A few days after reviewing The Stranger, we have another Netflix miniseries on our hands.
The Woods has also been adapted from a Harlan Coben novel with the American setting switched out for a Polish one. The 6-part miniseries offer a more gripping mystery than The Stranger, which is wrapped up without losing its focus. But it doesn’t have a mysterious antagonist around this time.
Switching between two timelines separated by 25 years, we follow the protagonist Pawel Kopinski who is haunted by the disappearance of his sister in 1994. When an unidentified body is found in 2019, Pawell is convinced that it holds the key to finding his sister.
1. Quick Review
The setting has been changed from an American suburb in the novels to a Polish town in the series. This lends a breath of fresh air to The Woods, which is the second Polish production on Netflix.
The series navigates the two timelines smoothly as Pawell works to untangle the secrets surrounding his sister, Kamila’s disappearance. The pace has been slowed down, which develops the story differently.
This is not a fast-paced chase to hunt down the perpetrator. It instead focuses on the story of a man grieving from his past and looking for closure.
2. Is It Worth Watching?
The Harlan Coben signature is all over The Woods which is not surprising considering he also serves as a producer. A mystery involving a missing person, a conflicted protagonist, and a rape investigation in the present all combine to produce a gripping miniseries.
The Woods opens with Pawell Kopinski facing the barrel of a gun and then throws you back to the summer camp in 1994 where everything began.
Pawell is a successful lawyer in Warsaw whose life changed after the summer of 1994. He was working as a chaperone at a summer camp when four children go missing. The bodies of two are found the next day, but the other two, which include Pawell’s sister Kamila are missing to this day.
In 2019 he is called to identify a body that has been found by the police. The man had clippings of Pawell’s cases, and he recognizes the deceased as Arthur Perkowoski, the boy who went missing with his sister. This reignites his hope that his sister is still alive. He tries to connect with old friends and colleagues to launch a fresh investigation into her disappearance.
In the present, he is acting as the prosecutor on a case in which two young boys are accused of raping a girl. One of the boy’s fathers Krzysztof Dunaj-Szafrański is an important and rich media personality who doesn’t think his son is guilty. He urges Pawell to drop the case or face the consequences.
This case forms the secondary plotline of the show. The directors use narrations and memories of people involved in both the 1994 disappearance and the 2019 rape to unearth what really took place.
II. Cast & Performances
Grzegorz Damięcki and Hubert Miłkowski share the role of Pawell Kopiński in the 2019 and 1994 timelines respectively. Agnieszka Grochowska and Wiktoria Filus do the same with the character of Laura Goldsztajn.
The actors, well established in the Polish industry, do a fine job with their roles. The viewer remains connected even when the narrative jumps from one timeline to another.
3. The Two Timelines
The exciting style of switching the narrative between two timelines makes the show more entertaining and thrilling to watch as more secrets come to light. The cinematographers use distinct color schemes to clearly demarcate the two timelines.
The actors also do an excellent job honing out the finer parts of their characters so that the link between the two timelines is maintained. We get a sense of continuity when the older Pawell reunites with his teenage crush Laura. They still share a close friendship and work together to uncover Kamila’s whereabouts.
The directors have also managed to capture the buzzing excitement and budding romances that surround teenage life. The summer camp sequences are nostalgic and fun to watch, and they successfully create a feeling of melancholy when the kids go missing.
4. Final Thoughts
The Woods accurately depicts the agony of losing a loved one and never getting closure afterward. It is paced in a slow-burning way and follows a man’s quest for justice and finally finding out the truth.
The shift in setting to Poland is complete, with Polish folk songs a prominent part of the score. There are newspaper headlines and pop culture references that transport you to that faraway land.
Wrapped up under six hours, The Woods has a gripping mystery at its center but fails to pack a punch. While the series remains focused on the central plot, it’s not elevated enough that it would leave you feeling shocked. It’s another average adaption of a Coben story in a fresh setting.