Fittingly for a show titled Dead End, this Polish dark comedy doesn’t really go anywhere.
This review of Dead End season 1 is spoiler-free.
Dead End is the kind of show that has no idea what it wants to be and is hoping to figure things out as it goes along. The main problem is that it doesn’t give itself enough time. Across six episodes, each running under a half-hour, the Polish Netflix series tries to be a crime thriller with nasty spurts of violence, a dark road trip comedy, and one of those off-kilter things in which a group of eccentrics must navigate one sudden mishap after another.
Trying to be all these things at once isn’t the worst thing in the world, but directors Grzegorz Jaroszuk and Jakub Piatek and screenwriter Dorota Trzaska don’t manage to make the disparate threads coalesce into anything. It’s about four people traveling from Poland to the Czech Republic, a father and daughter with an incredibly toxic relationship, and two more who joined via a ride-sharing app and have peculiarities of their own.
Each of these characters is interesting on their own terms, but Dead End wants to flesh them all out individually while also creating dynamics between them and devoting a good chunk of several episodes to flashbacks adding more context around how they came to be in the car in the first place. This premise is a show on its own. But early on, the gang accidentally swaps cars with a man on the run from a bank robbery, and they quickly discover that all the loot is in the trunk.
How things proceed from here is fairly understandable – there is a lot of bickering about how best to proceed while several interested, potentially dangerous parties all attempt to find the dough and eradicate the witnesses.
The characters here aren’t especially likable. Most are intended to be difficult just to move the plot along, but there are painfully few redeeming qualities to any of them, and sometimes the forced eccentricity can work to the detriment of the storytelling. Piatek directed the thriller Prime Time, also on Netflix, which was intense enough but provided little payoff. That’s largely the problem here. Fittingly for a show titled Dead End, it doesn’t end up going anywhere.