The Teacher, a 10-episode series from Poland, is a fantastic show about a Polish (the subject, not the ethnicity) teacher who arrives in the town of Dobrowice (“Doh-BRO-vich”) the day after a student is found murdered in the woods. The teacher, Pawel (Maciej Stuhr) is a mysterious guy. He acts like he doesn’t know Joanna, the dead student, yet it seems unlikely that a new teacher would show up the day after a murder. We later find out (not a spoiler) that Joanna was Pawel’s biological daughter from a fling he had when visiting his aunt in Doborwice 17 years ago. Turns out Joanna’s mother called him to share the news and he showed up to find her murderers. Not sure how he got the teaching gig so fast.
Small Town Drama
Much like Broadchurch, this is a story of a small town, where everyone knows each other, and the show throws several red herrings at us. Was it Joanna’s cuckolded boyfriend? Her married lover? The pervy gym teacher? The local drug dealers? The show uses Pawel’s class as a way to introduce us (and him) to Joanna’s classmates. Two of her classmates are the brother and sister Jaciek and Julka, who are big fish in a small pond. Their father is in a shady deal with the local police commander and 2 other men to sell land to the Swedes for manufacturing. Doing his dirty work is Adrian Kus (played by Sebastian Fabijanski from Ultraviolet), the local ne’er do well with a heart of gold.
Serious Teen Angst
One thing I like about this show is it takes teenagers seriously. These kids have grown up together and the requisite teasing, love triangles and even humiliation of high school are here. Pawel takes them seriously too, and the students like him, with the exception of bad seed Jaciek, who is trying to become a gangster, but keeps finding himself back on the bottom rung. Another thing I like is that there are several smaller plot lines attending the main one, much like Trapped. In fact, the central mystery becomes less interesting than some of the other dramas in town. One unsolved mystery is that we never really find out who Pawel is. He claims he worked with emotionally disturbed kids in Warsaw, but he seems a little too good at crime solving to be an actual teacher. In fact, the local CID (FBI) officer comments on his skills a few times, but Pawel never confesses to being any kind of detective.
The Teacher was a huge hit in Poland, and I can see why. It’s really well done. There’s a satisfying twist in the mystery, and a clever set up for season 2. In the U.S., you can watch it on Amazon Prime’s PBS channel. It’s a “Walter Presents” selection.
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