Polish procedural Ultraviolet takes a well worn genre and manages to inject just enough originality with its technological slant to make it an enjoyable detective series. Despite an enjoyable episodic format that moves along at a decent pace, Ultraviolet stumbles on the cliches inherent with this series and the numerous different cases the group solve rely heavily on the same techniques throughout the series that the patterns inevitably make this a little too predictable than it should be. Still, there’s enough here to enjoy and the interesting cyber focus of each case gives Ultraviolet enough originality to make it worth watching while not quite innovating enough to make it a title that’s likely to refine or revolutionise the genre.
The pilot episode begins with our lead protagonist Ola (Marta Nieradkiewicz) who returns to her hometown in Lodz after leaving London. While driving, she witnesses a suspicious incident which is passed off by the police as a suicide. Unconvinced, Ola turns to the world wide web and the Polish equivalent of Google to find some amateur sleuths to help her get to the bottom of the case. It’s here she happens upon an online community called Ultraviolet, a hive-mind of like-minded enthusiasts that work together to tackle unsolved cases that the police have either given up on or shrugged off. The opening episode acts as a set-up for this organisation before launching into an episodic format for the remaining 9 episodes, each with its own unique and interesting case to solve.
Whether it be a suicide pact between two lovers that may hold more than meets the eye or a smart-house seemingly responsible for boiling its owner in a bath, there’s a really imaginative use of technology throughout these cases to make them both interesting and intriguing enough that you really want to know what’s happened. With only 45 minutes to play with and a reasonably large chunk of time dedicated to fleshing the new characters out in each episode, setting the tone and mood and keeping the core main cast of character interactions lighthearted and playful with a dash of seriousness makes Ultraviolet a tough assignment. Surprisingly, the show doesn’t suffer majorly for it and some of the characterisation is really well written, especially for Ola who energises every case with a burst of enthusiasm and thorough investigative work.
Visually, the show is pretty compelling although the constant nod toward technology is a little on the nose, especially with the faded shots of smartphone screens, split screens for online face-timing and plenty of computer screens to work through. While some of this is inevitable, especially with the cyber-focused plot line and various minds across the globe helping with each case, the solitary shots away from this technological-focused group dynamic continues to bombard us with references to the technology being depicted and it sometimes feels a little misplaced and contrived.
Ultraviolet isn’t perfect and it does have its fair shame of problems, especially the episodic format which wraps up each storyline a little too quickly and with more than a few cliches dotted throughout. Having said that, Ultraviolet is still a really enjoyable series and at least manages to pump some originality into a well-worn genre. There’s a good use of humour and the characters, led by the enthusiastic drive of Ola, manage to stand out in this amateur detective series. The episodic format makes it an easy show to dip in and out of too but with so much content on Netflix being released every week, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of lasting power this has in the glut of shows being released this season.