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TV Review: Harlan Coben's 'The Woods' Is Sturdy Netflix Mystery

The Woods W głębi lasu Grzegorz Damięcki Paweł Kopiński Netflix
Image by Netflix
Who knew summer camp could be so secretive and murderous? Okay, a lot of teen slasher flicks have capitalized on the notion. However, Harlan Coben’s “The Woods” offers a more taught and psychologically wound narrative around such clichés. The Netflix adaptation traverses two timelines as it brings its tale about.

Set in modern Poland, “The Woods” catches up with Pawel (Grzegorz Damięcki), a district attorney and widower trying to raise his daughter amid the devastating loss of his wife. Viewers soon learn that Pawel is not haunted by that tragedy alone. As he (and the Netflix) show flash-back to the past, they reflect on the fateful summer he spent at a strangely disorganized camp twenty-five years ago.

“The Woods” methodically unravels what exactly happened as the past catches up to the present with Pawel’s teen love, Laura (Agnieszka Grochowska), now an adult. Setting off a mystery that is inextricably intertwined with Pawel’s future as he sets out to finally learn the truth. If there is one issue, the Netflix miniseries faces it is in taking a bit too long, uncovering it all.

The ending is so surprising because so much info is kept from the audience, it does not seem viewers ever had a chance to play along. To its credit, “The Woods” is legitimately mysterious, and it does work to keep up the suspense. The problem is that it feels like a game of keep-away as opposed to a mystery.

The cinematography is spectacular, and the casting of past and present versions of the central characters is brilliant. Faster pacing and more significant reveals would have better served the show overall. Otherwise, “The Woods” is forced to save its most substantial and only real reveal for last.

Being such a massive fan of the genre makes these issues far less of a bitter pill to swallow. The addition of another mystery-based series on Netflix makes me giddy. It is a genre the silver screen has mostly left behind, and it is nice to watch TV continue to take up the slack. “The Woods” proves why television is armed to do it better.

There is a chance to go deeper with the additional time. That is where “The Woods” misses the forests for the trees. Pregnant pauses are not a deeper dive. They feel like a stall tactic. Television viewers (or at least this one) want that extra time spent unraveling the characters, their backstory, and in the case of the mystery genre, digging into why the crime was committed.

“The Woods” seems to especially leave out that last part. If you enjoy mysteries, this adaptation will probably satiate. After indulging in “Control Z” and “White Lines” on Netflix, “The Woods” seems like a far less thick forest to explore. That said, fans of Harlan Coben’s “Safe” should enjoy it.

Rating: 6/10

“The Woods” is currently streaming on Netflix along with a lot of excellent TV content.

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