End Of Innocence
After the success of both Safe and The Stranger, Harlan Coben returns for his third Netflix adaptation, Polish mystery The Woods. With a split focus between the past and present, the story gets off to a pretty good start as the puzzle pieces start to spread across the table for us to try and solve.
Episode 1 of The Woods begins in 2019 as a man looks down the barrel of a gun. A gunshot pierces the air and as investigators arrive at the crime scene and bag up the body, a young boy watches this unfold from afar. When the police spot him, he turns and slips away.
We then jump back to August 1994 as summer camp gets underway. The kids have a carefree time, swimming in the lake and laughing together. That evening Pawel heads off alone, sitting in the woods drinking. However, footsteps nearby catch his attention which draws friends Artur and Laura out too.
Spying an empty car, allegedly full of sand and leaves according to Laura, they take the vehicle out for a spin. Only, Artur decides to turn the lights off and after jokingly admitting he hit someone, the three kids sit together in the darkness.
We then cut forward to September 2019 where an older Pawel stands with his sister-in-law cheering on his daughter Kaja. That evening he takes his leave and heads to the station where he starts working a new case, consumed by work after the death of his partner. Inspector Jork arrives at his office and takes him to the scene of a crime for a Marek Kowalski.
Only, this is actually a fake name and as he’s taken to the morgue we learns the man there is the same one that we saw shot in the head at the start of the episode. Inside his pocket is Pawel’s address.
Back at the 1994 camp, romance continues to blossom between various couples before a group photo is taken to celebrate their time together. As the camera clicks, we jump back to 2019 again as Pawel looks over the various files this man has in his pocket, including this very say photo, as he heads back home and reads to his daughter.
At camp, Daniel puts some music on and encourages the kids to dance and let their hair down. Only, things take a turn for the worst when a jealous Artur grabs Monika while she’s dancing with someone else and demands she talk to him. The fight sees Artur taken aside by Pawel and Wojtek who discuss his lost love before Wojtek hands over a few bottles of cherry vodka – the best remedy as he says himself.
The hangover is swift and in the morning Pawel awakens surrounded by bottles of vodka. When his Mother arrives, he vouches for his friends, telling her he drank alone. She immediately suspects Artur as the culprit and confronts the boy, telling him to stay away from Pawel.
The last day of summer arrives and it sees Laura and Pawel finally hooking up together in the woods after flirting throughout the summer. Unfortunately their intimacy is cut short by someone screaming in the woods. Instead of helping, Pawel tells Laura to run.
In 2019, the case gets Pawel thinking as a girl called Klaudia is brought in with rape allegations. As Pawel sits in the bar afterwards, a TV journalist arrives and tells him she’s lying. As he continues on, he ends the conversation ominously by proclaiming that “we all hold secrets.”
Pawel doesn’t listen though and instead shows the video evidence of the girl in court. Afterward, he phones Jork and asks to meet in the morgue. As he soon reveals, four kids entered the woods that night – two of which died then but the other two were missing – including Pawel’s sister Kamila. The final one? Artur Petrowski. And according to Pawel he’s lying right there on the table before them.
With a nice twist at the end and lots of loose ends that need tying up, in true Harlan Coben fashion we’ve got quite the mystery to unravel. The parents seem to know more than they’re letting on too and Wojtek is certainly suspicious given the way he offered the kids vodka and spoke of pain. We’ll have to wait and see if he’s one of the prime suspects in this case though. For now, The Woods leaves things wide open for the mystery ahead but certainly encourages you to keep watching to find out what happens next.