The characters of Biohackers are faced with such mystery in situations that are larger than anything they could’ve imagined, that they play God in their own journey of synthetic science. Big stuff.
This six-part German Netflix series is everything but what you would expect of a European sci-fi thriller. Created by Christian Ditter (of How to Be Single and Love, Rosie), instead of moving from planet to planet in an unbelievable this-will-never-happen flurry, Biohackers is a fast-paced thriller that touches on lust and young relationships, as well as heartbreak and loss, and it’s the better for it.
The show keeps the topic of modern science at its core, in a way attractive enough to keep even those disinterested with topics of biology engaged. By casting talented, young and diverse actors in the lead roles, Ditter creates a symphony of humour, gripping drama and romance.
Scene one of the first episode opens with a young seem-to-be couple on a train. Suddenly, passengers start to suffer respiratory problems, the numbers increasing more quickly as time goes on. A doctor is called for and a young medical student, Mia (Luna Wedler), offers her help. She tries to defibrillate the unconscious passengers, but her best efforts are not enough.
At first Biohackers looks like it might be a pandemic show – and in fact Netflix even decided to postpone its release date because of the sensitivity around COVID-19. In reality, though, similarities to the real world really aren’t that great – masks and any sign of house-quarantine are absent, but there are nods to racing against time for a vaccine.
Instead Biohackers is more character-centric, immediately flashing back to two weeks before the incident on the train where we find Mia moving into her student apartment and being greeted by three other freshmen. All three of Mia’s new flatmates are clearly eccentric and she is by far the most laid back of the group, right from their very first hello. Mia is at Freiburg University to study Medicine, and her ultimate goal is to get involved in the inside circle of her lecturer, Professor Tanja Lorenz (Jessica Schwarz). Her interest in Lorenz and her work at first seems like just another young student chasing her idol, but as the story unfolds, her true reason for wanting to get close to Lorenz is revealed to be much darker.
Professor Lorenz is an admired, well respected professor at Freiburg University, and the best in her field. Lorenz talks of the future of mankind in her lectures, encouraging her students to learn of the benefits of synthetic biology and new developments. Something in Lorenz’s speech triggers memories of Mia’s brother in hospital. There is a clear connection and we are left to ponder what that might be.
Mia befriends Lorenz’ assistant, Jasper (Adrian Julius Tillmann), as her way into Lorenz’ professional and personal life. As time goes on, she begins a romantic relationship with Jasper, but is driven to his roommate Niklas (Thomas Prenn), who is the boy we see with Mia on the train in the opening scene. The show begins to take a twisted turn that unravels a love triangle, elements of student life, wacky experiments of Mia’s roommates, a professor-student rivalry and the mystery of Mia’s absent family – all the while we are left in the dark as to what that opening scene signified.
Although the show is initially very multi-stranded, and slightly confusing because of a narrative that dives in many directions, with each episode things become narrowed down until we learn how everything is connected.
As storylines become clearer the suspense grows more intense. Perhaps what Biohackers is lacking is real peril, violence or nail-biting drama that would be needed to take it to another level, yet, the story takes an enjoyable and engaging turn into revenge territory, mixed with a final moment of mystery and a cliffhanger that should leave viewers hungry for a season two. The charm of the lead cast is worth watching the show for alone, and if you can be patient with the first two episodes, then you will watch the following four with excitement and ease.