REVIEW: ‘The Woods’ Loses Itself in its Problematic Choices

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The Woods
Content Warning: The Woods Involves themes of rape, the sexualization of minors, and anti-Semitism.

The Woods is a Netflix series. 20 years ago, a summer camp was host to a group of high school students. It was the kind of summer the kids would remember forever. Water sports, campfires, and all the laughter that belongs to youth. Till, at the end of summer, a tragedy happened. Two of the students turned up dead. Another two were never found and were also presumed dead. Now, 20 years later one of the surviving campers, Pawel, is a prosecutor for the Polish government. His world is thrown into disarray when one of the missing campers turns up freshly killed. Does this mean the other camper might be alive? And who murdered this man the world had already presumed dead for so long?

The Woods dives deep into a lot of hard to look at areas of the world. The murder of adolescents is a hard enough subject to start with. But that is just the tip of the iceberg that The Woods sets before viewers. Themes including rape, suicide, police corruption, and anti-Semitism all fill the six-episode season with a lot of hard to watch moments. And while they serve to build a strong narrative, there are a few moments that just go too far.

The narrative of The Woods focuses on Pawel. As he searches for answers to what happened 20 years ago at that summer camp, he also deals with a rape case that takes place in the present. His client is a young girl who is accusing two boys from affluent families of forcing themselves on her at a party. One of the boys’ fathers is a local journalist who soon begins using his wealth and influence to drive Pawel from pursuing his son’s case.

While this side story often feels unnecessary for The Woods, it does paint a painful picture of how such matters are all too often treated by a great many people. The father’s only interest is getting his son off the hook. Whether the girl is telling the truth or not doesn’t factor in. And, of course, everyone at his office is telling him to just drop the case. That the girl isn’t worth his reputation. It often feels pulled from the headlines. Just like in real life, most Pawels would probably let the case go.

While this plays on in the background, the 20-year-old murders drive the show. This plot is extremely well-executed with several twists and turns I never saw coming. Pawel must reach out to old friends, dredge up the painful repercussions of that summer, and finally come to terms with the truth of what happened all those years ago. Luckily for him, he’s not alone in this endeavor.

Pawel’s closest ally during this struggle is his long-lost flame, Laura. Laura was also at the camp that summer. At first, she’s reluctant to help Pawel. Her father ran the camp when the murders occurred. They were forced to pay heavy restitution to the families that lost children, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. Her family’s problems quickly became compounded by the fact that they are Jewish.

The Woods doesn’t pull any punches as it portrays the people’s use of this fact to torture Laura and her father. Their vehicle and home are repeatedly graffitied while their phone is bombarded with profanity-filled death threats. These moments show an all too nasty, and all too real side of humanity. While The Woods deals with these issues in a poignant manner, there are some severe missteps that mire this shows delivery.

During some of the many sequences that take place back at the summer camp, the students inevitably end up finding themselves in several different sexual situations. While teenagers screwing around at a summer camp isn’t a new concept I cannot help but feel this show takes these scenes way too far. With the worst offenders being fully blown nude scenes, these instances of objectification of actors portraying underaged individuals ruin what this show had going for it. I’ve complained about this sort of moment in a previous review, but The Woods took it to a whole new level.

So while The Woods delivers an excellent narrative and some truly emotional moments, I cannot recommend it. Its flagrant use of actors in the role of minors in sexual situations just goes fundamentally too far for me. It’s too bad, as The Woods has a lot to say. If only it could’ve stayed out of its own way while it said it.

The Woods is available only through Netflix.


The Woods
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

So while The Woods delivers an excellent narrative and some truly emotional moments, I cannot recommend it. Its flagrant use of actors in the role of minors in sexual situations just goes fundamentally too far for me. It’s too bad, as The Woods has a lot to say. If only it could’ve stayed out of its own way while it said it.