It begins with an errant bullet: Pulling off a diamond heist in Marseilles, a member of a Serbian gang accidentally shoots and kills a child. It’s a mistake a master crook should never make. But like everything else depicted in The Last Panthers, the art of crime is in decline.
The real subject of SundanceTV’s six-episode series is the infinitely tangled state of contemporary Europe, where the ideal of borderlessness–underscored by the series’ British-French co-production and frequent use of Serbian dialogue–is being exploited. Samantha Morton plays an insurance investigator seeking to redress the jeweler’s losses, but she hates the assignment. We learn that her resistance to working cases pertaining to the Balkans traces back to her experience in the region as a U.N. employee.
The Europe of The Last Panthers is haunted by the fact that once distant problems have moved in next door. In the first episode, Morton’s boss, played by John Hurt, uses an unprintable term to describe Marseilles’s cosmopolitanism. But by the end of the series, he realizes that the barbarians are on both sides of the gates: “We’re all barbarians, aren’t we?”
Bemused Hurt and quiet, searching Morton do terrifically with the material, which shares with its theme song, David Bowie’s “Blackstar,” a sense of remove and oddity. During the heist, for instance, the gangsters–led by Goran Bogdan’s bitter, experienced Milan and based on the real-life Pink Panthers gang–pour pink paint on a jewelry-store worker to mark their territory. It’s a nice bit of visual flair on a dark palette, and an unambiguous statement for criminals who’ve never been given a meaningful way to otherwise make their mark.
The Last Panthers airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. E.T. on SundanceTV
This appears in the April 18, 2016 issue of TIME.