Based on the 1997 Millennium flood in Poland, ‘High Water’ Season 1 is an intensely emotional series streaming on Netflix. It follows the actual events that occurred during the flood with the help of fictional characters. Like the recent Apple TV+ series – Five Days at Memorial, it is a survival drama filled with moral conflicts, but a much better-written one. We see the disastrous impact of several elements that were at play during this incident that became pivotal in the lives of the citizens. With an intricately detailed script filled with intelligent dialogue writing, the humanist lens of the direction gets elevated multifold.
High Water (Season 1) ‘Netflix’ Recap:
The series presents a fictionalized version of events that occurred during the flood in Wrocław, Poland, in 1997. It offers different factors at play during the time through characters representing differing perspectives. Scientists, local government officials, and a hydrologist try to work a way out of a possible disaster. Meanwhile, the villagers from a small Polish town present another dynamic that speaks more about how calamity was perceived back then.
The drama begins with a fax sent to the politician- Jakub Marczak (Tomasz Schuchardt) sent by a hydrologist named Jaśmina Tremer (Agnieszka Zulewska). We get introduced to Jaśmina as a strong-headed, logic-driven individual living on the outskirts of the Netherlands with her Dutch partner – Arjen van Hoek (Marcel Romeijn). We learn how deeply she cares about the habitat by seeing her getting upset over mindless hunting by an elderly man. While she and Van Hoek are busy in their routine, a military helicopter shows up, asking her to come with them. When she reaches the city with Colonel Czaky (Miroslaw Kropielnicki), Jakub takes her to his office.
Over there, she meets Dr. Slawomir Góra (Lukasz Lewandowski), Commander Andrzej Talarek (Tomasz Sapryk), and their hydrology experts – Professor Jan Nowak (Roman Gancarczyk) and Dr. Piepka (Dariusz Toczek). A broadcast network is also present to not miss any updates and share the news with the people. The team working under the President of Wroclaw (Tomasz Kot) uses outdated data from the 1960s and bases their judgments. Mr. Nowak has a condescending tone speaking with her since she doesn’t have a degree like him and prefers groundwork to theory. The intellectual drift becomes apparent during their discussion, which exposes their zero preparation for the flood by Mr. Nowak.
When a table full of male officials asks her for an ideal model to follow, she orders them to give her detailed maps to work on. On her walk with Colonel, she inspects the water level in the city and then travels to a nearby town named Kety. After checking the increasing water levels, she meets a local – Andrzej Rebacz (Ireneusz Czop), and speaks about the possibility of flooding. She goes to check his house’s basement and finds damp walls, which even he finds surprising. They speak about his father, in whose house he is currently residing. The father fought in the war and is now bedridden in a city hospital. She hopes to have a word with him to learn about the past flooding events.
Meanwhile, Jakub finds an event happening near a waterbody and gets furious at the organizers for not shutting it down despite repeated notices. Afterward, he goes to a bakery where he seems like a regular customer. He picks up some loaves of bread and heads to an elderly, bedridden Mrs. Tremer (Jaśmina’s mother). He helps her out with chores and then leaves. In the office, Jaśmina emphasizes the importance of taking measures without delay to help prevent damage from flooding. There is a disagreement between her and Mr. Nowak yet again about the necessary steps. She shares her model plan and then suggests opening the flood banks in Domanievo to create a corridor for the river to flow freely. As per her judgment, this would help resist major flooding.
However, she realizes that the provided maps are outdated when she reaches this spot by helicopter. It would impact her hypothesis since ecological changes create significant shifts in the way they base a judgment. She goes to Jakub’s house to inform the same, which would make their plan to blow the Domanievo worthless. She storms in to alert them that their city center will get flooded. Before he can communicate the message to the army, the flood bank gets blown up. The next day, Mr. Nowak blames her for sharing a flawed approach. The men disregard her claim.
Jakub has a word with her about her past addiction and blames her error in judgment on the same issue. Later, Jakub’s daughter – Klara (Blanka Kot), shows up in the hotel Jaśmina is living in and asks about her relationship with her father. Until Jakub reaches there, she engages the kid with some trivial details about their work together and avoids telling her the truth. Afterward, Jaśmina walks out to be stopped by a stoner who seems to know her. She denies even knowing him, trying to stay away from her past. Later, she goes back to Kety to inspect further and gets injured. With an old acquittance from the city hospital, she has a word with Andrezj’s father (Jerzy Trela) about the flood.
After speaking with him, Jaśmina informs Jakub that the river in Kety is returning to its old riverbed and suggests blowing the flood banks in this village to save Wrocław from flooding. He notes the difficulty considering the people living there, but she is adamant about doing it to stop a significant flood. He broaches this subject to his political party’s vice minister (Leszek Lichota), who ridicules his plan and orders him not to do so, considering the media outrage revolving around local farmers. He advises swaying the media to their advantage instead. After he leaves, Jakub informs his secretory to breach the information in the media secretly. Once the word gets out, Andrezj gathers the villagers against this plan.
Later, when Jaśmina reaches the village with the army men, the villagers block their way from reaching the flood banks and resist their plan. They are furious for being used for the city’s sake while leaving them with no help after the flooding. Meanwhile, Jakub holds a press conference to inform that the situation in Wrocław is under control. He also notes suspending his political campaign due to this crisis. Seeing him lie about the flooding makes Jaśmina furious, and she storms out. He follows her and tries to convince her about his helplessness regarding this announcement. However, she thinks about Klara’s safety, gets an address of where she is currently staying, and rushes there.
