Netflix’s first Polish original series, 1983 imagines an alternate world where a series of devastating terrorist bombings (for them, a 9/11 level event) united Poland and gave the government a free hand to crush the Solidarity movement. As a result, Poland remained communist, and the Soviet Union never collapsed. The story is focused on 2003, where several story lines collide in this dystopian society, while flashing back to 1982-83, where we see the events that led up to the bombings.
In 2003, we follow several key characters. Anatol Janow is a police detective who believes a suicide is actually a murder, which connects him with both the SB, Poland’s brutal secret police, and the Light Brigade, a new resistance movement. Kajetan Skowron is a law student whose parents died in the bombings, whose belief in the Party is tested when a beloved professor is murdered, leading him on a path of uncovering a horrible truth and teaming up with Janow. Ofelia Ibrom is a key operative in the Light Brigade and wants to bring Kajetan into her group while dodging Anatol. In 1983, we follow Kajetan’s parents and grandmother during the tumultuous days of Solidarity.
This is a really fun and intriguing show. It’s easy to figure out very early on who did the bombings and why, which flavors everything and underpins this society with a big lie, but the characters knowing isn’t essential to the story, which has so much else going on. Two things I particularly liked: One was the political intrigue and conflict between the militia (police), SB (secret police), and the Polish Army. Two was every woman in this show is a total ass-kicker, and not in the wish fulfillment sense.
Two criticisms. One is there’s so much going on, and sometimes things are vague, which can be confusing, though the show catches you up if you hang tight. Two is Kajetan Skowron, the law student, is so expressionless and uncommunicative about what he’s thinking and feeling, it’s hard to empathize with him or even know what he wants sometimes.
The first season ends with the major story lines resolving but with plenty set up for a season 2, which Netflix has yet to green light.
Overall, as a fan of innovative dystopian fiction, I really enjoyed 1983 and hope Netflix gives us a second season.