. The intricacies of such an unpredictable and demanding job are well presented through the KDD trio of Luka Zaric (Carlo Ljubek), Roland Sokowski (Antonio Wannek), and Britney Adebayo (Melodie Wakivuamina), with the first two still dearly missing their friend and colleague Mike Atlas. The same can be said for the profession of prosecution as well, with characters like DA Corinna Steck, LKA homicide detective Tom Schlefski, and Jule Andergast.
Along with an intriguing plot, the strongest aspect of Sleeping Dog is arguably the easily believable characters that are presented, as they all, at least the major ones, have their own flaws and shortcomings. This is spread very evenly, ranging from the protagonist, Mike Atlas, to his wife, Lenni, to his colleagues and superiors in the police and prosecution. Unlike many other Netflix productions, being a police officer or a lawyer does not at all guarantee an individual’s clear train of thought or forever upright morality. Many of them make wrong decisions in crucial moments, and while some are apologetic for them, some continue to justify their actions. However, the series does not end in a dark tone, as all the characters ultimately acknowledge their actions and are seemingly ready to face the consequences as well. There is, therefore, a return to the correct moral decisions, and the show does not get too realistic or carried away in this aspect. Interestingly, the actions of the characters are also quite layered and multifaceted, making the plot all the more enjoyable.
The visual aesthetics in Sleeping Dog, such as camerawork and lighting, are average and decent, as it is very evident that these are not what the show wants to focus on. While there is nothing odd or off-putting about the visuals, there is nothing remarkable either. The script has some lighter parts, as professionals joke while on duty to lighten the mood, and there is one emotionally tense moment as well. Adapted from the Israeli show The Exchange Principle, this new German series can be quite a fun watch. Sleeping Dog is easy to recommend to those with a keen interest in police crime thrillers.