“Cracow Monsters” is a Polish series, directed by Kasia Adamik and Olga Chajdas. The story intertwines mythological folklore with the contemporary world. Cracow is a place where your eyes would strain to see through the murk, the gloom, and the dark shadows. There were a lot of people in this world who could see and feel things that normal human beings couldn’t. They were well aware that a world beyond ours existed. There was a delicate balance that held everything in its place, yet a lot was unknown.
At the helm of affairs was a Professor who was doing a very different kind of research. It was not easy to get into his community of researchers. Alex, being one of the aspirants, never truly believed that she could be selected to be a part of this community. When she cracks it successfully and is taken into the community, she comes across a world that she never imagined existed.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Cracow Monsters’ Recap Summary
Aleksandra Walas, a.k.a. “Alex,” didn’t know where she was heading. She had this chaotic life that was messed up on a psychological level. She used to get these visions where she saw her mother driving a car, and she was sitting behind her. Often she used to wake up to find a faceless creature sitting on top of her, not letting her breathe. She didn’t know anymore what was real and what was not.
Her roommate termed it schizophrenia, and she thought that therapy would do her good. Alex gives the entrance exam to be admitted to the forensic science research community. She finds the guy with whom she was flirting the day before in a bar to be the examiner. The guy was named Lucky, and he was an assistant to Professor Jan Zawadzki, who headed the community. The Professor was a visiting faculty at the State University of Texas and the only Polish member of the prestigious International Society of Pathology. He had devised innovative methods of examining and studying the fossilized remains of living things. The Professor used to divide his time between working in Texas and teaching Polish students in his hometown, Cracow.
Lucky goes back and tells the Professor that he graded the exams and that there was no candidate who particularly interested him. But the Professor’s attention is drawn towards a doodle drawn on an answer sheet by a student. He finds out that the answer sheet belongs to Alex. They looked her up on the internet to find out that she had survived a fatal accident with her mother and that there were other anomalies related to her that did not have any rational explanation behind them. The Professor goes to find her, but all of a sudden, he is stopped by a light-emitting creature that we later come to know is Alex’s guardian angel.
The Professor knows that the girl needs to be a part of his fabled community as she has hidden powers. Lucky is given a task by the Professor. He meets Alex and takes her on a ride. He gives her a drug that intoxicates her. While riding at high speed, he jumps from the car, and Alex, trapped inside it, falls down from a cliff into the water. She wakes up the next day on her bed, not knowing whether she actually met Lucky or if it was all a dream. She gets to know that she has been selected for Professor Zawadzki’s research community.
Alex relocates to the research facility and meets the other eight members. Each one had a special power. Hania and Basia could read what was going on in a person’s mind. Birdy could touch things and give details of their origination. Everybody had some demon visiting them, and it was the common facet that made them a little different from the rest.
Alex was the ninth member, and that had special significance as the quorum was now complete. Certain rituals could only be performed when there were nine people in the community.
Alex meets the same little boy named Rafel, whom she had once met in a shop and had also brought him breakfast. She follows him to a room where he was attacked by a creature that was in fact a good deity. The boy dies. Even though Alex burns the creature, her attempt to save the little boy goes in vain. Later, Alex comes to know that the boy somehow didn’t die, even after the Professor had clearly checked and pronounced him dead.
The Professor takes the creature without the police noticing, to do its autopsy. Strange things are revealed in the autopsy. Birdy touches the creature and tells everybody that it originated from the element of fire. Fire was deemed to be a symbol of positivity, light, and goodness. What that meant was that the creature was not there to kill but to protect the boy against something evil that eventually possessed him. That was the only rationale that the group could come up with, and they too were baffled by the findings. The boy had transformed into something that was very evil and powerful. The group speculates that it is possibly Harewit, a lesser deity who had tried killing Rafel.
A group of archaeologists were digging an area when one of them, named Robert, found a unique statue and took it with him. The object was Triglav’s statue, which guides him to the little boy in the mortuary, who instantly wakes up, and the man refers to him as the master.
In mythology, it was believed that Triglav, a God with three heads, had created the world. The white head gave rise to beauty and fire, the black head to chaos and despair, and the redhead symbolized harmony, settling the struggle between good and evil.
The group was surprised, as never before had the Gods of such high order interfered in the human world. The Professor tells the story that in Slavic mythology, it was referred to as the War of the Circle. He tells the group that in the inception of the world, chaos prevailed, and the armies of fire and water were constantly fighting against each other. An element of earth appeared then, and the Gods realized that the world was big enough for both, the good and the evil. The deity that possessed the boy was sent from the black gods and aimed at spreading chaos in the world. The key to ending the conflict was to find the boy and know which deity had possessed him.
The boy clearly wants to find Alex and refers to her as the girl. He creates two Hollowshees (female demons that live in lakes) and sends them to find Alex. The two identical-looking demons part ways. While one goes to the research facility, the other goes to the bar where Lucky and Alex were having a drink. Pivka, a Slavic minor deity of the drunks who usually forced people to get wasted, looks at the couple and tells them not to drink as the demon had spiked their drink. Lucky, under the influence, forces himself on Alex. The other demon takes Gigi under its control, one of the nine people of the Professor’s community, and almost kills him. The group captures that demon somehow. They take Gigi and perform a ritual on him to bring him back. At that moment Alex comes up with an idea: to set the demon free that was in their captivity, so that it could lead them to the little boy. But the plan fails as the Hollowshee outrans them.
