MURDERESSES Review: Swirling Mysteries, Deadly Undercurrents

Izabela Kuna, Maja Pankiewicz, Eliza Rycembel, Mateusz Kmiecik star in the Polish murder-mystery thriller, now streaming on Viaplay.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
MURDERESSES Review: Swirling Mysteries, Deadly Undercurrents

Beware tightly-coiled people.

Murderesses (orig. Morderczynie)
The limited series debuts in North America Tuesday, May 21, on Viaplay. I've seen all six episodes.

Karolina (Maja Pankiewicz) and her partner are community police officers in Warsaw, Poland, which is one step above patrol duty. They deal with domestic disturbances and the like.

Even after five years of service, like all police officers at her level, she is looked down upon by the men in the Major Crimes Unit, of which her father is, or possibly was, a legend. He's been missing for some time, which has left her family, especially her mother Irena (Izabela Kuna) completely unsettled. Karolina has a strained relationship with her sister Ewa (Eliza Rycembel), which dates back to early childhood.

After Karolina discovers a dead body during her community policing and turns it over to the Major Crimes Unit, she can't help but investigate on her own, leading her to flush out the likely culprit, find him, and apprehend him. As a result, Michal (Mateusz Kmiecik), the head of the understaffed MCU, who tried to pick her up in a bar after work, instead begrudgingly invites her to tag along on the official investigation.

With that in motion, Karolina takes a few days to help her vacationing mother when yet another dead body turns up. The narrative then pivots continually between cases, primarily that of Karolina's investigation of her father, which leads her into deeper waters as she learns more about both her parents; secondarily, Karolina befriends Jagoda (Zuzanna Mikolajczak), the weeping partner of the likely culprit in the community policing murder case.

The third strand of the story is the wary blossoming of a personal relationship between Karolina and Michal, who have immediate chemistry together, which they both endeavor to temper so they can keep their focus on the more important murder cases they are investigating.

From the description above, the series may sound more complicated than how it plays. Inspired by the work of Katarzyna Bonda, written by Wiktor Piatkowski, Joanna Kozłowska, and Katarzyna Kaczmarek, and directed by Kristoffer Rus, the six episodes manifest cohesive clarity; everything continues to stick together, even as the various cases merge, then break apart, then merge again.

The show becomes increasingly absorbing, even though the mysteries are, of themselves, not particularly difficult to solve, even for a layperson. What boosts the 'binge-watchability' factor are the uniformly fine performances, led by Maja Pankiewicz, whose eyes appear to sink deeper into her head as she becomes exhausted by her pursuit of the truth. She makes Karolina an absolutely empathetic character, the sort of dogged detective that anyone would want on their side.

As Karolina's mother, Izabela Kuna is pensive and reserved. She's always holding back, keeping her emotions in check; she's always seething, containing herself, which makes it easy to suspect that something more is hiding inside her, waiting to come out.

The combination of subtle forces gives Murderesses its cumulative appeal, and makes it worth seeking out.


  • Eva Nathena
  • Katerina Bei
  • Karyofyllia Karabeti
  • Maria Protopappa
  • Elena Topalidou
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Eliza RycembelIzabela KunaMaja PankiewiczMateusz KmiecikViaplayEva NathenaKaterina BeiKaryofyllia KarabetiMaria ProtopappaElena TopalidouDrama

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