On Saturday night, I stayed up way past my bedtime. As someone who keeps pretty regular hours, it almost felt like an act of rebellion. I stayed up not so much out of optimism, in the way that people see in the New Year in hope of prosperity, improved health and the like, but more by chance.
As the night drew longer, I finished watching a series that my brother had put me on to, and it was gone 1am by the time of the season-ending crescendo. I did however resist trying to start the next series. As I looked down at the clock on the cable TV box, I realised that Series 4 of Austria’s National Lockdown had finished too. Will it be a final series, or can we expect a Series 5? Maybe that is the real cliffhanger. After all, we have been watching this story for approaching two years and we wondered for a while whether it was going to be renewed for a second series back in the summer of 2020, although no sooner had Series 2 aired, there was a third series following hot on its heals in the new year.
If I were to review the latest (fourth) series, I would do so as follows: There was an interesting curtain up, with a veritable reshuffling of the cards, but the intrigue had already widely taken place between the third and fourth series. My wife advised me that in theatrical terms, this would be like the French classical theatre of all the blood and guts happening off stage. In Austria’s case the blood and guts were public, but just not during the actual series of lockdown.
Before the most recent series, we saw a new main character (Schallenberg) who seemed reluctant and wooden, with the real lead character (Kurz) still lurking in the background, and you always felt that he was going to return to steal the limelight. Another ongoing storyline in the background was bad egg Kickl testing positive for the virus, a slightly predictable twist in his ongoing story across the last couple of years. As the series drew to a close, there were 40,000 demonstrating about the ongoing restrictions, corralled by Kickl and his cagoule of invincibility, having himself apparently defeated Covid. Yes, yes a “milder Verlauf” is possible, but having known Covid claim people before their time, it should not be trivialised.
As it was, there was a slightly strange exit, midway through the series, as Kurz became a father and within a few days of fatherhood promptly announced his leaving politics. Was it a “flounce” as the cut-throat world of social media would call it? The flounce then led the weak lead character to offer his resignation, in a weak and half-hearted manner, confirming him to be a mere placeholder, rewarded with a swift return to his place as Foreign Minister. Talk abounds that Basti will put his black book of contacts and his slickness to use in the world of consultancy. My greater interest will be on how the whole corruption scandal pans out. I look at both Austria and Britain and see some alarming parallels. The state of both incumbent governing parties (Conservatives and ÖVP) seems to be a cocktail of corruption, nepotism and their own personal gain ahead of the complex needs of their respective countries.
As a friend pointed out, he might have led a government (he was of course both “Kanzler Kurz”, and “Kanzler, kurz”), but does he satisfy formal criteria for any jobs? Probably not, but that won’t matter as he rides the overpaid consultancy merry-go-round, in sharp suits and slicked back hair. However, he wasn’t the only character to be possibly exiting stage (centre) right. Gernot Blümel, another man embracing the slicked back hair look, and similarly a recent parent, will also exit the scene. I just wonder how much stationery he filled his pockets with as he left the office, given his apparent reluctance to use a computer. His sonny boy character will doubtless pop up in a similar setting to Basti’s.
Another of the bit part characters, Linhart, also beat a retreat – having heeded the call to become Foreign Minister from being Austria’s man in Paris, he is now apparently off to the brighter lights of Berlin to continue his diplomatic career as Ambassador there. He was a character I really couldn’t get any impression of. As the credits rolled on Lockdown Austria Series Four I felt that I would have missed his name had I blinked.
So what could I bingewatch now? Across the Atlantic there has been a lot of coverage about the return of three quarters of the quartet from Sex and The City. The sequel “And just like that” started last Thursday. Slightly surreally, as the media informs me, it killed off a major character in the opening episode, and the ripples of knowing that a fictional character suffered a heartattack after a session on a Peleton hometrainer apparently had the effect of wiping a percentage of that company’s value “just like that”. It is a fortunate thing that Lockdown Austria doesn’t have the powerful media clout that is capable of altering share prices in this way, although retail and gastronomy are still very much feeling the fallout from Lockdown 4. Balls are already falling by the wayside and 2022 will not start in any semblance of normality.
And so I write this on a Monday morning, with normality slowly apparently returning. The problem is that nothing has changed for me. I still feel unwilling to face crowds happier up in my remote eyrie here in the Cottageviertel. My wife and I are counting the days until the end of term at school, and focussing on staying fit and well, because right now neither of us are ready to tune in for series five of lockdown. I wonder whether the titles will be rebranded – Nehammer comes across as more black ÖVP, but the party is currently still using turquoise. Stay safe everyone, and wishing you a healthy and peaceful and relaxed end to 2021.