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"Wilsberg: Genes don't lie" (ZDF) turns out to be a sinister "Big Data" conspiracy

The excellent crime thriller from the classic series is once again about questionable investigative methods in the digital age.

It is always impressive that a venerable crime series like “Wilsberg” regularly deals with the negative side effects of digitization. In addition to the charm that has always characterized the ZDF series, such topics are the best protection against getting old. It is usually the overzealous Inspector Overbeck who builds the bridge to the digital age because, thanks to various training courses, he discovers new ways to supplement conventional police work with “Big Data”.

After predicting crimes (“Prognosis Murder”, 2018) and facial recognition (“Written on the Face”, 2019), Overbeck found in “Gene Lügen nicht” a way to solve unsolved murders with the help of genetic family tree research years later can be: He has the DNA material found at the scene of the crime compared with the database of a corresponding institute. In this way, at least close relatives could be found.

“Gene don’t lie” on ZDF: Film from the Wilsberg series with old acquaintances

The murder of a woman ten years ago serves as a prototype. There is actually a hit: The perpetrator must be a half-brother of Ekki Talkötter (Oliver Korittke), the best friend of antiquarian and detective Georg Wilsberg (Leonard Lansink). However, the tax official was previously convinced that he was an only child.

“Genes Don’t Lie” is the third screenplay by Markus B. Altmeyer for the series. His previous contributions were above the “Wilsberg” average. It is one of the special features of the classic that characters from earlier episodes like to appear; mostly it is about Ekki’s earlier love affairs. Nevertheless, he is of course amazed that the genealogical research institute is headed by Kerstin Buckebrede (Isabell Polak), the woman Ekki almost married in the episode “In Treu und Faith” (2016).

Wilsberg film “Genes don’t lie” on ZDF: The case turns out to be a “Big Data” conspiracy

The 74th episode also delights with a reunion with Merle (Janina Fautz), the cheeky but extremely knowledgeable niece of Commissioner Springer (Rita Russek). The true quality of Altmeyer’s screenplay, however, lies in the impressive complexity of the plot: the case turns out to be a sinister “Big Data” plot, and as befits a good conspiracy story, everything is connected with everything else.

Many supposed minor characters later become important for the big picture, which is why it was all the more important that several prominent contributors were not above taking on comparatively small roles. During his very personal family tree research, Ekki first meets a former musician and current pub owner (Reiner Schöne) and finally his half-brother Berni (Dieter Landuris), who Overbeck is convinced is the murderer he is looking for got to. Although Berni has a history of petty crime, Ekki believes his protestations of innocence, even though the genetic material found at the crime scene leaves no doubt.

“Wilsberg: Genes don’t lie”

Saturday, January 15, 2022, ZDF, 8:15 p.m., media library

Crime on ZDF: Wilsberg film “Genes don’t lie” appeals to several generations

This level alone would be enough for a good thriller, but Altmeyer’s story has even wider implications. True to the screenplay motto “There are no coincidences”, even Wilsberg’s visit to his trusted bank – he needs a loan because he finally wants to buy his own car – is part of an all-encompassing data network; people have been wriggling in the stranglehold of the data collectors for a long time and without realizing it.

Despite or perhaps because of the grandfatherly title character, “Wilsberg” not only appeals to people from the protagonist’s generation (Lansink was born in 1956), but also to a young audience. This is one of the reasons why the refresher of the ensemble by Patricia Meeden as the lawyer Tessa did the series extremely well. The integration of the necessary specialist knowledge has also been exemplary. Where the transfer of knowledge is often a bit awkward elsewhere, because the corresponding explanations seem like a lecture, the inspector himself introduces the topic by actually giving a lecture to his boss.

The two messages in the film, on the other hand, get across as if by themselves: big data sucks; and bankers are all criminals, no matter what bank they run. Philipp Osthus, who has so far made a name for himself with four productions for the ARD Friday series “Käthe und ich” that are all well worth seeing, and who has refined Altmeyer’s excellent screenplay with a few sympathetic directorial ideas, took care of the implementation. (Tilman P. Gangloff)

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