It seems I did this all wrong. I found myself browsing Netflix and came across a series called “Berlin.” Well, obviously, I was intrigued. My love of any and all things Berlin (the German city)-related led me to push play on the first episode and I quickly realized that it has nothing at all to do with Berlin, the city. But, by then, I was already hooked. It turns out Berlin the series is a prequel spin-off of a massively popular Spanish series called Money Heist, which aired from 2017 to 2021. Funnily enough, Money Heist has been sitting on my list of shows I’ve been meaning to get to, as I remember hearing a lot of buzz about it a few years ago. I had no idea, as I found myself getting sucked into this charming and addictive little Spanish series Berlin, that it had ties to that massive Money Heist franchise. For me, it was simply a clever and well-made show, appealing enough all on its own.

There were good and bad things about not knowing anything before I started watching Berlin. The bad thing is that I missed all the easter eggs and inside jokes that are obviously littered throughout. There were some key moments that felt like the audience was being winked at and character reveals that are done in overly dramatic ways, so I know the effectiveness of those were lost on me. However, the good part of watching this series before seeing any of the original first was I was able to enjoy it as a blank slate, with no preconceptions, no expectations. I compare it to, say, watching the Breaking Bad movie, El Camino, as a stand-alone experience. How would that movie play to someone who had never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad? Could it stand on its own? Would the audience care? Isn’t that the test of any movie or television series—it’s not about what it is, but how good it is.

So, knowing all this, did it still hold my interest, despite not having seen a single episode of the original series it’s based on, and would I recommend it to others, even if they had no idea what Money Heist even was? You bet.

Berlin is an eight-episode series about a group of professional thieves who come together to plan a massive heist of jewels from a vault in Paris. Think Ocean’s Eleven, but in Paris and they’re all Spanish. Oh, and they all are having sex with each other.

The big difference between Berlin and any other heist show or movie I can remember is that this series is just as much about sex, love and romance than it is about stealing things—if not more. The gang of thieves is made up of four men and two women—already an uncommon ratio for your standard heist flick—and each of their love lives is explored, with particular emphasis on the romantic dalliances of Berlin, the boss of the gang.

Berlin, played by Pedro Alonso, is the connective tissue to the Money Heist series, as his character is one of the main thieves in the original series and this prequel focuses on his character specifically. Berlin is a narcissistic, grandiose, emotional, romantic and obnoxious lothario who is obsessed with love. As he and his gang scope out the job they are about to pull, he finds himself melodramatically head-over-heels in love with the wife of their target, and the rest of the series involves all the various entanglements that brings.

Meanwhile, the four younger members of the gang, played by Michelle Jenner, Begoña Vargas, Julio Peña and Joel Sánchez, pair off and simultaneously carry out their assignments for Berlin while fighting all the sizzling sexual tension between them. I’ll be honest, I rolled my eyes when I realized what was going on at first, but the stories do not play out the way you’d expect them to, and it ends up being very entertaining and charming, far from the standard soap opera fare you would expect.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that feels like a soap opera, especially the overly romantic philosophizing and the gratuitous close-ups of sweat beads rolling down sculpted chests, but there is so much more that sucks you in.

I know I was supposed to have watched Money Heist before watching Berlin, but I don’t feel like I missed anything by watching this first. It works perfectly well as a stand-alone series, it will satisfy the hardcore heist and action lover as well as the romantic (perfect for date night). It’s slickly-produced, with plenty of action, including car chases and shoot-outs, but, at its core, it’s about the characters and their relationships with each other, which, I have to say, was incredibly refreshing and satisfying.

Who knows, maybe all Spanish television is this good, I just had no idea. If Berlin is any indication of how well-made, entertaining, charming and unpredictable it is, I will certainly be coming back for more.

In Spanish with English subtitles.