I watched the first season (2014) of this enormously atmospheric, HBO-produced Polish six part crime thriller, set among an elite Polish-Ukrainian team of border guards, and freely available on streaming services here in the UK. Known in Polish as Wataha, and originally translated as The Border, it was later translated more literally as The Pack (like a ‘pack of dogs’ – or wolves, with wolf imagery recurring throughout the series).
Set amid dramatic natural scenery, with thick forest evocative of a Grimm’s fairy tale, the cinematography is beautiful. The series opens with high drama. The border guards, who are tasked with combating people traffickers, are celebrating in a remote mountain cabin after a successful mission, when a bomb explodes, killing the whole team, with the exception of Captain Victor Rebrow (played by Leszek Lichota). His girlfrend, Ewa (Julia Pogrebinska), is missing, and presumed dead. A text is found on Rebrow’s phone, sent just before the explosion. It reads “Boom”. Subtle this show isn’t.
Rebrow returns to work at the head of a new ‘pack’, with the aim of discovering the identity of his previous team’s killers. Being the sole survivor of the attack, suspicion immediately falls on Rebrow, particularly from icy Prosecutor Iga Dobosz (Aleksandra Poplawska), a woman with the empathy of a sock, who struts about looking withering in spike heels. But things inevitably become more complicated as Rebrow’s back story gradually emerges. I’m no great fan of crime thrillers, but this one is different enough to be intriguing, with a haunting soundtrack that complements the murky atmosphere, although the dialogue (or the translation?) is often let down by cliché. And it amused me that the border team’s tracker dog is called Osama.