Netflix’s German mystery crime series, ‘Sleeping Dog,’ directed by Stephan Lacant and Francis Meletzky, delves into the inner workings of the legal system through a suspicious string of murders. Starring Max Riemelt in the central role alongside Luise von Finckh, the show follows former cop Mike Atlas, who abandons his family and lives on the streets with lapses in his memories. After the death of Mussa Basher, imprisoned for the murder of Judge Herres, Atlas unearths the Herres case, unable to shake off the feeling that there’s been a mistake. Along the way, Atlas teams up with rookie prosecutor Jule Andergast, and together the duo investigates the web of lies weaved around the Herres murder.
Through the fast-paced conspiratorial investigation, the series delves into themes of morality and trauma and explores the corruption within a police department. As such, viewers might be wondering how the show’s title, ‘Sleeping Dog,’ fits into that narrative. If so, here is everything you need to know about the same!
What Does the Sleeping Dog Title Mean?
Titled ‘Schlafende Hunde’ in the original German, ‘Sleeping Dog’ is an exploration of amnesiac Mike Atlas’s struggle to convene with his involvement in the prosecution and consequential suicide of Mussa Basher. Throughout the first season’s six-episode run, unnamed guilt drives Atlas and prevents him from returning to his family and past life. As the storyline progress, Atlas, alongside the audience, slowly uncovers his past, realizing his memory loss was a dissociative trauma response.
The title ‘Sleeping Dog’ is derived from the infamous idiom, “Let the sleeping dogs lie.” The saying is a reminder to avoid uninvited danger and advocates that one should let risky situations rest as poking at them might lead to adverse outcomes. Much like abruptly waking a dog can be dangerous or even deathly, sometimes issues are better left alone.
In the series, the sleeping dog that Atlas tries to ignore is his and his friends’ abuse of power and illegal involvement in the Basher and Herres case. Atlas knows that if the truth came out into the daylight, it would ruin his life alongside Zari and Socke’s. As such, he tries to avoid it, but the guilt continuously eats away at his conscience.
Although the saying suggests it’s easier to overlook certain situations, Atlas finds that his life only worsens when he tries to ignore his issues and mistakes. Unlike Zaric and Socke, Atlas is unable to live with the guilt of his actions. Due to the same, he first develops dissociative amnesia. If he can’t remember his past, surely, the past can’t haunt him. Nevertheless, the ghost of his actions persists, and Atlas’s inability to recall the details of the same only further exacerbates their grating effect.
As such, the title ‘Sleeping Dog’ flips the idiom it stems from and highlights the importance of acknowledging issues and taking accountability. It argues that avoiding your past and, most importantly, your wrongdoings won’t make them disappear. The consequences of Atlas’s actions follow him throughout the story, manifesting as a string of deaths that occur in an effort to keep the truth hidden.
In the end, Atlas is only able to stop the deaths and unravel the web of lies by confronting the harsh reality of his past. Since the series heavily revolves around corruption, particularly in the justice system, the message easily resonates with its themes and motifs. Therefore, the title ‘Sleeping Dog’ is a reference to Atlas’s inner turmoil that stems from him covering up a crime with his friends. It’s a reminder about accountability, and it condemns the idea that avoiding a problem could make it disappear.