Perfume season 1 premiere recap: Ambergris


A woman is brutally murdered with specific surgical trophies taken, leaving a group of her school friends who share a dark secret suspecting each other of the deed on Perfume.

The series opens on a sweeping shot over a dusky blue field with a narrator describing the legendary qualities of ambergris – formerly a common ingredient in perfumes but has since become illegal in most countries due to conservation laws protecting its source: the sperm whale.

It is rare and expensive, and while it stems from the digestive tract of sick sperm whales, oddly sexualized. The narrator of Perfume describes it as “sweet, painful, murderous lust” and is historically known as an aphrodisiac. During this introduction, a heavily breathing person covertly watches a naked woman take a swim in her pool.

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The next morning on Perfume a married couple find a young boy playing with a bloody lock of red hair. They know the boy and recognize the hair as belonging to his mother.

The man runs across the field to her house and finds her floating dead in the pool, head shaved, specific incisions in her armpits and pelvis.

Her name is Katharina Läufer, a singer and old school friend of the married couple, Roman (Ken Duken) and Elena (Natalia Belitski). They are part of a close group of six from school, all of whom are suspicious and suspect each other.

The lead investigators are Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht), a sexual crimes expert, and Mattias Köhler (Jürgen Maurer), the homicide detective for the district. The lead prosecutor is Joachim Grünberg (Wotan Wilke Möhring) who is married and carrying on a manipulative affair with Simon.

Simon seems to have trouble being taken seriously by her male co-workers, despite her obvious expertise and reasonable theories.

She thinks its possible the killer could have been a stranger who could show up at the funeral if the details were announced, which seems very possible, but Grünberg dismisses as “absurd” and often doesn’t acknowledge her contributions at all.

The autopsy reveals that the incisions in Katharina’s armpits and pelvis go much deeper than originally thought, that the killer took a large amount of fatty tissue, her hair, and her feces as trophies.

They find semen in the vagina, which belongs to Roman. A stranger’s car with a local license plate was seen early in the morning by a neighbor, but the make and model are unknown. They also found a sedative in Katharina’s son Felix’s bottle, leading the police to believe he’d been sedated by the killer in order to peacefully kill Katharina.

Katharina was the one who would sedate Felix when he was being troublesome or inconvenient. She was apparently very promiscuous, including carrying on an affair with Roman, which he openly discloses to the police.

He had sex with her the night she was killed. Elena knows about it and didn’t really mind as long as he left her alone. Both deny that they killed Katharina and are sure it must have been one of the other three school friends.

Daniel Sluiter (Christian Friedel) is one of the suspected school friends, the outsider of the group. He is somewhat neurotic and afraid to face the others at the funeral. He tells his therapist about a dream he has every night, about a boy who runs away from school but never gets away.

We later learn that during his time at school an eleven-year-old boy mysteriously went missing. Katharina left school after that and the others stopped talking to her.

Another school friend, Thomas Butsche (Trystan Pütter), is a successful pimp who did some time for assault and illegal possession of firearms. His fingerprints were found in Katharina’s house. He claims to have an alibi for the night, a whole bachelor party that was at his brothel. Business is good, he’s expanding into a location near the train station.

The last and most obvious suspect is the perfumer Moritz de Vries (August Diehl). He is seen extracting scent from some kind of fatty, meaty matter in his laboratory. He seems suspiciously obsessive about his craft.

Roman arranges for Katharina to have an open casket service, leaving her exactly as she is. He intends to shock his friends into some kind of confession. When he shows them the incisions he asks them if “that looks familiar.”

De Vries is fascinated, saying that the cuts are in “exactly the right place.” Butsche shows a lot of respect towards the body, stopping Roman from lifting her dress to show the pelvic cuts. Suspecting de Vries of the murder, Butsche attacks him and starts strangling him. Elena says to Sluiter “It needn’t have been one of us.” Meanwhile, a swarm of mourners gathers outside for the public funeral.

This is a wonderful set up for a tight and twisted mystery. There are plenty of clues, a past mystery, and plenty of likely, interesting suspects. A moment I really loved was a strange interlude in which a voiceover recites a section of Dream-land by Edgar Allen Poe over haunting, discordant music.

Next. Perfume season 1 episode 2 recap: Skatole. dark

It is a moment that seems randomly placed and yet feels intuitively right, striking an unsettling and beautiful tone. It reminded me for a moment of Hannibal, the creeping music and the philosophical/poetic prose that combined into something dark and beautiful. It was a strange moment, but it sold me.

What did you think of Perfume? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!