We all now know social media can be a force for bad. But it also can be a force for good — and not just because sharing cat videos makes us happy.
In “Ultraviolet,” a Polish crime drama, amateur detectives use digital tools to solve murders written off by the police. A hit in its homeland, the show is now streaming on Netflix, in Polish with English subtitles. The producer of the series aptly says it’s “DIY CSI.”
The main character is Ola Serafin (Marta Nieradkiewicz), a 30-year-old with careworn eyes. She’s mourning her brother, who died after his wife shot him (five times!). The police said it was self-defense. She vehemently disagrees.
Ola herself is a lost soul — maybe that’s why she wears a T-shirt that says “Wander Lost.” She’d been living in London with her husband but has left him and is back in Lodz, earning zlotys by driving the Polish version of Uber.
After dropping off a passenger one night, Ola sees a body fall from an overpass and bounce off a vehicle. She calls the police, who don’t seem too interested in investigating and rule it a suicide.
Ola thinks the victim was pushed but no one believes her, including her acerbic mother. Then she stumbles upon the beneath-the-radar online sleuthing group Ultraviolet. Their catchphrase is, “Anyone who has something can join us.”
The group’s founder is intrigued enough to take the case of “the lady of the overpass.” Suddenly, aimless Ola has a focus for her intelligence and curiosity.
With the help of Google, she and other Ultravioleters trace the victim’s T-shirt to a gym and find her picture and name. But these cybersleuths also recognize that people can be smarter than the internet. “The dent in the car will speak volumes,” says Henryk (Marek Kalita), a father figure to Ola who just happens to be an expert on dents made by jumpers versus people who are pushed.
The show isn’t the perfect crime procedural — solving a new whodunit each episode can lead to predictable outcomes. But the characters are offbeat enough to pique interest, and the writers slip in plenty of sly jokes. In an episode about the murder of a man who lives in a smart house, the artificial intelligence voice reacts to his death by stating: “He is inoperable.”