TV: The Mire (Season 2)

After a modestly successful first run, Polish crime series The Mire steps up its game significantly in season two (aka The Mire ’97). Despite the massive time gap between the two seasons—thirteen years elapse between them—the show manages to maintain an impressive sense of place and character continuity, while semi-rebooting its snarly mystery paces with new characters and scenarios.

In the wake of a devastating flood that inundated huge parts of the area, journalist Piotr Zarzycki (Dawid Ogrodnik) returns to the dank community of the Gronty Forest where he started his career, now as the newly anointed editor-in-chief of the newspaper where he had his first job. Unlike during his earlier tenure, when he and his dissatisfied wife Teresa (Zofia Wichlasz) lived in a dingy communist-era tenement, he now has a home on the posh grounds of a new suburban housing development. Neither Teresa nor their daughter Wanda (Wanda Marzec) are terribly happy to be moving from Poland’s capital to its run-down backwoods, but Piotr convinces them it’s a temporary career move that will help the family. Not long after their arrival, however, a new mystery develops to entangle them, and greatly test Piotr and Teresa’s marriage. The death of a young boy leads to a case for newly arrived detective Anna Jass (a compelling Magdalena Rózczka), recently exiled to the area for mysterious past failings. Jass, however, is a resourceful, spirited investigator with no intention of brooking any local nonsense. Deducing something nefarious about a mysterious levee failure, she challenges the establishment officials who rule the boy’s death an accidental drowning related to the floods, and sets out to crack the case. This, despite the reluctance of her crusty partner Adam Mika (Lukasz Simlat), an old hand all too familiar with the region’s smothering old-school ways. Clearly someone in the area is hiding something, and doesn’t want it found out, but between Anna, Piotr, and Piotr’s retired journalist colleague Witek (Andrzej Seweryn), the inconvenient truth is ultimately exposed.

The Mire ’97 is a welcome return to its milieu, and in fact raises it to another level. The new mystery is a compelling investigation that restores the series’ solid original dynamic, while injecting new energy with the addition of the police duo, played appealing by Rózczka and Simlat. In addition to the engaging A story, there’s highly atmospheric lore in the form of flashbacks involving the area’s troubled World War II past. These sequences vividly delve into the backstory of the young Witek (Krzysztof Oleksyn), and further illuminate the region’s tortured history of being caught between fascism and communism—a testy, dire atmosphere that persists effectively in the present tracks. Ogrodnik and Seweryn successfully anchor the proceedings, while Wichlasz adds richness to the personal drama in an expanded role. (Importantly, Ogrodnik and Wichlasz are convincingly aged up a decade with astute costume and hairstyle choices.) Overall, it’s a surprisingly enthralling return for an already solid crime series; if I left the first season casually happy to have seen it, I left the second eager for more.

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