The boy makes another demon rise from the abyss, mythologically known as Ded Moroz or Winter Spas. It started killing people, and Alex thought that the Winter Spa is, in fact, the master, that the Hollowshee was referring to. But she was wrong. He was also acting on the command of the possessed boy. All the people he killed were near the mounds, where the ancient powers still had a lot of influence. The group knew that the mounds had some role to play in the whole situation.
Alex always wanted to find out more about her mom, Jagna. She needed answers as to why she had almost killed Alex in the deliberate car accident, in which she also lost her life. Lucky tells her to check the archives of the University hospital, as Alex remembers that she was born on Copernicus Street, and apparently, that was the only hospital in the vicinity. Going through the archives, Alex comes to know that her mother had performed her delivery without assistance and that she was suffering from mental disorders. She gets visions of her mom scratching the hospital wall and feeling the presence of some supernatural entity around her. Alex takes a picture of the symbol her mother carved out on the wall that she found in the archives, not knowing what it meant.
The Professor had a family. He had a son named Feliks, who was suffering from some ailment. He was trying to get him treated but was not able to successfully do so. Alex meets her grandmother and confronts her, asking questions about her mother. She tells Alex that her mother was raped and that all her life, she felt that something was following her. Firstly, the grandmother felt that she was referring to her rapist only, but actually, it was supernatural forces from the underworld that were following her. When Alex’s mother died, she said that Wanda, who was supposedly her friend, had taken care of everything. Nobody had ever seen Wanda. After the death of Alex’s mom, a bag was found in her possession. It had a note that said, “must take care of the sick one.” It was a cryptic message, the real meaning of which Alex had to find out.
Alex finds out that the symbol that her mother was carving on the hospital walls resembles the dragon which had a mention in Slavic mythology and was named Khors. In the old tongue of the Slavs, the word Khors meant “the sick one.” Suddenly it all started making sense to Alex.
Alex and Lucky speculate that the dragon was the one following her and her mother. The legend says that there was a woman named Wanda who was Krakus’s daughter. Krakus had made an announcement that whosoever defeated the Khors, the dragon would get his daughter. Wanda decided to kill the dragon herself.
There were three ancient mounds at Krakow, i.e., the Krakus Mound, the Wawel Mound, and the Wanda mound. Their coordinates intersected in the city of Cracow, in a place called Axis Mundi, which was told by the Professor to be the energetic center of the world. Alex was born at the exact same spot.
Alex has an encounter with the Winter Spas but is saved by her light-emitting guardian angel, who never leaves her side. Professor Zawadzki’s son was in a deplorable situation, and he felt obligated to strike a deal with the possessed boy to save his son. He delivers a newborn baby to the possessed boy in return for him saving his son.
Alex tries to make contact with her mother, who was on the other side. She finds an object in the bag that was found in her mother’s possession. She does not understand what it means until then. Alex intuitively feels that she would find something in Wieliczka. She goes there and opens the portal that leads her to the underworld with the object she found in her mother’s bag earlier. She meets her mother in the underworld. Her mother tells her that female power is coming and that she must free Wanda.
Alex manages to come out of the underworld with the help of her guardian angel. The group realizes that it was all about Alex. She was the reincarnation of Wanda. The demons were never after their mother, but they wanted to kill her all along. Cracow was cursed, and Alex was the only one who could save it by killing Hvor, God of the underworld, who had till now possessed Rafel. But Hvors was to be captured because it was a sin to kill a God, even if it was an evil one.
Alex leaves with Lucky to find Hvor, but Lucky is stabbed to death by a masked man. When Alex returns to the facility, she meets Robert, who was till now serving as the possessed boy’s slave. He had with him the Triglav statue. Professor Zawadzki recreates Alex’s death so that her body responds to the stimulus. Alex comes to know in her subconscious state that magical number three had special relevance here.
On January 5, 2022, at nine o’clock in the night, Triglav was supposed to emerge. Professor Zawadzki wanted to kill Robert, but they needed nine people to complete the ritual, as Lucky was no more with them. They defeat Hvor, and Alex burns the Triglav. Surprisingly, Lucky comes back in the end, and we do not know if he is possessed by an evil deity or resurrected by the Aitvaras. Alex is told that she broke an eternal law by killing God and that she would pay for it.
“Cracow Monsters” draws inspiration from Slavic mythology and creates a world where folklore and myths come true. There are a myriad of theories and characters floating around throughout the eight episodes. “Cracow Monsters” have a lot to say, and there is no denying that. But it falters when it comes to its pace and the narrative feels like a concoction that is firstly chaotic and secondly unable to captivate your attention. We are not made privy to the previous lives of the characters, so we are clueless about what kind of people they are, and just get a superficial idea about it. So neither you root for any character nor get affected by their loss or traumas.
Apart from the bunch of supernaturally gifted students who form a part of the Professor’s community, we do not get to know anybody else living in Cracow. Our perception of the city is as small as the Professor’s facility itself. The world and the characters that inhabit it seem one-dimensional. We don’t get attached to the characters or invested in their stories at any point of time. The narrative seems monotonous without arousing any emotions inside us. Neither is it intriguing, nor is it able to absorb you.
The eight episodes of “Cracow Monsters” Season 1 seem tedious and lack that fervor that keeps you invested in the story. The heavy downpour of information isn’t able to help the cause because we directly land in the middle of the chaos, not knowing how things used to be earlier. The narrative lacks a build up and henceforth unable to pique your curiosity. The narrative is devoid of any sort of horror, and that’s the biggest drawback of “Cracow Monsters.” In the end, it just becomes an ineffectual effort that fails to capitalize upon the opportunity.