“Mord mit Aussicht”: In Love with Mathilde

6. August 2010 – Archiv

On this week’s episode of the German TV show “Mord mit Aussicht”, policewoman Bärbel fell head over heels in love with the charming Mathilde, and was suddenly faced with the question: Am I gay?

“Mord mit Aussicht” (“Murder with a View”) is a German crime/comedy series that’s currently in its second season on German TV network ARD. Its main character is Sophie Haas, a big city police detective who doesn’t always play by the rules. Sophie had hoped to be promoted to head of the homicide division in her hometown of Cologne, but instead, her superiors transfer her to Hengasch, a small village in the German countryside, where she is supposed to run the local police station. Disappointed and frustrated at first, Sophie soon realizes that not everyone in Hengasch is as harmless and boring as it seems, and she and her new colleagues soon have to solve one mysterious case after another.

One of Sophie’s new colleagues is Bärbel, a young and ambitious policewoman. Bärbel has spent her whole life in Hengasch, she knows everyone and everything in the area, and everyone knows her. When Sophie becomes her new boss, Bärbel is skeptical at first, but she soon starts to enjoy that – thanks to Sophie – she finally gets to do some real police work. Unlike her colleague Dietmar, who has been married to his wife Heike for 17 years, and Sophie, who is dating the local vet, Bärbel is still single and hasn’t really been in love before – until she meets Mathilde.

When Bärbel is in the village shop one morning, she’s observing a shop theft – or so she thinks. The suspect is not only innocent, but turns out to be a charming young woman named Mathilde (Alwara Höfels), a carpenter “auf der Walz” (“on the waltz” or journeywoman).

Bärbel and Mathilde hit it off immediately, and when she and Sophie run into Mathilde again later that day while investigating their current case, Bärbel is delighted. Sophie not so much, because for the rest of the day, Bärbel is absent-minded and busy writing text messages instead of taking part in the investigation.

When Bärbel and Mathilde later meet, Bärbel is once again swept off her feet by Mathilde’s charm – so much so that she suddenly finds herself making out with her.

The next morning, Bärbel is confused and distraught. When Sophie, who eventually figures out why Bärbel was acting so weirdly the day before, tries to comfort her and tell her that it’s okay to have feelings for another woman, Bärbel panics and furiously tells Sophie that she is not a lesbian. Still, she cannot stop crying.

It’s Dietmar’s wife Heike (Petra Kleinert) who eventually manages to talk sense into Bärbel by telling her that Bärbel’s behaviour is a shame – not her making out with another woman (which of course didn’t go unnoticed in Hengasch), but her crying over it.

Heike tells Bärbel that it doesn’t matter whether Bärbel is in love with a man or a woman, as long as she is happy, and that she doesn’t need to be sure whether she is a lesbian or not to act on her feelings – if one day she falls for a man, it’s just as well.

Bärbel is relieved and meets with Mathilde. She apologizes for not getting in touch with her earlier, and explains to her that she was confused because she isn’t sure whether she is a lesbian. Much to Bärbel’s surprise, Mathilde says that she isn’t a lesbian either, that she likes both women and men.

Bärbel gives her heart a push and asks Mathilde whether she wants to come home with her. Mathilde says that she would love to, but that she has to leave Hengasch – after all, she is “auf der Walz”.

When Mathilde walks away, Bärbel stays behind with a broken heart.

It’s not a secret that “Mord mit Aussicht” is one of my favourite TV shows at the moment. The writers have created some wonderfully quirky characters, who are brought to life by a great cast. So when I read a preview of this episode, I was both excited and also a little nervous how the cast and the crew would handle the storyline. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed.

From the very first episode, I had suspected that Bärbel might be gay. She just never seemed very interested in men, on the contrary; in the episode that preceded “Walzing Mathilde”, she talked about a female former classmate in a way that seemed to imply much deeper feelings than just admiration.

That’s why, when Bärbel so vehemently denied that she was a lesbian, I was a little surprised at first, but then it started to make sense to me: Even though she probably always had feelings for other women, she never questioned her sexuality, either because the thought that she might be gay never dawned on her, or because she never dared to allow that thought. After all, she was brought up in the countryside, in a rather conservative environment where there were probably no other gay people around.

So it had to be someone from the outside to trigger these feelings in her, and it had to be somebody who would sweep her from her feet in a way that wouldn’t give her time to think and once again oppress her feelings. Which made Alwara Höfels perfect for the part of Mathilde – honestly, who didn’t fall in love with her in “Keinohrhasen”? I know I did. And she and Meike Droste aka Bärbel had great chemistry and made a great couple.

But just as it had to be someone from the outside to make Bärbel question her sexuality in the first place, it had to be someone from Hengasch to tell her that, even if she was gay, it was okay. That’s why it couldn’t be Sophie, who was an outsider herself. And the lecture that Heike gave Bärbel was exactly what Bärbel needed to hear: That it didn’t matter who Bärbel loved, as long as she was happy, and that she didn’t have to decide whether she was a lesbian or not, just act on her feelings. Great writing, great acting by Meike Droste and Petra Kleinert, and a wonderful message.

When I wrote a preview for this episode earlier this week, I wondered whether Bärbel falling in love with a woman would be a one-time thing, or whether she would now come out as a lesbian. After this episode, we still don’t know, but this too makes sense, because neither does Bärbel. Coming out takes time. But even though it’s also possible that the next person Bärbel falls for is in fact a man, I somehow doubt it.

(And that’s only a little bit of wishful thinking on my gaydar’s part.)