When Vienna Blood debuted back in January of 2020, it was an exciting addition to the PBS mystery line-up. Set in 1910s Vienna, in the years before the Great War tore the Austria-Hungarian empire apart, this series explores a time and place in the grip of rising nationalism, and blindness to where it might lead. It also brought viewers a fascinating duo of working-class detective Oskar Rheinhard (Juergen Maurer) and upper-class British immigrant Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard). The latter's beliefs in the methods of Sigmund Freud and Jewish background make him a fish out of water in high society.
The series initially ran three feature-length episodes in the UK and split into six installments for the PBS broadcast. It seems to have done well enough in both places that a second season has now been commissioned. According to Deadline, the new set of feature-length episodes (once again, three in all) will be produced by Germany’s ZDF and Austria’s ORF, and air on BBC Two in the U.K. and on PBS here in America. There also won't be much of a delay in starting. With COVID-19 mostly under control in Austria, filming for the new season will be able to begin later this month, with an eye on an early 2021 premiere.
The splitting of episodes into six parts here in America sometimes leads the series to feel uneven in its debut run. That's partly due to the very sudden cut-offs at the end of the odd-numbered episodes to divide the stories evenly. But also, it was because Vienna Blood didn't always seem to know what it wanted to be.
Period mysteries, in general, have a choice to make. Are they mysteries, where the period aspects are merely set-decor and costume budget factors? Or are they an entrance to exploring the nuances of the time and place, with the mystery an excuse to push events forward?
Vienna Blood didn't seem to know which way it wanted to fall. Beard and Maurer were strong, but the supporting ensemble was the show's real secret weapon. Conleth Hill and Amelia Bullmore, as Max's parents Mendel and Rachel, were fantastic, as were the women in Max's life. At points, his sister Leah (Charlene McKenna), his now-ex-fiancee, Clara (Luise von Finckh), and current love interest, Amelia (Jessica De Gouw) were sometimes the more interesting characters than the leads.
By the show's final story (in America, it's last two installments), it seems to be leaning towards the latter idea, making Vienna Blood more like Grantchester, where the mystery is less a mainstay than a function of the lead's careers. And it seemed to have great potential in heading that way. Author Frank Tallis originally wrote six novels in his Liebermann Papers series in the late aughts, with a seventh arriving recently in the wake of the adaptation, published in 2018, so the show has more mysteries to fuel this second season before having to decide where to go next. It remains to be seen which direction it chooses.
Vienna Blood Season 2 is expected to premiere in 2021.