Barbarians season 2 review – an enjoyably bloody historical escapade

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 21, 2022
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Barbarians season 2 review - an enjoyably bloody historical escapade


An impressive follow-up that delivers more of the same while deepening the character dynamics in satisfying ways, Barbarians Season 2 was worth the wait.

This Barbarians Season 2 review is spoiler-free. 

Barbarians, a German Netflix series dramatizing the famed Battle of the Teutoburg Forest fought between the barbarian tribes and the Roman Empire, was a pretty big, albeit surprising hit for the streaming giant back in 2020. What began as a fairly low-key historical drama did a skillful job of building toward a big conclusion, and by the time the mud and the blood of the first season finale had dried enough to peel away, we realized that in the meantime we’d come to care quite a bit about these characters and their plights.

Barbarians season 2 review

Barbarians Season 2 capitalizes on that by delivering a richer story with more complicated dynamics that also retains what worked best about the first outing; excellent production design, period detail, and a potent blending of the historical with the cultural and supernatural. Since we no longer have to waste time introducing these characters and establishing the context, showrunner Stefan Ruzowitzky is able to dig right into the drama that has continued to develop in the year that has elapsed since the events of the first season.

In summary, here’s where things stand: It has been a year since the battle in the forest, and the Germanic tribes have (almost) united under Ari, the barbarian-born but Roman-raised “tribute” who was sent back to the tribes to subjugate them on Rome’s behalf in the first season. Ari is now married to Thusnelda, the warrior-seer beloved of the local soothsayers, and they have a child together, though there’s a better than average chance the nipper was really sired by Thusnelda’s old lover Folkwin, who suffered mightily at the hands of Ari and the Romans.

Despite the barbarians enjoying relative peace after their victory, the Empire hasn’t moved on. On the contrary, Tiberius and his son Germanicus are amassing their forces ready to run roughshod over the territory they have already decided is theirs, and they might have figured out a way to do it through another tribal leader named Marbod, who is interested not only in peace and prosperity but some longstanding relationships he developed when he, too, was a tribute to Rome along with Ari and Ari’s brother, Flavus.

Things progress from there, with Marbod pursuing a “peace” that Ari and Thusnelda believe to be illusory at best and an outright trap at worst, and the rest of the Cherusci and other united tribes trying to decide how to fight back against a superior military force that vastly outnumbers them. It’s very reminiscent of the first season in a macro sense — Rome and the barbarians fighting over Germania — but those prior events produce a much more interesting character drama on the micro level. There are surprising turns, unexpected alliances and rivalries, and powerful developments shaped by impressive action and sneaky politicking.

The show’s production and choreography continue to impress, and the first season’s success seems to have produced a larger budget which is put to good use. Jeanne Goursaud continues to be a captivating presence as Thusnelda, switching between warrior-queen and an almost supernatural being at will, and the smarmy Roman contingent is well-served by detestable performances (though less so by the English dub, which makes Tiberius, of all people, sound exactly like Stewie Griffin.) Six episodes remain a good number; enough to develop the stakes and characters without the story becoming tedious or longwinded in its execution. Few shows are as well-suited to a binge-watch.

Hopefully, it does well. I had no idea it did as well as it did the first time around — the original season became the most popular German-language series on Netflix and amassed 37 million views in its first month. Numbers don’t lie, and the anticipated second season, which was announced very shortly after the first, has enough in common with its predecessor that fans won’t be disappointed.

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