Netflix German Series ‘Barbarians’ Season 1: Recap And Ending

European television is a beast when it comes to international popularity, and if we have to be more specific, the German television industry has been the talk of the town for the past few years. The international success of “Dark” has brought the world’s attention to the German industry to see what else they have to offer. In 2020, the Germans delivered the “Barbarians.” Created by Andreas Heckmann, Arne Nolting, and Jan Martin Scharf, the series is set in the 9th century AD and takes the audience to a time when the Romans ruled over a big chunk of modern-day Germany. Historical fiction is in demand these days, and this is one more attempt to retell history from the perspective of the underdog. Germania was under Roman occupation, and Germanic tribes had had enough; at some point, a rebellion took shape led by the tribal leader named Arminius. So, taking inspiration from real events, “Barbarians” Season 1 dwells on the dramatization of those events, and it does it in a sophisticated yet highly entertaining way.

The second season of “Barbarians” is almost upon us, and hence, it’s time to take a quick look at the first season’s plotline to refresh our memories. However, for those of you who haven’t seen this fantastic period drama, we suggest you go right away and experience the grand scale, heightened emotions, and pinnacle of German patriotism.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Barbarians’ Season 1: Recap And Ending

The central character is Arminius, the fictionalized version of a real-life freedom fighter who attempted to unite the Germanic tribes against the Romans. We are introduced to the heinous ways in which the Romans treated the native Germans. As a young boy, Arminius was taken from his father as an offering to the Roman Army. His character arc reminds us of Theon Greyjoy from “Game of Thrones,” but the difference is Arminius is the central character here, and his redemption arc takes less time to come full circle. He grew up amongst the Romans at the house of Roman leader Varus, and years later, he led his Army of Germanic tribes against the same Romans with whom he had spent a lot of time. He grew up learning how the great Roman Army functioned and how they emerged victorious against greater odds. Hence, it’s now up to Arminius to reunite his tribe and put that knowledge to good use.

Apart from Arminius, we are also introduced to two other main characters: Thusnelda, the warrior princess is secretly in love with Folkwin, who is a simple yet furious warrior. She also has a younger brother named Ansgar, who has been tormented by the Romans in a way that has scarred him emotionally and mentally for life. There is also an emotional angle to it. Thusnelda was being assaulted by the Romans, and that’s when her brother jumped in to rescue her, which led him to his atrocious fate. There are multiple incidents like this that get the Germanic tribes all hot and bothered against the Romans and their ways of operations, and we get the hint of a brewing mutiny. It also aims to tell us which side is good and which is not.

So the story takes us right into the action as we see the atrocities the Germanic tribes are subjected to. The Romans want what they want, and they just snatch it away while the Germans only stand and are witnesses to their destruction. The audiences, who are well-versed in German history, await the grand showdown at the famous Teutoburg Forest, where a large-scale battle between the Romans and Germans took place. But before that, there has to be a buildup, and it has been established really well in the series.

At the heart of the emotional core of the story is the dynamic shared between Arminius, Folkwin, and Thusnelda. The Son of the local tribe chief named Segestes, Arminius, was offered to the Romans as a peace offering, and now, he has returned back to his clan and offers to provide his help to secure the lands for the Germans. But there is always a shadow of doubt about his true allegiance that looms over him, even when he gets in touch with his childhood friends Folkwin and Thusnelda. This provides some of the most touching moments of the show and also the most dramatic ones. The friends reunite and assemble their forces to take on the behemoth in the form of Roman forces. Arminius had grown up as a ward of Varus, the Romanian leader, and now that he has become a proven war general, the Romans believe that he is properly brainwashed to be one of their own. But Arminius isn’t a horse that can be tamed. He understands where he comes from, and he knows what to fight for. He happens to be the best chance for the Germans if they ever wanted to fight against the well-organized and assembled forces of the Roman empire. But there are many who still doubt Arminius’ allegiance since he was specifically sent to take over his childhood friend Thusnelda’s tribal village.

Eventually, the tribes agree that Armenius is, in fact, one of their own, and a big battle in the Teutoburg Forest takes place. One can say that the Germans proved their mettle on the battlefield and that it won’t be an easy task for the Romans to advance further without facing severe consequences. However, it also goes on to create more problems for the Germans than it solves. Arminius gained multiple enemies, one of them being Segestes, the father of Thusnelda. He is feeling side-lined because he now believes that Armenius disrespected him by marrying Thusnelda without her father’s consent. Plus, he happens to be one of the few German tribals who believes that the German tribes are far better off under Roman rule compared to if they were allowed to rule themselves. Also, there is an entire animosity between Thusnelda and Folkwin as she has grown closer to Armenius, which  Folkwin is uncomfortable about. The marriage was proposed more as a contract, but Armenius is slowly winning over Thusnelda, and naturally, the friendship between the three faces its biggest test.

All in all, Segestes turns out to be the main villain here, and if the German tribes face a downfall in the near future at the hands of the Romans, it would likely be caused by Segestes. In “Barbarians” Season 1, it’s not very difficult to take sides since the Romans are portrayed as clear enemies while the Germans are shown to be true heroes. It is a rule in storytelling that if it’s David vs Goliath, the former always has the sentiment of the masses. Armenius has so far successfully proven that while initially he was torn about his loyalties, he is not anymore. He loves his people, and that leads him on a path of redemption to some extent.

Final Words

“Barbarians” was a major success across Europe and the Western World. Due to the authenticity of the storytelling, some emotionally charged scenes, compelling cinematography, fiery battles, and some of the best background music that we have heard in a long time. Plus, the leading performances by Laurence Rupp, Jeanne Goursaud, and David Schutter, as Armenius, Thusnelda, and Folkwin, respectively, have been really remarkable. Let’s hope “Barbarians” Season 2 maintains this quality and takes us yet again into the tribal Germany of centuries ago.

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Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia is an independent filmmaker and a creative writer. He hails from India, a country with a millennium-old tradition of narrative fiction. He has been published on several popular online platforms and in print. He is a surrealist who hopes to have his stories seen by millions.
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