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The six episodes of The Mire: Millennium (Netflix) close out a drama that began with the 1980s setting of The Mire, continued in season two with The Mire ‘97, and now concludes on the cusp of the 21st century. Email is a shiny new communication tool and all of Poland is optimistic about the millennium. But just like in previous Mire seasons, the past’s sins and secrets surface in the present, causing headaches for the police personnel and journalists who have always been central to the trilogy’s storytelling. Returning cast members include Magdalena Różczka, Łukasz Simlat, Andrzej Seweryn, and Dawid Ogrodnik. 

Opening Shot: At a highway rest stop in the middle of the night, a trucker agrees on a transaction with a sex worker, and they repair the cab of his rig. But when the cops roll up, she pulls a pistol. “Turn off the engine, sweetie.”

The Gist: For Sergeant Anna Jass of the Polish National Police (Różczka), this operation, intended to nab the truck driver for hauling contraband material, quickly goes from resounding success to total shit. Thugs impersonating local police arrive, a shootout ensues, and Jass awakens in a hospital bed days later, dazed and recovering from a bullet wound to the stomach. In previous seasons, Jass had crossed paths with local investigator Adam Mika (Simlat), and it seems clear they will do so again. But while she’s getting back on her feet, a shuffling Mika is ribbed by the other cops for being over the hill and near retirement. “One last case,” Mika assures the chief, “then I’m gone.” And the authorities visit a distressed, panicky young woman in the hospital. They believe she is Romani, and escaped from human smugglers, but cannot determine any facts without securing a better translator.

“Many vile things have been said about our parents and grandparents, about what allegedly happened here, in the Gronty Forest.” At a press conference, a government prosecutor uses the discovery of a skeleton in the heavily forested area by Joanna Drewicz (Vanessa Aleksander) to push his own narrative about mass graves and Germans indiscriminately murdering Polish citizens during the Second World War. Joanna does believe the remains are of a local woman – a locket with a Polish inscription was found – and a bullet wound to the forehead is definitely suspicious. But she and her team don’t yet know if the skeleton dates as far back as the war. Meanwhile, at home, Joanna’s relationship with newspaper editor Piotr Zarzycki (Ogrodnik) is progressing, though Pitor’s teenage daughter Wanda (Wanda Marzec) spends most of her time freestyling “You’re not my mom!” speeches. 

At the fancy Hotel Centrum, a pre-Millennial bash is in full swing to celebrate the birthday of the hotel manager (Piotr Fronczewski). Disgusted with the prosecutor’s press conference, the man phones veteran journalist Witold Wanycz (Seweryn) and says he has a letter to show him, “from the distant past.” (We also catch a glimpse of said letter in the hotel safe, alongside Reichsmarks issued by Nazi Germany.) But while Mika shakes down newly-minted local crime boss Hanys (Wojciech Kalarus) about any connections to the Romani, a mysterious and grisly murder shuts down the party and Wanycz’s chance to see that letter. 

It’s typical of The Mire to eventually wind together all of its story threads, and Millennium enters flashback mode to visit a still-rebuilding Poland in the early 1960s, where the Centrum is just a foundation and its future manager, known on these streets as Kociołek (Filip Pławiak), is a young man hustling West Germans and the other visitors he encounters while working as a hotel waiter.  

Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Repercussions from past events are key to the Polish series 1983, too, but instead of the scars of World War II, the series imagines Poland in an alternate timeline 2003, where the country is still reeling from a terrorist attack twenty years before which prolonged the Cold War. 

Our Take: Whether it was the 1980s, a Poland transformed in the late ‘90s after the fall of Communism, or going all the way back to the country’s World War II ordeals, The Mire has always remained visually descriptive as it bounces between flashbacks and the show’s present day. And in the past and present Poland we see in the shifting timelines of The Mire: Millennium, the country is a vivid tableau of gray housing blocks, creaky European sedans, new money, and new ways for criminals to separate the weak from their cash. (The ‘60s flashbacks also present an urban environment full of people eking out a living in a resource-short postwar environment.) Throw in a lot of eerie music cues and gloomy lighting setups, and the look and feel of Millennium is keeping us in it. 

Which is a big plus, because the police procedural stuff is much more static. Jaded cops, cocky criminals, murders wrapped inside longstanding secrets, and journalists who’ve stepped away from their profession because of violence and burnout – this material is not as dynamic in The Mire: Millennium. But helping to float it are some really good performances, particularly from Łukasz Simlat as Mika and Magdalena Różczka as Anna Jass. Watching the detective blast away at bad guys with an AK-47 is a thrill, but with Jass’s season three journey beginning with a gunshot wound, we’re looking forward to her ditching the hospital recovery room, reuniting with Mika, and entering “cop on the edge” mode as they sort out what skeletons and sixty-year-old secrets have to do with a Poland on the verge of a new century.

Sex and Skin: A brief moment of scene-setting skin. 

Parting Shot: The Mire: Millennium will bounce between the show’s 1999 setting and 1964, where in a final bit of foreboding we see Kociolek fixating on a particular trinket we already saw in the present day. Seems important!  

Sleeper Star: In this third installment of The Mire, Łukasz Simlat continues his fine work as police inspector Adam Mika. By 1999, he’s basically retired, berated by the chief of police for hanging around the station. But a dogged cop dies on the job, right? And Simlat gives Mika a “fuck it all” streak as the sickly, constantly smoking detective works leads and chops it up with some local thugs. 

Most Pilot-y Line: At a hastily-called press conference, a government prosecutor undercuts Joanna Drewicz’s working theory about the remains uncovered in Gronty Forest. He’s looking to score some quick points in the media. “We have undisputed proof who shot at whom. No more slandering Poles. The new millennium will only be white and red.”

Our Call: STREAM IT. The Polish setting of The Mire: Millennium shines, whether in the series present or its frequent flashbacks, and the show’s visual aesthetic and some strong performances cover for some of its more generic police procedural storytelling. 

Johnny Loftus (@glennganges) is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift.

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