If you’re looking for a cop thriller, look no further because Netflix is presenting it to you on a platter. The new Netflix German thriller is a story about a cop named Atlas who has lost his memory and is living on the streets after a traumatic incident that has made it hard for him to think straight. Atlas gets dragged back into the middle of chaos after the man he put in prison ends up committing suicide. The man’s brother burns down Atlas’ caravan home and leaves him with the fact that he’s at fault for the suicide. This leads Atlas on a journey of reflection, reinvention, and redemption. On the other hand, a young woman named Jule Andergast, who works at the DA’s office, is bogged down by the pressure of inherited skills at work and decides to prove herself by reopening old wounds after being assigned the same suicide case.
While the thriller is interesting from the get-go, for a good amount of the first half, a lot is happening, and the details make for a chaotic viewing experience. The show is definitely one of the better thrillers on the platform and can be a fun binge-watch. It’s a whodunit with a twist that is a little bit unnecessary and would’ve been better if it stuck to a straightforward answer. The first thing I’d like to address is the title of the show and how it can be interpreted in two ways. One is to take it in the literal sense and let sleeping dogs lie, or the second would be to consider Atlas a sleeping dog until he regains his memory and returns to his real potential. This is a fun detail that can make a difference in one’s viewing experience.
Jule is definitely the standout performance of the show, and her character is the most engaging out of all. Her interactions with the DA, Corinna, are fun, and even as a non-native speaker, I was intrigued by their conversations. Jule’s arc is also fantastic, and we see her get free of her fears and accept herself by the end of the show. I’d definitely watch a spin-off focused on her if there were ever one. I feel like it would’ve been more fun if we had just focused on her angle along with Atlas’ to make the point of the show clear. Not to say that the other characters are unnecessary, but it’s just an overwhelming amount of character information that can make one lose interest. It makes full sense that the show shows us Jule’s perspective because Atlas is not a reliable narrator or a very engaging “hero.” He’s dull and lost for most of the series, and even when he regains his memories, there’s a humdrum aura around him. The only time he ever looks slightly alive is when he’s with his daughter, Tinka. They make a great father-daughter duo, and Tinka’s character is someone I would’ve liked to see more of. Maybe even see her interacting with Jule as a mentor or someone to look up to.
Zari is a character I disliked right from the beginning, and I’d say that’s a sign of a good performance. Britney was also a great character, but because there was so much going on, I forgot about her existence during the climax of the show. Everyone does an impeccable job playing their roles, and nothing feels forced or fake in terms of performance. The show also dives into some complicated issues, such as xenophobia and racism, that are handled very well! There’s definitely an undertone of family and relationships injected into the plot line, as we’ve seen in most shows recently, in an attempt to make it emotionally charged, but it definitely falls short here.
Visually, the show doesn’t offer anything new, but the melancholic cello in the background score can make one really feel the pain of some of the people affected in the show. While I’m writing this review, I keep going back to try and understand what the point of the show was. Just as Atlas’ memories took time to come to him, I’m able to piece together my thoughts around the show as well. I may myself be lost in the many details of the show, but we could say it presents the corrupt world of all the systems involved in crime-solving. Maybe I’m just a little dimwitted, but if the answers were clearer, I might have been more amused by the series. The series definitely stands out in comparison to other contemporary thrillers because it doesn’t use unnecessary plot devices to give us moral messaging; it just gives us good examples instead. I sound like I’m complimenting the show more than not, but I’m still confused about whether I liked it or not. The psychological element felt like that tacked on dessert that there’s no room for after a meal so you just push yourself for the extra serotonin but instead it gives you a bloated belly and a sugar rush. I do think it would’ve worked better if there was some kind of focus on this.
The show brings up the topics of loneliness, greed, jealousy, corruption, family, and more within its six episodes. Some of these could’ve been focused on more to make a bigger impact in the end. And let’s not forget PTSD, terrorist attacks, and so much more. It does sound like you could get something new from every watch, but I personally wouldn’t go back and watch this series again. I found it a little bit convoluted for my taste and would’ve changed the ending a little if it were left up to me. Ultimately, I think Sleeping Dog had all the elements of becoming a great show, but it snubs itself by trying to be too good for its own good. There’s some sexual content and nudity, a little bit of profanity, along with some drug use, violence, and blood. Overall, I’d give Sleeping Dog 3 out of 5 stars for a great attempt and specifically for Jule’s character.