Raven (Kruk) is a Polish series on Walter Presents about a cop who is sent to his childhood town for a case, which forces him to reckon with remnants of his past life at an orphanage. The cop, Commissioner Adam Kruk (Michal Zurawski), is an unusually skilled but drug-addicted detective (a la Sherlock Holmes) in Lodz. He wears an unexplained neck brace, and has serious back pain, which is an excuse to use opioids. When his boss wants to send him to his hometown of Bialystock near the Belarussian border to bust a cigarette-smuggling ring, Adam balks. His wife is pregnant, he doesn’t want to leave her, etc. But his childhood friend, Slawek (Cezary Lukaszewicz), insists that he go. “This is our chance!” he says. After a literal fist fight, Adam reluctantly agrees. While in Bialystock, with Slawek in tow, a boy gets kidnapped, and Adam is pressed into service to help find him. Naturally, the case is connected to Adam and Slawek’s past trauma. While the case is exactly what you expect, what’s unique about Raven is the spooky feel and small-town superstition that permeates the series.
Bialystock is in the northeastern part of Poland, near Belarus. Apparently, cigarette smuggling is a big deal because someone is counterfeiting the Polish tax seals and putting them on foreign cigarettes, which jettisons the actual Polish taxing body. Adam doesn’t understand why the local cops can’t handle it. I agree. This is clearly a MacGuffin to get Adam back home. But Slawek convinces Adam to confront and take revenge on their old tormentors from the now closed orphanage. Lo and behold, the son of the orphanage manager is a smuggler, so Adam uses that leverage to convince Sadko (Henryk Niebudek) to name names of the abusers who came to the orphanage to get their kicks. But something happens that demands Adam’s full attention. The blind grandson of a local big wig is kidnapped. The grandfather, Morawski (Sebastian Cybulski) has his hands in a several shady deals, so there are a lot of suspects.
There are several subplots in Raven. The police chief of Bialystock, Tylenda (Andrzej Beja-Zaborski) is not only corrupt, but he has an off-the-books “enforcer”, Kaponow (Mariusz Jakus) to maintain the peace. Kaponow is sweet on Kaska (Barbara Wypych), a local cop whose grandmother (Zofia Plewinska) is a seer. Meanwhile back in Lodz, Adam’s wife Anka (Katarzyna Wajda) is desperately trying to figure out why Adam acts so strangely, beyond a typical opioid addiction. She woos his doctor (Michal Grzybowski) so she can steal Adam’s file. All of these subplots come into play by the end. I admit that sometimes I got confused on who was who, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the series.
Our Take on Raven
I really enjoyed Raven, right from the get-go. The opening has been widely praised, and rightly so, for setting the tone of the show. A boy’s voice recites a poem like recitation to his mother and father to protect him from scary creatures in the dark. With that soundtrack, we enter a fancy party that ends dramatically with a murder. Then we flash back to two months earlier. It’s a good hook. I think you will figure out Adam’s secret right away, but I won’t spoil it here. In each episode there are flashbacks to the orphanage days, where Adam and Slawek met. As that story unfolds, we learn why Adam is so haunted, and it’s not quite what we think. Slawek is both antagonist and muse to Adam, helping him solve cases. Although the story at the heart of the series is your basic small-town corruption/powerful men doing bad things tale, the way in which it is told and the atmospheric setting puts Raven a level above the typical fare.
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