TV Review: Is Netflix's 'Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood' Worth The Binge?

Oktoberfest Beer and Blood Klaus Steinbacher Roman Hoflinger Misel Maticevic Curt Prank  Mercedes Müller Clara Prank Netflix
Image by Netflix

Come for the fascinating fest. Stay for the frothy drama. When it comes to 2020 Netflix releases, it is tough (to impossible) to top “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” (aka “Oktoberfest 1900”), especially when you zero in on the costume drama genre. Not long before Germany gave Netflix subscribers the epic costumer “Barbarians” comes this thoughtful period piece.

“Oktoberfest” is a gritty, raw, and riveting ride that explores Germany’s infamous beer festival circa 1900. For historical context, that was the year before Queen Victoria’s death. This dramatic (and fictionalized) rendering takes viewers into the dizzying underworld of players who took the festival to the next level. Rooted in true events, “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” takes viewers down an artistically licensed rabbit hole filled with beer and blood.

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At the epicenter of the “Oktoberfest” festival’s frenzied shakeup is Munich-based mover and shaker Curt Prank (Misel Maticevic). He is an ambitious and ruthless brewery owner whose life goal is rooted in a tragic past that is hinted at in gruesome flashbacks. Prank comes to the elite with a hidden and outward agenda and a boy-crazy young adult daughter, Clara (Mercedes Müller).

It is a recipe for disaster, and they are not the only characters intertwined in all of it. Prank faces a formidable rival family in the Hoflingers, so if you guessed lots of beer and blood is subsequently set to get let, you are right on the money. “Oktoberfest” primes the characters to do their worst as they make a mess of everything around them with one drive in mind: the show’s titular festival.

It is in that vein that “Oktoberfest” is part “Medici” (a man’s ambition upsetting reigning powers) and “Game of Thrones” (see: its cutthroat twists and turns). “Oktoberfest” is something fresh, though. Curt Prank makes disruptive moves for an unknown reason (think “The Duelist”), and it is that mystery, along with trying to anticipate what he will do next, that adds a palatable extra layer to the drama.

You will not find good versus evil here. Rather, a messy display of vendettas, righteous anger, daring imagination, and spellbinding results. “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” is one of 2020’s most ambitious dramas in that it anchors all of these stakes in a brief time, twisting the audience right around its gorgeous thumb. Visually, the show is equally spectacular.

A golden hue perfectly keeps the beer theme going even in its subconscious approach. Its lavish cinematography lenses a majestic series that’s acting performances, direction, editing, and storytelling, only further work to elevate. It is an elaborate show that builds episode-to-episode without giving up any of its mounting momentum.

On that note, this is not getting said lightly. Curt Prank might be the best new character of 2020. His stunning cunning, disquieting charisma, and bold tactics herald a fascinating role for Misel Maticevic. Maticevic must convey a man who is part villain, rogue, anti-hero, and hero in his own mind. Prank’s formidable portrayer brings profound heft to a role that is difficult to lift off the paper and submit to the screen.

It is an impressive turn that anchors the series, keeping it from becoming top-heavy with all of the scripted drama that follows. In truth, “Oktoberfest” boasts a laudable ensemble that brings weight, zeal, and momentum to the ambitious opening act of what will hopefully be a multi-season drama. Martina Gedeck’s turn as Mrs. Hoflinger provides the tenacious counterpoint to Misel Maticevic’s towering Prank.

“Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” is a breezy Netflix binge you will demand a refill on. It is a show that stays with you long after the initial buzz subsides. Why? It has substance and meaning with a dash of speculative mystique. Wherever it is headed, it is impossible not to want a ticket to its next outing. Season 1 of “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” (aka “Oktoberfest 1900”) is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 9/10