The Defence promo shot of Magdelena Cielecka as lawyer Joanna Chylka

 The Defence (aka Chylka), a Polish series on Walter Presents, follows hot shot lawyer Joanna Chylka (Magdelena Cielecka) as she defends the parents of a missing toddler. Chylka, as she is called, is an undefeated, uncompromising and ill-tempered trial lawyer in Warsaw. On the day that trainee Kordian Orynski (Filip Plawiak) starts at the firm, a call comes in from Angelika Szlezyngier (Katarzyna Warnke) an old family friend of Chylka’s. The Szlezyngier’s daughter is missing, presumed kidnapped, and for old time’s sake, could Chylka leave the big city and come represent her and her husband Dawid (Michal Zurawski). After berating Kordian for even existing, and deliberately mis-naming him “Zordon” (which may be funny in Poland, not sure), Chylka drags him to a small lake town to defend the Szleyzngiers. It doesn’t start well. Turns out Chylka and Angelika are more like frenemies, and there is a lot of sniping between them. Dawid doesn’t know or trust Chylka, and he certainly doesn’t like her attitude. But Angelika assures Dawid that she trusts Chylka and wants her to stay.

The Case

The case in The Defence is pretty typical of a procedural. Dawid and Angelika have a 3-year-old, Nikola, who went missing from her bedroom. There is no sign of a break in and the alarm wasn’t tripped. There’s no struggle nor physical evidence. A local ne’er-do-well Antoni Ekiel (Miroslav Baka) remembers seeing a man carrying the child to a boat and leaving the property. Naturally, with no evidence of a third party on the property, the police arrest Dawid for kidnapping his own daughter. Chylka, being impatient for results from the police, does some investigating of her own with Zordon. Meanwhile, Angelika, who seems like she’s zonked on valium, keeps dropping bombs in her court testimony that she hasn’t bothered to tell Chylka. For instance, Angelika tells the prosecutor under oath that she was having a long-term affair with their gardener, but ended it right before Nikola went missing. Obviously Chylka’s head explodes, and she races off to find this gardener, which opens another plot line.

The Characters

The character of Joanna Chylka is annoying at first. They really go over the top to show the audience, and Zordon, that she doesn’t care about anything but heavy metal music and winning cases. Yeah, yeah, we got it. But by episode 2 she is more likable. She is a good lawyer and investigator and she’s got a soft spot for Zordon. It’s clear from her fights with Angelika that bad things happened in her childhood that make her distrust men. Zordon, for his part, knows when to keep his mouth shut, and he’s much nicer to people than Chylka, both of which make him a good partner for her. He’s pretty sharp, and ambitious too, it turns out. He’s also falling in love with Chylka, which makes me worry for him. Angelika is just horrible. She’s emotionless unless she’s fighting with Chylka or confessing about her lover in court. She absolutely doesn’t seem like a grieving mother, and is more worried about the case against her and Dawid. Dawid seems like an OK guy who is genuinely worried about his daughter. But who knows what secrets lurk.

Our Take on The Defence

I liked The Defence. It’s fast paced and goes in interesting directions. There are some good regular characters, like the always fantastic Jacek Koman as Chylka’s boss Harry McVay, and the requisite computer hacker Kormak, named after the author Cormac McCarthy. (Piotr Zurwaski, brother of Michal, above) I’m genuinely curious about the mystery. They are really pushing Angelika as the bad guy, but I’ve seen enough crime drama to be ready for the bait-and-switch. And of course I want to know about Chylka’s past with Angelika. Why would she come help someone she clearly dislikes? Yes, the Chylka character is heavy handed, but if you can get through episode 1, she’ll grow on you. There are 4 seasons of this show in Poland, and they are based on books by Remigiusz Mroz, about which there is an inside joke if you watch carefully. I’m finding the series bingeable and will check out future seasons.

You can find Walter Presents selections on the PBS Masterpiece streaming service, Roku or Xfinity1.

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