“Raven” (“Kruk”) – the Story of a Broken Back [Series Review]

Raven series


Title: “Raven” (“Kruk”), series

Release Date: 2018 – 2022

Cast: Michał Żurawski, Cezary Łukaszewicz, Andrzej Zaborski, Katarzyna Wajda, Jerzy Schejbal, Magdalena Koleśnik i inni




“Raven” is undoubtedly one of the best Polish series of recent years. In my personal ranking, it occupies the first place because of its excellent combination of interesting criminal intrigue with deep psychological analysis and Polish local color. The creators managed to show the unique climate of Podlasie with its contrasts between the modern face of the region and the almost archaic world of charming whisperers, wildlife, charming Orthodox churches and shrines. I also appreciate “The Raven” for its good script and excellent idea for a main character burdened by childhood trauma. The latter would not have succeeded without the phenomenal performance of Michał Zurawski, who carries the weight and darkness of his role, like an inseparable orthopedic collar, to the last episode of the production.

“Raven” – a three-season Polish production of Canal Plus

The first season of “Raven” – “Szepty słychać po zmroku” – wrapped up on the Canal Plus platform in 2018. In it, we get to know the story of the main character, Adam Kruk (Raven), a police officer from the Lodz crime department. The man is assigned to investigate the mysterious kidnapping of a child from one of the influential and wealthy families of Bialystok. Kruk is accompanied on the trip by a childhood friend, Slawek (Cezary Lukaszewicz). It turns out that they both grew up in one of Podlasie’s orphanages and have a dark case from their past to explain….

In the following seasons: “Czorny woron nie śpi” (2021 – 2022) and “Jak tu ciemno” (2022) we follow the adventures of the inspector in the Bialystok police department – his struggle with a serial killer and the local smuggling mafia. At the same time, much is played out in the private plane of the Kruk story. For the events of the past cannot be easily erased, and what’s more, they significantly affect his relationship with his wife Anka and son. The appearance in the protagonist’s immediate environment of an attractive policewoman, Justyna, is also not without significance.

Raven series review

The “Raven” should be praised for a very good script by Jakub Korolczuk, thanks to which all three seasons keep an even level. A criminal mystery straight out of a black thriller always goes hand in hand here with the mystery inherent in a person – both in the main character and in other characters. An undoubted advantage of the production is the well-chosen cast, headed by Michał Żurawski. The other actors also look very interesting and believable: Leszek Lichota in the role of the police inspector or Tomasz Włosok as a boy walking the path of promotion in the gangster world, accompanied by an equally spectacular moral downfall. The Canal Plus production also does not disappoint with its female characters: the delicate Katarzyna Wajda as Raven’s wife or the almost demonic Magdalena Koleśnik as policewoman Justyna.

The series “Kruk” and the unique climate of Polish Podlasie

“Kruk” is a series that proves that Polish productions set in our native realities have a chance to match the international hits of streming platforms. Of course, it is not a pioneer in this regard; such series as “Wataha” or “Belfer” and, more recently, “Into the Woods” based on the prose of Harlan Coben have also gained well-deserved popularity. In terms of building local color, the Canal Plus series is closest to “Wataha,” which in turn is set in the picturesque Bieszczady Mountains. Both productions show the great diversity and richness of small homelands, which have their own culture, language and customs.

In Maciej Pieprzyca and Adrian Panek’s “Raven,” there is a clear emphasis on the boundary between the center (Łódź, from which the main character arrives) and the periphery (Białystok with its surrounding villages). The image of Podlasie emerging from the series is a scenery of huge contrasts: poor blocks of flats of Bialystok, an unrich provincial police station, abandoned industrial halls here are adjacent to huge residences of wealthy bosses of dark interests. In the background, meanwhile, there is phenomenal nature, small wooden huts of whisperers warding off evil charms, Orthodox churches, forester’s lodges and sacred shrines hidden in the middle of the forest. This is a region with its own soul, full of secrets and charm, which is hard to resist. Contributing to the Podlasie climate are not only the photographs by Witold Plóciennik and Jan Holubek, but also the original music by Bartosz Chajdecki. The latter uses motifs of folk songs, often with a solemn, celebratory tone. Combined with specific regionalisms, a unique, fascinating, semi-metaphysical atmosphere of “The Raven” is created, in which the real dimension coexists with folk tales, ghosts and witches.

Raven series Canal Plus review

“Raven” – a story of a broken back

This clash of the real and supernatural worlds is particularly focused in the character of the main protagonist, the titular Raven. Of course, the very name of the inspector has a symbolic dimension, referring to the sphere of darkness and mystery. Michał Zurawski’s physical conditions perfectly highlight the characteristics of his character brought out by the script. Kruk carries unimaginable trauma from the past, which manifests itself in many ways. These include serious mental problems with delusional features, uncontrollable fits of aggression or memory lapses. The most visible sign of the baggage with which Kruk is burdened is his inherent attribute – an orthopedic collar. As one might guess, we are dealing here not only with a reminder of a past accident, but also with a classic case of localized trauma in the body, all the more significant because it involves vertebrae. The protagonist’s orthopedic collar can therefore be a metaphor for his frayed spiritual “spine,” his fracture by the painful experiences of his childhood home. It is a stigma that is impossible to get rid of, an inseparable companion of Kruk’s every step.

In turn, the series is not only a criminal mystery, but also presents the story of the protagonist’s inner maturation to face what scares him and take responsibility for the fate of himself and his family. Will this breakneck venture succeed for title Raven? I assure you it’s worth getting to the last episode to find out.