TV Review: 'Signs' Season 1 Serves Up Small Town Mysteries

Signs Znaki Adrianna Ada Nieradka Helena Sujecka
Image by AXN and Netflix
A small town, a cult leader, a new police chief, and a lot of old mysteries. You may have heard of those elements before, albeit doubtlessly in the same show at once. Welcome to Netflix’s “Signs” (“Znaki”). It opens up with a shocking scene before launching into the present day. In it, the past readies to converge with the present in an unnerving manner.

Michal Trela (Andrzej Konopka) and his daughter, Nina (Magdalena Zak), are recent additions to the town.Before long, Trela is confronted with the machinations of a determined cult leader, a corrupt local government, and a murder case. “Signs” packs it all in there. 

Trela is working hard at being a single dad to Nina, while (like the protagonist of “The Silencing”) he is struggling with alcoholism. It is a lot for any person to take on. Nina, adjusting to a new school, finds herself quickly falling under the influence of the horrific Agata (Helena Englert). Think Emily (Nina) and Alison (Agata) -with boxing gloves and a meaner spirit) on “Pretty Little Liars”.

Agata makes Alison look like an innocent choir girl while shaping the events that follow in wicked ways. In this sense, “Signs” balances a strong teen storyline juxtaposed with the adults’. The Polish-language series (the third I have watched on Netflix following “The Woods” and “The Crime”) gets off to a strong start.

The first episode of Season 1 is a knockout that introduces the main cast and their sometimes sordid history with one another. It all gives way to what turns out to be the tip of a small town iceberg. “Unsolved Mysteries” would have a field day trying to unravel the various detours this town has hidden within it. 

Unfortunately for Trela, that Netflix series is not around, which means it is up to him and the upstanding Ada (Helena Sujecka) to unravel it all. What follows is quite captivating. However, Season 1 loses a bit of momentum as it hurtles towards its first season's climactic end-point. 

It takes on one too many mysteries, and while they are all equally impressive, it is a bit dizzying to rein in. While the ambition of “Signs” is commendable, it would personally be better off following the track of the elaborate “Gran Hotel.” Less plotting is sometimes more when it comes to presenting an air of mystery.

That said, if you are reading this review before September 16, this recent Season 1 binge-watcher would suggest waiting until then to watch “Signs.” Why? Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger and Season 2 is set to premiere on Netflix on September 16.

Waiting to binge-watch would avoid the painful historical wait-and-see teasing of network TV. (Note: No guarantee at this time that Season 2 is the end of the series.) Of course, a little wait-and-see cannot be totally avoided by streaming services. Hence, the torment of having to wait for “Cobra Kai” Season 3 to arrive on Netflix.

For you prospective “Signs” viewers, there are lot of reasons to check it out and see. The story-line with Nina is grade-A, and arguably the most intriguing plot revolves around whether she will awaken to the nature of Agata’s true depravity.

It is also worth mentioning that the cast is stupendous in their naturalism. As a viewing experience, “Signs” feels every bit as if you are stepping into a not-so-sleepy town that has existed long before the show started. It has a superb atmospheric quality that pulls you in, and the soundtrack is eclectic and gratifying.

The main critique for “Signs” lies in its never-ending scenes of eating. Thank goodness for closed captions. Some human endeavors are best left off-screen and someone ravenously taking in a hearty meal is one of them. It adds nothing to the proceedings. Could my beloved “Friday Night Lights” be at fault for this trend? I cannot be sure, but it is time for it to end.

“Signs” is otherwise an involving watch that stays on your mind between episodes. Not every show, let alone one readily devoured, can say the same. It is a crime drama soaked in local intrigue, and if that sounds like a recipe for a worthy binge, you would be accurate.

Rating: 7/10