The 2024 Polish thriller series on Netflix, Detective Forst, is a satisfying departure from the usual action genre that Netflix mostly brings from Poland while still retaining some high-adrenaline moments. The series, consisting of six episodes, each around forty-five minutes long, has Borys Szyc and Zuzanna Saporznikow playing the lead duo of detective Wiktor Forst and reporter Olga Szrebska, respectively. Adapted from Remigiusz Mroz’s “Forst” novel series, the show has a series of mysterious deaths take place in the Polish mountains of Tatra, and detective Wiktor Forst investigates them to come across some shocking findings.
The series begins with Forst and his boss, Edmund Osica, driving over to a crime scene, where a man’s dead body has been symbolically tied to a metal crucifix structure. This is immediately a very bizarre occurrence in the relatively peaceful town, and the police force is also naturally not very well prepared to tackle such a case. But Wiktor Forst, a detective assigned to the department, has come down from Krakow and is more accustomed to such levels of violence, so the case is handed to him to investigate.
At the very crime scene, Wiktor meets with a headstrong but passionate reporter named Olga Szrebska, whose undaunting nature makes the two friends within a short while. The detective finds a single old coin inside the mouth of the dead body, and he starts to investigate the matter with Olga by his side. But before the matter can even be fully understood, there is a second dead body found, left behind in an equally cryptic and symbolic fashion. This now surely confirms that the two murders are related and that a dangerous serial killer is roaming the Podhale Highlands.
The basic premise of Detective Forst is quite interesting, especially with regards to the manner in which the dead bodies are left for the police to find. The use of ropes to tie the bodies in certain unusual formations makes it seem like the work of some sort of cult. There have been numerous films and shows that feature such a plotline, and this series also gives a similar idea towards its beginning. While the plot does majorly shift from the usual story of any cult, the tension mostly stays intact throughout the six episodes.
The overall production value of the work is a definite positive for the show, as it is satisfying to look at the exquisite natural locations and landscapes in front of which the whole story unfolds. The geography has been shot and presented well enough, too, making it quite a gorgeous-looking affair. Along with the natural beauty, there are also some eye-catching visuals with regards to aesthetics. There are scenes that are shot entirely in a satisfying hue of red light, and although the presence of the color is not always very realistic or very symbolic, they are definitely good to look at.
Keeping on with the positives, Detective Forst also has adequately good acting performances, which make the watch easy and distraction-free. Borys Szyc is seen the most on-screen, owing to his character being the protagonist, and despite his looks being different from any conventional detective hero, the actor does a fine job convincing us of the plot. Zuzanna Saporznikow is decent, too, as she plays her character with enough attention and detail. A few others, like Aleksandra Grabowska, as Agata, and Kamilla Baar, as Dominika Hansen, also do good jobs, since both these characters go through internal strife, which has to be expressed with intensity.
The positives in Detective Forst are unfortunately outweighed by the negatives, the biggest of which is its duration. Unlike many other Netflix productions, which stretch their content way longer than necessary, Detective Forst is kept shorter than it needed to be. As a result, the episodes, especially the later ones, feel too crammed and stuffed with a lot happening. The edit style also does no favor and instead makes the series feel more convoluted and confusing than needed. The plot definitely required some more time, perhaps two extra episodes, to be properly unfolded, and so there is a sense of incompleteness even once the show is over.
The incompleteness also has to do with the fact that the show ends with a cliffhanger, setting itself up for a second season if Netflix approves of the production. Maybe those who have read the novels and are already fans of the titular detective might stick on for that long, but there is not much in the first season for any viewer to return for the second. The characters are also written in a mostly flat manner, with a sense of old-school conventions still in practice in some senses. One extremely irritating instance of this is the fact that Forst keeps getting physically intimate with every woman he comes across, irrespective of the fact that he has very little to offer romantically. The secret behind his charms is nothing other than the fact that he is the detective protagonist, and so he is quite irresistible, like James Bond.
The trope of the protagonist struggling with extreme mental stress and duress, to the point that he keeps hearing and seeing things from his past and has to take pills in uncontrolled amounts to stay on his feet, is also excessive. The past of Forst does become important in the entire case, but the constant reminder for us to understand so was not required. Especially since the past of this character is not known to us, and so there is no logical deduction to be arrived at. These matters exist only to add depth to the protagonist, but they do not really work, and Forst’s character remains quite one-dimensional till the end.
By its end, the character motivations in the series also seemed a bit sketchy and unconvincing to me. Returning to the technicalities, both the camera and the sound have been used in adequate measures. Although Detective Forst is easy and enjoyable to look at, visually, one might be left wondering whether it was worth it after all. Perhaps fans of Polish works and those acquainted with the novels might enjoy it more, while others can still give it a cautious try.