Channel 4’s foreign-language online demand service, Walter Presents, prides itself on bringing previously unheard-of shows from across Europe to UK viewers. Now that Scandi crime drama has become sometimes as passe as a Saturday afternoon at Ikea, the discovery of shows including political thrillers Spin from France and Deutschland 83 from Germany, has proved a real treat for fans of fresh European drama.The latest addition to this online collection is The Border, apparently the first Polish show to be shown on British television.
Set in the remote Bieszczady Mountains near the border between Poland and Ukraine, this six-part thriller follows a border guard unit specialising in human trafficking. When the unit suffers a devastating explosion, the sole survivor, Captain Rebrow (Leszek Lichota), comes under suspicion and sets out on an investigation of his own in an attempt to clear his name and avenge the lives of his colleagues and girlfriend. We not only see his painful rehabilitation – in which he comes very close to sinking into a survival-guilt vortex of booze – but his return to the force after the explosion (which took his girlfriend). It’s this sense of purpose that drives many of our crime drama heroes and heroines, and Rebrow is the same.
Given the daily news reports of refugees risking their lives to escape conflict and reach safety on European shores, this feels like an incredibly timely acquisition. While much of the action focuses on the investigation into the attack on the border guards, led by steely-faced prosecutor Iga Dobosz (Aleksandra Poplawska), the show doesn’t shy away from the human tragedy suffered by those attempting to breach the border. Victims of traffickers and the elements alike, The Border features some harrowing scenes of women and children risking everything to find safe haven.
Over the course of the series we get a real sense of the toll that the job takes on Rebrow and his team, caught between the traders using the would-be migrants as winnings, and the bureaucrats for whom they pose a political dilemma. Are they complicit in working with the gangs making money from human suffering, or a force for good, protecting innocents from criminal opportunists? Series one leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but happily a second is apparently in the making and we’ll certainly be coming back for more.