TV: The Mire (Season 1)

The reward isn’t particularly high, but The Mire is a low-risk, low time investment show for fans of dark, twisty European crime stories. This Polish show takes place in remote, backwoods town in the early 1980s. Just as jaded veteran reporter Witold Wanycz (Andrzej Seweryn) is gearing up to defect to the west, hotshot new reporter Piotr Zarzycki (Dawid Ogrodnik) arrives in town, looking to make a name for himself. Together, they develop an interest in a big, controversial story: the death of a prostitute in the town’s eerie woods, which appears to be connected with a deceased local official. The crime is politically sensitive, and both the police and the media seem equally content to sweep it under the rug once a convenient but unlikely scapegoat confesses to the murders. The reporters, however, sense there’s something more to the story. Witold cynically tries to write it off, but Piotr refuses to stop investigating, and ultimately they come together to uncover the dark, shocking truth behind the crimes.

The Mire is a well realized period mystery, and like most of the Polish TV I’ve seen, it’s rather unforgiving in its language and complexity—in a good way, presenting both a criminal case and a world that are nuanced, richly imagined, and realistically complicated. In this case, the shadow of communist authoritarianism looms over the bleak setting, and informs the stories of its unconventional protagonists: Witold (the washed-up veteran disgusted by the systems to which he’s become complicit) and Piotr (the angry young firebrand, rebelling against the toxicity of his Party-connected father). The rest of the cast provides able support, with the most conspicuous standouts being Zofia Wichlasz as Piotr’s quietly suffering wife Teresa, and Nel Kaczmarek and Jan Cięciara as star-crossed teenagers whose fate is connected with the murders. It’s perhaps not as addictive or impactful as certain other Eurocrime shows I’ve enjoyed, and the usual trigger-warning caveats apply when it comes to the macabre details, but overall it’s an accomplished, efficient effort that tells its story well.

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