He’s a cop who doesn’t just see dead people… he is one, in the new Russian drama ‘Phantom’.
15 Jul 2021 - 9:15 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2021 - 9:34 AM

When you think of Russian crime, you probably think of the guys John Wick shoots. Disposable goons with tattoos and bad suits, led by hard sinister men running billion-dollar rackets that reach across the globe. Here’s what you don’t think of: ghost cops. Phantom is here to change all that.

Moscow detective Stas Khabarov (Denis Shvedov) is the kind of impulsive, aggressive cop who plays by his own rules. His current case has him investigating the suspicious death of a young woman, which leads him straight to a network of dealers pushing a toxic new drug called Red. Unfortunately, that whole “plays by his own rules” thing means he charges after the dealers without waiting for back-up – and gets shot in the back for his troubles.

Usually that’d be the end of the show, or at least, the end of his part in the show. Cue the grieving partner who swears vengeance, thanks for getting things off to an exciting start. But this is a series about a ghost cop; getting killed just makes him qualified for the job.

The thing about being shot in the back is, you don’t get to see the face of the person who shot you. Usually that wouldn’t be an issue for Stas, what with him now being dead, but before he goes into the light he has a vision of his wife Vera (Evgenia Brik) being killed by the same person who killed him. Yes, Stas is now a ghost who can also see the future – he’s a dead person who sees dead people. Finally the sequel to The Sixth Sense we’ve been waiting for.

At this point it seems obvious that, now that they have ghost cops who can also see the future, all Russian crime should be solved by the end of the weekend. But if you think about it, this reflects badly on all previous dead Russian cops, who clearly went “glad that’s over” the second their bodies hit the floor instead of lingering on to solve a bunch of outstanding murders of dissidents and so on.

It’s not like Stas doesn’t have good reason to move on. He’d recently decided to divorce his wife (who is also an investigator in his department) which you’d think would make the whole “now I’m dead” thing something of a relief. No more awkward workplace conversations! But Stas is a good guy at heart and can’t just let his wife be future-murdered without trying to save her, so instead of going into the light he returns to Earth. One problem: he’s a ghost, so Vera can’t see him. In fact, none of his old police buddies can see him.

As obstacles go, this is pretty major; being a ghost cop is harder than it seems (apologies for bad-mouthing all the previous dead Russian cops), and Stas’ career seems over before it began. That is, until he runs (floats?) into teenage freshman psychology student Katya (Angelina Zagrebina), who handily can both see and hear him. Unfortunately it remains somewhat difficult for a member of the general public to gain the trust of the local police with evidence they claim was provided by the ghost of a dead cop; looks like Stas still has his work cut out for him.

While the idea of a Russian ghost cop who can see the future seems like the kind of brilliant concept that could power a US crime procedural (Law & Order: Undead?) for decades, Phantom is a much more tightly wound series. Based on the successful Italian series Red Door, across the eight episodes a range of subplots weave in and out of Stas’ quest for justice.

Remember the drug-related death he was investigating when he was still alive? Those crimes haven’t gone away. There’s corruption in his old unit too, with at least one (and probably more) of his colleagues involved in the events leading up to his death. His personal issues linger as well. Was Ksyu (Nadezhda Borisova) really Stas’ mistress, and how will Vera cope if she finds out? Katya has her own problems too, including a mother who just might be seeing dead people herself.

Tying it all together is Stas’ desperate efforts to save his wife. Working in a unit where anyone might be the killer, her connection to Stas has put a big target on her back. Unless he can figure out who’s waiting in her future, she’ll soon be joining him. And if he fails to prevent her murder when he knew about it ahead of time, then their reunion in the afterlife is going to be pretty brutal.

Phantom is streaming now at SBS On Demand.


Plus check out other Russian TV Series currently streaming at SBS On Demand...

An Ordinary Woman seasons 1 & 2

The Optimists season 1


Follow the author @morrbeat


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