In real life, genetic modification serves as the foundation of life. Our DNAs breakdown, go through a process of restoration and then lead to mutations of all kinds. And ultimately, it is this mutation that not only allows us to evolve as species but completely changes the world around us every single day. Undoubtedly, the very foundation of genetic engineering is intriguing enough to draw the attention of several filmmakers. But the deeper we delve into the science of genetic modification, the more we learn that the field of biotech can be used for deriving tales from almost every genre. From superhero flicks like ‘X-Men’ to sci-fi thrillers like ‘Jurassic Park,’ the possibilities are endless.
Netflix’s new German series ‘Biohackers’ treads a similar path and merges the fascinating concepts of the human genome with teen drama. For the most part, ‘Biohackers’ isn’t as “messed up” or twisted as most other movies and shows of the genre, due to which, it comes off more as family-friendly drama; which, I believe, is a good thing. However, on the downside, ‘Biohackers’ is structured in a very generic format, bringing nothing new to the table. As a result, it barely rises above most other archetypal teen mystery thrillers that are available on Netflix.
‘Biohackers’ follows Mia, an orphaned medical student, whose parents died in a mysterious car crash when she was a child. Being brighter than most other students of her batch, Mia attempts to get close to geneticist Dr. Tanja Lorenz, who also happens to be one of her professors at university. Her purpose soon becomes clear: By working closely with Dr. Lorenz, Mia intends to gain access to Lorenz’s secretive, ethically wrong experiments that have deep connections with her own past. To achieve her goal, Mia first warms up to the professor’s research assistant, Jasper.
With Jasper’s help, she wheedles her way into Lorenz’s biomedical research institute and volunteers as her assistant in an ongoing genetic study. That’s when she learns that to gain access to the professor’s confidential documents, she’ll have to access her home computer. Through a night-out with Jasper, Mia manages to enter the professor’s home and acquires essential documents that reveal the professor’s links to her family’s car accident and her twin brother’s death. Moreover, this visit to Lorenz’s residence also makes her realize that Jasper is nothing but a lab rat to her. Ultimately, while Jasper struggles to choose sides, a game of cat-and-mouse ensues between Mia and Lorenz, where Mia tries to expose the professor’s unethical experiments to the world, while Lorenz uses her wit to stay ahead of Mia.
Have you ever seen trailers that reveal the best parts of movies just to lure an audience? Well, ‘Biohackers’ does something similar with its opening scene. The protagonist, Mia, takes a train ride where every other passenger starts falling to the ground, and despite being a medical student, Mia is not able to explain what’s happening. This initial hook of the series grabs your attention like a hand shooting out of a grave. But right after this, the series leaves you hanging and jumps to the present timeline of its storyline. Each episode only makes small revelations about this scene, and the series waits till its penultimate episodes to connect all dots and satiate your curiosity as a viewer.
Now, undoubtedly, the show offers other intriguing underlying mysteries surrounding genetic meddling and technology as well. But the extreme simplicity with which the series presents its scientific gobbledygook almost makes it look ridiculous. For instance, Mia’s college roommates are all portrayed as nerds who quickly churn out inventions like genetically-modified plants and antidotes for life-threatening viruses with impractical ease.
These seemingly absurd character quirks don’t make a lot of sense and even steal away the show’s otherwise realistic appeal. However, at the same time, these add a whimsical charm to the supporting characters. Speaking of the characters, Mia’s role as the amateur sleuth of the series is believable. But on the other hand, the development of her romantic relationships lacks enough heft to be engaging in any way. When it comes to the antagonist, the role of Dr. Tanja Lorenz is carried well by Jessica Schwarz. However, her motives are far too tyrannical, one-dimensional, and at times downright nuts, making her an easily forgettable villain.
Despite all of its flaws, the show’s forthright and quick-paced storytelling is compelling enough for most viewers to stick around throughout its runtime of six breezy episodes. It also adopts a very confident and nonchalant tone while dropping morally ambiguous yet exciting themes and ideas surrounding the use of genetic engineering. Although it never delves too deep into its subject matters, it does leave some room for potential discussions. Moreover, the revelations surrounding its overarching mystery have a consistent flow. Though, you might still be able to foresee most of it.
Overall, ‘Biohackers’ heavily relies on Fridge Logic just for the sake of dropping creative explanations for its generic sci-fi themes. So, it is certainly no masterpiece. There is, however, a deadpan insistence in all of its seriousness that allows its comic appeal to come across. Due to this, young teens who aren’t too well-versed with the world of sci-fi will be mildly entertained by the show’s explorations of the genre.
Read More: Where is Biohackers Filmed?