A new murder-mystery TV series, Dark Woods (Das Geheimnis Des Totenwaldes), is due to premiere to U.S. audiences scratch the itch of serial killer narrative lovers. A German-language show set in the late 1980s and based on true events, Dark Woods is a crime TV series that also feels like a dramatic saga, perfectly portraying the ache of passing time as a case looms over the heads of detectives, family members, and the criminals themselves.
With a story spanning six episodes and approximately 25 years in the lives of its characters, Dark Woods follows detective Anne Bach (Karoline Schuch), taking a new job at Weesenburg police station and over the years of her assignment on a missing person case. Beginning with a dinner party that leads to the disappearance of a soon-to-be-divorced woman, events center around the investigation, intertwining the lives of the missing woman’s family with local law enforcement. Partnered with a stubborn but caring detective and a mentor tragically tied to the events, detective Bach sets out to catch a killer who seems to be just out of reach despite being right in the backyards of their wholesome neighborhoods.
The story of Dark Woods leans heavily on the police profiling aspect of the investigation, focusing on the psychology of their serial killer, and allowing for plenty of opportunities for flashbacks to give insight into his present-day murderous actions. Not quite thrilling but not quite a melodrama either, Dark Woods has a cat and mouse story, but unlike other genre-typical typical stories, Dark Woods chase happens on a more realistic scale for criminal cases, rather than playing out as a days or weeks-long manhunt. I might’ve preferred the latter for the entertainment appeal that a thrilling chase might offer, however, Dark Woods is comfortably watchable nonetheless.
Starring Karoline Schuch as the “cat” on this cat and mouse chase, Schuch plays Detective Bach as human as characters come, striking an endearing balance of not being damsel-ized and not being overly tough to compensate for her femininity. The mouse, played by Hanno Koffler as presumed serial killer Jurgen Becker was underserved in material, I felt, as he could have been portrayed in a more sinister manner, never quite exuding a satisfying serial killer vibe.
I had hoped for something like the short-lived and underappreciated American TV series, The Following (2013-2015), but Dark Woods is far less dark, character and violence-level-wise. It is a show I would certainly recommend, however, not one that I would feel a yearning to revisit, lacking memorability or creativity when there was material available to achieve both.
7 out of 10