Forget everything you learnt about The Teach. Poland’s favourite crime solving high school teacher is back, but everything has changed.
Well, perhaps not everything.
Paweł Zawadzki (Maciej Stuhr) is still a highly regarded teacher with a side interest in solving mysteries. It’s just that after the dramatic events of the first season, Paweł has moved back to the big city and is now investigating a brand-new group of sinister students. Or are the students investigating him?
Stream series one and two of The Teach now at SBS On Demand.
This is no minor course correction. Season one of The Teach was all about Paweł’s investigation of a young student’s death in a small town full of secrets – not least of which was the fact that the dead girl was his secret daughter.
When that mystery was (largely) resolved, his personal connection to crime solving looked like it was over, too. Only it turned out Paweł liked solving mysteries, and the first season ended with future cases looking likely.
Going up a grade
While we all knew he’d be back (the series was a smash hit in Poland), the big surprise here is that season two throws out all the old cast and locations. Instead, it begins with Paweł in the mid-sized city of Wroclaw (unlike the setting in season one, this is a real city), sent to not only teach at a prestigious high school there, but also to investigate the disappearance of three students – students who promptly turn up, claiming to have been in Paris.
So, the mystery’s solved and it’s time to head home? Not exactly: the kids’ Paris excuse is pretty flimsy, and Paweł has already started to figure out that things seem just a little… off. And that’s before there’s a school shooting at the end of episode one – with one of the formerly missing students pulling the trigger.
It soon turns out that even murder is just the tip of the iceberg here; this is clearly a school where something extremely sinister and widespread is going on. But was Paweł brought there to figure it out, or become a part of it?
Changes to the curriculum
With this shift in setting comes a shift in focus. Where the first season was built on a random group of small-town teens and the creepy locals, this time around Paweł has a very different student body on his hands.
These are the offspring of the wealthy elite, and their problems are much more contemporary. Likewise, in his new job Paweł is much more of a regular teacher, at least at first. He even checks in on a meeting of the drama club – though perhaps unsurprisingly, they too have something of a dark side.
The other major change this season is with Paweł himself. The last we saw him, he was an all-action crime-solver who was constantly putting the pieces together. He was often one step ahead of law enforcement, a tough guy able to take down the bad guys without breaking a sweat.
It’s the kind of thing we accept in our mystery series – after all, we want the lead to actually solve the crime, not constantly throw his hands up going “I can’t figure this out” – but there were times when his crime solving abilities seemed a bit too polished for a man whose day job was teaching high school students.
Little fish in a big pond
This season turns that on its head. While most of the action is now confined to a school (which you’d think would be Paweł’s home territory), those around him often treat him as a pawn in their schemes. Even the principal seems disinterested in helping him out, let alone guiding him.
The mystery here isn’t so much about who did it as it is about simply figuring out what’s going on – before he becomes the next victim.
This new, slightly confused Paweł isn’t so much a break from the first season as a realistic extrapolation from it: in a small country town he was easily able to throw his weight around, but in a complex big city school he’s no longer the top dog.
Now that he no longer has a personal connection to the mystery he’s trying to solve, it’s also an approach that makes him a little more vulnerable and defensive.
The result is a season of The Teach where Paweł is firmly on the back foot. Facing a mystery that rapidly expands to involve spy agencies, doomsday preppers and arms dealers, he’s going to have to be at the top of his game if he’s going to make it out of this school alive.
Get started on the new mystery of The Teach now with season 2. But if you didn't see the first installment, both the first and second series of The Teach is streaming now anytime at SBS On Demand: