“The Teacher” – Crime Story in High School [Series Review]

the teacher series


Title:”The Teacher”

Release Date: 2016

Cast: Maciej Stuhr, Magdalena Cielecka, Aleksandra Popławska, Krzysztof Pieczyński, Łukasz Simlat, Sebastian Fabijański, Paulina Szostak


“The Teacher” already belongs to the canon of the best Polish series of the last decade. The Canal+ production is distinguished by a good script, great acting and a fresh idea. For the action of the criminal series takes place not in the world of gangster scores, but in the environment of high school students, seemingly innocent teenagers struggling with the hardships of adolescence. It turns out, however, that this is where the real darkness lurks, which will not be lightened by the torch of education carried by school teachers. Here, a girl is found dead in the woods near a small town, and a newly hired Polish language teacher tries to unravel the mystery of her death, trying to pry into the motivations of his students. However, the teenagers remain entangled in a dense web of adult arrangements, and excessive ambition aroused by rivalry and the desire to excel leads to immoral acts.

“The Teacher – two seasons of the series

So far two seasons of “The Teacher” have been filmed, which premiered on the Canal+ platform in 2016. The main character of the series is Paweł Zawadzki (played by Maciej Stuhr), who comes from Warsaw to the small town of Dobrowice, where he once grew up. The Polish language teacher finds employment at the local high school, and his arrival coincides with a local tragedy. For in a nearby forest the body of a girl, a student of the class Paul teaches, is found. The man, taking advantage of his good contacts with his pupils, decides to conduct a private investigation into the case. His personal motivations for his involvement in the criminal case, however, become increasingly apparent to the local community and increasingly problematic….

In the second season, Pawel Zawadzki, already functioning as a secret agent nicknamed “Belfer,” is assigned to work in one of the private high schools in Wroclaw. His task is to unravel the case of the mysterious disappearances of several teenagers from this school. However, Paul does not suspect what an intricately constructed intrigue he will face.

The Teacher Canal Plus

Personally, I liked the first season of “The Teacher” much better, which interestingly outlines the character of a small community and its individual residents. Here we have a whole gallery of interesting characters and at the same time great acting performances. Interestingly, I get the impression that it’s not the leading character who comes to the fore at all, but the female roles: Magdalena Cielecka as the wife of the most influential man in the whole town, Aleksandra Poplawska playing the mother of the murdered teenager, and Paulina Szostak, or Ewelina – a universally popular and talented student.

The second season, on the other hand, while interesting and promising much, ultimately disappointed me a bit. The outlined intrigue seems in many places unbelievable, and colloquially speaking, contrived. The viewer may feel simply lost in the maze of tangled threads, almost every one of which refers to successive floors of the plot.

“The Teacher” and the shortcomings of the main character

Although I watched “The Teacher” really well, paradoxically I see the most shortcomings in the construction of Pawel Zawadzki. His character seems inaccessible and at times almost flat, completely different from, for example, the leading characters of such Polish productions as the later “The Raven” or “Klangor.” Apart from a single piece of information explaining his personal motivations, we receive practically nothing that would allow us to get to know the man better. What is his past? Why did he make such a decision years ago and not another? He is a protagonist defined only by his action on the investigation and almost devoid of privacy. He does not form any really close relationship with women, whom he treats rather marginally. He seduces, but then hides behind the mask of an immature and unready for mature decisions lightweight. True, he delivers a few original lines on screen during a Polish language lesson, but is this enough to really win the hearts of young people and establish himself as an authority figure?

The Teacher series review

Moreover, I think I personally prefer Maciej Stuhr in comedic creations. In any case, something was missing here for me, some spark that would make his character really believable and close, such as the creation of Michal Zurawski in “Raven“. There, from beginning to end, a deep psychological portrait is built in front of the audience’s eyes, and the investigation involves simultaneously unraveling a criminal mystery and vivisection of the main character.

It is worth adding that all the adult characters of “The Teacher” are marked with some kind of blemish: a mother who supports her adolescent daughter’s affair with a mature married man, a teacher who makes extra money by working as a stripper, a journalist who has a child’s health on his conscience, an educator entangled in working for a dangerous secret organization.

The series “The Teacher” – an unmasking of the myth of adolescence

“The Teacher” as a whole is a series that is really good and worth watching, suffice it to say that director Lukasz Palkowski was awarded an Eagle for it in 2017. Certainly, the viewer will not be bored during the screening, but will indulge in following the various threads with baked goods on his face. Noteworthy are the beautiful outdoor shots – the areas of the Warmian-Masurian province with vast forests and a lake in the first season, and Wroclaw in the second. Interestingly, the center and the province complement each other here – similar rules apply in both spaces, and people are driven by similar motivations. The stuffy atmosphere of a small town with precisely drawn roles for those who are untouchable and the rest of the ordinary residents on a macro scale is recreated in the big city.

The criminal plot is interestingly intertwined in “The Teacher” with the image of high school students, which brings to mind, for example, the series “The Woods” based on the prose of Harlan Coben. In turn, the crime that grows up in such an environment seems particularly shocking. It is like the appearance of death in a fairytale Arcadia. It demythologizes childhood and adolescence, which are not always carefree and innocent. In the fall Canal Plus will broadcast the final season of the series – “The Teacher – The Last Lesson” – I am really curious about it.