Hide and Seek on Walter Presents is a gloomily stylish Ukranian procedural about a pair of detectives, each haunted by their own pasts, racing to find a kidnapper before he strikes again. The show begins with the kidnapping of an adorable 7-year old girl from within her father Borovko’s locked apartment as they play hide and seek. The same day, Inspector Varta Naumova (Yuliya Abdel Fattakh) arrives in town and is thrown onto the case with Inspector Maxim Shumov (Pyotr Rykov). Shumov’s partner just got demoted for stealing from a crime scene, so Shumov is not excited to work with the stonily efficient Naumova.
Hide And Seek gone Wrong
When the police come to question Borovko about his daughter’s disappearance, Max immediately accuses him of hiding his daughter to collect ransom to pay down debts. Varta is appalled. She dismisses him from the room. Turns out the father is a small- time crook who forges documents and license plates, but Varta believes, as do we, that he did not kidnap his daughter. Soon a video feed pops up in the station showing Alina in a cage-like room on a dirty mattress, obediently holding up a placard with four numbers on it to the camera. It’s a heartbreaking image. Soon she is joined by the son of a famous singer who is unwilling to cooperate with the cops. Neither the significance of the numbers nor the connection between the kids are not readily apparent. There is a drug ring in town, and it’s unclear whether they have anything to do with the kidnappings. As the team races to unravel this mystery, Max is trying to take care of his drunk, ex-cop dad, and is haunted by traumatic flashbacks of his brother’s accidental death.
A Stranger comes to town
Varta is the anchor of the show, as well as the investigative team. Although her terse, affectless manner of talking raises eyebrows among the Crime Division’s staff, she is good at her job. She’s observant, she knows the right questions to ask witnesses and suspects, and her mind never stops processing the job. Max grudgingly comes to respect her, and she starts to thaw toward him when she realizes he’s more than a brainless tough guy. Max and his team buzz with curiosity about her. She constantly wears black leather gloves, she showed up out of nowhere, and she doesn’t bother with social niceties. Flashbacks to a violent attack in an alley give viewers some insight into her withdrawn nature.
Hide and Seek’s unique visual style
I’d be remiss not to mention Hide and Seek’s stark visual style, because it is almost like an additional character. Using a palette of blue, sickly green and gray, the director imposes even more gloom onto an already bleak post-industrial town that features communist era apartment blocks. Apartments and the police department are tiled with white tile, and there is no art on the walls. Junk is piled into corners. Every once in a while, a scene is punctuated symbolically with the color red, such as the red neon cross outside of a cult-like church, or the orangey-red dresses of some children in a mural. The style can feel heavy-handed. However, one instance of color change was particularly effective. In the opening scene, where Borovko and his daughter Alina are playing hide and seek in the apartment, the color palette shifts from warm (before she is nabbed) to blue (after she is nabbed). Between this and the father locking them into their apartment with a key, I was struck that even the father suspected he would never be able to hold onto the innocent beauty that is his daughter in this sick town.
Our Take on Hide and Seek
I know this review sounds like Hide and Seek is unremittingly gloomy, but I DID enjoy it. Varta reminds me a little bit of the female character from The Bridge (or The Tunnel, whichever iteration you prefer). Like the team, I too wanted to find out what makes her tick. Max is a good protagonist in that his character grows over the series, and much of that is because Varta jars him out of the “bro” partnership that he had with Bodnar for so long. I like that the show looks and feels different than usual, and it was interesting to see life in the Ukraine, even as stylized as this version is. Hide and Seek was created by the team behind The Sniffer, on Amazon Prime, and I think this series is a step up.
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