Meanwhile, rats start coming out from the canals and flooding their neighborhoods due to rising water levels – which indicates an impending danger of flooding. Jaśmina warns Klara not to leave the building for the next couple of days. She then meets the city mayor, working with civilians to put sandbags to resist the flood. She informs the certainty of the city center going underwater in no time. While she hopes he will take some action, he is unable due to the orders from the top. On the other side, Jakub sees that the event he had ordered not to be held is taking place, and it is because of the vice minister being connected with it. After meeting Klara, Jaśmina goes to her mother’s place to warn her about the flood and to make her leave her house.
She feels terrible that Jaśmina and Kuba (Jakub) couldn’t work out their marriage. Meanwhile, Jaśmina tries her best to convince her to leave the house for her own safety since they met after a long time and hadn’t left on a good note, they start arguing. Their argument escalates to the point where Jaśmina starts throwing out all her food while the mother starts sobbing due to utter helplessness. She observes a wet spot and heads right out to call their governor Wolski from the US embassy and informs him about their dire situation, opposite to what the media is projecting.
While the news of rising water levels scares the villagers, Andrezj’s son visits him, who seems angry at his deep involvement in the cause of these people even while not residing there. Meanwhile, at the hospital, nurse Beata Kozarowicz (Klara Bielawka) notices the extreme rise in the water level and notifies the senior doctor, who starts working on evacuating people right away. By the time Mr. Wolski (Adam Nawojczyk) reaches Wrocław, the lifts stop being operational. During their conversation, Jaśmina points out that they may have less than five hours to blow the flood banks and save the town from severe flooding.
Amidst the announcement for the villagers to evacuate the area near the flood bank, the team reaches there. They still face resistance from the villagers, who stall them from getting the place. They start fighting with the police force and pelting stones over them. To control the angry mob, the authorities begin pouring water over them. It reaches a point where blowing the flood bank becomes futile since it will end up drowning everyone around it. In the next couple of days, the situation keeps getting increasingly intense.
Amidst all of that, Klara can’t contact her father due to the interrupted phone service and decides to leave the house despite Jaśmina’s warning against it. While her dog runs to a subway due to a hunch, she follows it and gets flown into the waters. When Jakub reaches the office with Mr. Wolski, the vice minister ridicules them for going against his orders and planning their task in Kety. He then threatens Jakub destroying his political career for messing up in their town, while all he kept persisting was to follow the minister’s orders. He gets furious and holds the minister’s collar in anger. He storms out when he learns that houses are going underwater due to their decisions. He doesn’t wish to be a decisionmaker in this event anymore since all he can do is act according to what the superiors say, despite it being logically inane.
Jaśmina goes to her mother’s house again and has a heartfelt conversation, unlike before. She still is adamant about going out for fear of humiliation for her excessive weight. Jaśmina goes to the stoner guy who bumped into her before, gets heroine from his dealer, and injects it into her mother’s arm to help relieve her pain. She takes her out of the apartment with some of these stoners by offering to pay for it. The Kety villagers seem proud of their successful resistance against the authorities. While the town mayor invites everyone to get boozed up, Andrezj requests not to let loose this early in the process and keep up with their efforts.
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Jakub tries to look for Klara and, after his unsuccessful attempt at finding her, tells the television anchor to announce her as a missing person. Meanwhile, after receiving a message from the hospital about his father being in critical condition, Andrezj decides to reach there immediately. However, the citizens stopped him from getting the boat since the resistance under his lead got the city flooded. By the time they reach the hospital, it’s already too late. Jakub also runs the hospital looking for Klara when the doctor informs her not to be there. That’s when he hears the description of his daughter being shared as one of the bodies found in flood.
He gets emotional hearing this news. The doctor tries to calm him down and informs him about a boat going in the direction of the same mortuary where his daughter might be. He gets in the boat of Andrezj and his son, who is taking his father’s dead body back home. Jaśmina gets devastated by this news and falls into a bottomless pit of grief over losing her daughter to the point she even goes to buy heroin for herself. Meanwhile, Jakub reaches the mortuary to find a dead body that matches his description of Klara. At the drug dealer’s place, Jaśmina meets her stoner friend, who stops her from injecting the needle. She runs away in pain and finds Klara calling her name. Klara is alive, and the dead body at the mortuary is of someone else wearing the same t-shirt as hers.
High Water (Season 1) ‘Netflix’ Series Ending, Explained:
Does the Marczak family manage to get back together?
During their conversation, Jaśmina finally confesses to Klara about being her mother. She shows guilt for leaving her back then, and the mother and daughter reunite after that. While they try to figure out a way to return to their place through the high water, Klara thinks that she hears a bark from her pet dog and walks towards it despite Jaśmina telling her not to do so. She suddenly falls into the waters, and fortunately, Jaśmina manages to save her. We witness a connection between them through this interaction, as if they are old friends.
Sometime after the flood, Jaśmina comes to have a meal with Klara and Jakub at their place; she confesses leaving in the past without any traces to locate her was her decision. The reason Jakub lied to Klara was also because of her and not because he purposefully wanted to hide the details. After their heartfelt conversation, they finally get back together, emotionally, as a family. While she goes back to live with her Dutch partner, Jakub seems more determined to take a stance against his superior, conservative minister.
What is the fate of Andrezj and the villagers of Kety?
When the villagers of Kety were celebrating their success in resistance against the authorities, two police officers came by to arrest Andrezj for obstructing the government procedures. When the officers disturb their joyous gathering, the crowd gets angry at them in his support. He requests them to remain peaceful and goes away with the officers. Since the politicians want someone to blame for the disaster, he becomes a scapegoat in this scenario.
Later, during the court hearings, when he comes across Jaśmina and Jakub; they have a word about whatever happened at the time. He feels bad for not following their judgment, which led the city to the floods. Jaśmina mentions that everyone was doing the best they could think of from their perspective, and the conversation ends on a warm note filled with compassion. The humanist lens to the storytelling is what makes ‘High Water’ endlessly compelling.