Sleeping Dog Season 1 Review – A decent German crime thriller bogged down by details

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 23, 2023 (Last updated: June 26, 2023)
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Sleeping Dog Season 1 Review – A decent German crime thriller bogged down by details


Sleeping Dog gets by on the strength of its leads and their chemistry, but it does have a tendency to get bogged down in the details of its mystery.

This review of the 2023 Netflix series Sleeping Dog Season 1 does not contain spoilers.

Let sleeping dogs lie, or so goes the expression, the implication being that meddling in a situation that isn’t currently affecting you is liable to get you needlessly bitten. It’s a sentiment that could apply to almost any piece of crime fiction ever made; the genre tends to turn on the idea of people sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

It applies especially to the aptly titled Sleeping Dog, a six-part German Netflix thriller about a cop turned vagrant teaming up with a prosecutor to reopen a seemingly cold case, revealing a labyrinthine conspiracy in the process.

Sleeping Dog Season 1 review and plot summary

International crime thrillers are Netflix’s forte, in many respects, and Sleeping Dog doesn’t do a great deal to stand out among those overcrowded thumbnails. But it at least understands the importance of being a character drama as much as, if not more so, than a mystery.

Enter Mike Atlas (Max Riemelt), who is in many ways an archetype, but is given more emotional contouring by a believably raw performance. The disgraced cop is nothing new, of course, but it’s rare for a show to extend to outright homelessness to make the usual point. Up-and-coming prosecutor Jule Andergast (Luise von Finckh) makes for a nice foil, and it’s this evolving dynamic that is most essential to the show’s appeal.

There’s a mystery too, of course, this one extending – or perhaps descending – into society’s most conspiratorial bowels, winding from terrorism to a corrupt judiciary, but Sleeping Dog is less successful in this regard. Director Christoph Darnstädt capably unfurls the narrative at a respectable pace and with well-positioned twists and turns, but there’s a lot to unpack, and the six episodes can sometimes feel overly stifled by the details and layers of corruption at play.

One shouldn’t criticize a show for asking a lot of its audience, of course, though there’s probably a case to be made that the careful consumption of media is a lost art in the streaming age and that a sizeable portion of the show’s potential audience will be put off by its relative complexity and demand for focus.

Is Sleeping Dog good or bad?

Still, Sleeping Dog is undeniably well-made in most respects and has chemistry to spare between its leads, who’re backed up by a solid bench of unfamiliar but nonetheless capable supporting players.

Across the six episodes, each running close to an hour, the intrigue is capably maintained, and the ending, as all new streaming dramas necessarily must, suggests a wider world to explore in subsequent seasons if this one proves to be a success.

Is Sleeping Dog worth watching?

Whether Sleeping Dog gets that far remains to be seen, of course, but it certainly has the constituent parts. It’s well-made and well-acted, authentic, and with a good eye for detail. It’s in those details, though, that it sometimes gets a little bogged down, which might not bode well for its all-important completion metric.

Still, there’s plenty to like here, and it’s worthy of a recommendation to genre fans, even if it understandably struggles to really make its presence felt in such an overcrowded and ever-popular niche.

What did you think of Sleeping Dog Season 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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