Blinded by the Lights, a critically-acclaimed, award-winning, and fan-favorite hit in its native Poland, is the latest TV series from HBO Europe to screen in the US.
Based on Jakub Żulczyk‘s best-selling novel of the same name and set in modern-day Warsaw, Blinded by the Lights (Ślepnąc od świateł) follows a week in the life of well-known cocaine dealer Kuba (newcomer Kamil Nożyński), during which his “incredibly ordered life” begins to disintegrate into chaos.
Kuba is a quiet, fastidious man who listens to classical music, takes 15-minute power naps, and prays in church. He tells little white lies to his mother (who he hasn’t seen in five years), thinks often of his ex-girlfriend (who he isn’t really over), and pays a bent cop to keep the police at bay.
When needs must, Kuba also does dirty work, with help from two thugs, for his drug supplier, the pompous, high-strung, and loud-mouthed gangster Jacek (Robert Wieckiewicz, 1983).
Between that and dealing regularly with customers’ demands, lack of money, and other dramas, Kuba is exhausted. So he plans an extended holiday (escape) for himself and buys two one-way tickets for a flight to Buenos Aires departing on Christmas Day. (Hmm…)
Unfortunately for Kuba, the next seven days will be fraught with the unwanted and the unexpected, which upend the meticulous nature of his life and the orderliness of his world.
Starting with a late drug shipment, a dead body, and a stolen bag.
Followed by the release from prison of notorious gangster Dario (Jan Frycz, Teatr telewizji).
I’m two episodes in and hooked on Blinded by the Lights. With each episode so far, there’s a sense of foreboding, even in scenes of the mundane. You know something bad is going to happen; you just don’t know what exactly, but you wait for the other shoe to drop. Then it does. And then there’s another shoe…
It reminds me of Umbre, the HBO Europe thriller from Romania, in that the series isn’t so much a crime drama as it is a drama that features a lot of crime, and its narrative centers on the lead character and the manner in which he handles the chaos around him.
Kuba, who is one of the more charismatic criminal characters that I’ve seen in a while, exerts a strict control over his life. It takes a lot of energy to hold onto the reins so tightly; thus his rigidity. Which is how Kamil Nożyński plays him — as a man suppressed, suffocated, and stiffened by his need for order. It will be interesting to see how Kuba deals when his world begins to implode.
In addition to the story and acting, the photography and special effects, which can be quite dramatic, are also top-notch.
The eight-episode drama features Jacek Beler (The Border), Janusz Chabior (Struggle for Life), Eryk Lubos (Ojciec Mateusz, the Polish version of Don Matteo), Marta Malikowska (Komisarz Alex), Cezary Pazura (Kroll), and newcomer Marzena Pokrzywinska.
Blinded by the Lights, an HBO Europe Original Series, premiered in the US on May 1 and is currently available for streaming on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, and partners’ streaming platforms, including the HBO channel on Amazon.
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