TV Review: 'Thieves Of The Wood' Season 1 Netflix Premiere

Thieves of the Wood The Flemish Bandits Baru Tom Van Dyck Jan de Lichte Matteo Simoni
Image by NetflixAdd caption
“Thieves of the Wood” (“The Flemish Bandits”) is a historical drama recently released on Netflix. Set in the 18th century, the series opens its Season 1 premiere without pulling any punches. Humanity is in a dark period as debauchery takes center stage. It begins with a man (presumed to later be the protagonist) mercilessly getting pulled by a horse.

More horrors are soon ushered in front of the screen as various characters are introduced. Baru (Tom Van Dyck), a new lawman comes to town, offering some hope. Meanwhile, the mysterious figure Netflix viewers meet in its opening moments, Jan de Lichte (Matteo Simoni), remains inscrutable as ever during the Season 1 premiere of “Thieves of the Wood.”

Incredibly well-lensed, costumed, and produced, the series puts its best foot forward in terms of quality. Sadly, there is little silver in the lining of its grim story. Much like the early days of “Game of Thrones,” any and every horrible thing seems ready to occur as the episode continues. In this regard, “Thieves of the Wood” is tough to watch.

The show brings to mind “The Duelist,” a brilliant revenge movie teeming with the suspense that surrounds the motives of its main player. Jan's morality is similarly open to interpretation. I bring that incredible film up to spotlight how an enigmatic central character can keep the audience guessing without alienating them.

It is a tight track to ride, and when done right as it was in that film, it can leave the audience spellbound. The effect “The Duelist” had on this viewer. Time will tell if the Netflix series can captivate in the same vein. The key rests with the protagonist.

On that note, “Thieves of the Wood” introduces a compelling character in Jan de Lichte and an intriguing lead actor in Matteo Simoni. Yet it does not give him the heroic spotlight he needs to make it clear Jan is leading the story or capable of changing it. Others are introduced in a way that makes the story just as easily about them as it is him. Thus, creating a bit of personal confusion.

The Season 1 premiere does an excellent job of setting up a world where viewers will be desperate to see justice served. Whether this is “Count of Monte Cristo” or a version of a similar tale is not entirely clear at this point. It is taking its time announcing itself.

Season 1 is comprised of eight episodes on Netflix. Will it end on a cliffhanger? I hope not. The risk of continuing a series with a single-season available always carries that risk. It is tough to believe all of the injustice and corruption that is shown can be cleaned up in a single season.

There are too many villains and not enough clear-cut heroes to feel entirely comfortable. Villainy and heroism rely on each other in storytelling. It requires a nuanced approach and the sense our hero is worth pulling for. “Thieves of the Wood” does not feel like stolen time, and it has certainly piqued my interest to continue watching.

The first season of “Thieves of the Wood” (“The Flemish Bandits”) is currently streaming on Netflix.