The Devil’s Throat, a Bulgarian thriller on Walter Presents, is a typical procedural made more interesting by the fact that it’s in Smolyan, Bulgaria. Smolyan is a picturesque mountainous town near the border with Greece. It happens to be on the route that middle eastern refugees are smuggled into Europe (at least in the series). When a local trafficker is found dead and mutilated in the woods, the close-knit detective force, led by Commissioner Filip Chanov (Vladimir Karamazov), realize this crime is bigger than any they’ve ever dealt with before. At the same time, Agent Mia Yazova (Teodora Duhovnikova) arrives from Sofia, the capital city, looking for the dead guy. His name was mentioned in connection with a Turkish terrorist named al-Hamzeh, whose Bulgarian network Mia is trying to bring down. Naturally, her arrival causes a lot of trouble, not least because she is a beautiful woman. But she is also a profiler, and she does not accept that the suspect in custody, who is a refugee, actually committed the murder. This is a problem for Prosecutor Chanov (Vasil Banov), Filip’s father, who has ambitions to be mayor, and needs the murder solved quickly. But of course, more bodies turn up, and there are plenty of local suspects…
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But First, Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a country that I’ve frankly never thought about. But it’s really interesting. It’s situated above and between (if you go by land) Turkey and Greece, and was controlled by the Ottomans for centuries. It was also part of the Soviet Union until 1990. Although it’s a secular nation, it has two main religions, Eastern Orthodox and Islam, although Eastern Orthodox is the official religion. It is now part of the European Union, and is the oldest nation in Europe. It’s known for its beautiful and varied terrain, and it’s also considered a regional melting pot of cultural influences. If you watch the Olympics, you may know that Bulgaria is famous for its wrestlers and weight lifters. (Bulgarian split squat anyone?) They also use a Cyrillic alphabet, so their language looks and sounds a lot like Russian (to me).
Politics, Religion and Refugees
The fact that the dead body is a local trafficker, who was once a border cop, is a hot button topic. The refugee problem is huge in Smolyan. In a controversial move, the current mayor approved the creation of a refugee center in town, which was very unpopular with many residents. I bring this up because of motive for the killings. Was it a refugee who double-crossed their greedy trafficker? Someone who hated refugees and wanted to stop traffickers? Rival traffickers? The terrorist Al-Hamzeh? Or just a crazy in the woods? In the middle of the investigation, Prosecutor Chanov surprises his son and everyone by announcing his intention to run for mayor on an anti-refugee ticket. He tries his best to get Mia sent back to Sofia, and tells his son to end the investigation, accepting that their suspect is the killer. Problematically for him, more bodies turn up. Also, Filip is deeply offended that his father, a man of the law, would turn the investigation political, which causes a huge rift in the family.
The Elements of The Devil’s Throat
The Devil’s Throat includes all the familiar elements of a procedural: A big city cop with baggage comes to the provincial small town and ticks people off until she is proven right on her theories; an angry rebellious teen who may or may not be in peril by the end of the series; sexual tension between the leads; spooky woods; creepy dwellers of said woods; family drama; political drama. But what makes this series unique, besides its setting, is the trafficker/refugee issue, and the fact that Filip has a brother Asen (Hristo Petkov) who once was a cop, but quit to become a mountain man who lives alone with his horse. He knows every inch of the woods/mountain, and is very helpful in tracking and locating both suspects and victims. But…he’s also suspicious. The killer is someone who knows the woods, and covers his tracks expertly, and Asen does not escape Mia’s attention.
Our Take on The Devil’s Throat
The Devil’s Throat, which is actually the name of a cave in town, is an engaging thriller. I like the dynamics among the team, who have clearly worked together forever. And of course, I like learning about a new culture. There is a perfect amount of gore, and a lot of potential motives. I’m halfway through and I’m still in the dark about who did it. Which brings me to the fact that it’s 12 episodes long. Although I’m not bored, I’m a little restless. The only negative for me is that Mia can be a little much. She has a teen daughter, and is as neglectful a mother as Karppi in Deadwind, and she’s in trouble with her superiors for a reason yet to be disclosed. But you get the sense that she’s the insubordinate supercop who always solves the case. One thing I do like about her is that she is pushing Filip to be a better detective. If you are looking for a satisfying procedural to sink your teeth into, The Devil’s Throat is for you.
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