Spies (Разведчицы) is a Russian-language military drama TV series based on true events. It was produced by Rosmedia Production at the request of DT Production, and directed by Felix Gerchikov. The premier was released on May 7, 2013, on the Ukrainian channel 1+1. The series ended with a total of 12 episodes, all of which are available for free on YouTube.
Loosely based on historical events and characters, the series follows Arina Prozorovskaya and Zoya Velichko, two strong heroines of completely different backgrounds, who are enlisted to an intelligence school right before World War II. Both start out accused of crimes, but go on to serve their state with valor.
Below, you will find the series premier, a synopsis of the first episode and a brief analysis of the series premier and its critical reception.
Watch the series premier (English subtitles available) below.
You can find the full series on YouTube. (English subtitles available for all episodes)
At a military building in Moscow in 1941, Major Vorotynnikov, played by Vladimir Vdovichenkov, meets with Alexander Nikolayevich, who is going to open a State Security Intelligence School in Kyiv. Major Vorotynnikov is asked to head the school and to work with another officer named Nikolay Petrov.
In Kyiv, Arina Prozorovskaya, played by Svetlana Ivanova, meets her boyfriend Volodya Semyonov, a cadet. He tells her that he passed his exams and that they can tell her parents that they intend to get married after she finishes her bicycle race today, which she agrees to. They walk home, discussing their future life. Volodya wants “an ordinary life:” he will be a soldier and Arina, a teacher and mother. But Arina, as a Communist idealist, wants to serve her country with Volodya, who hesitantly says he will think about it.
Meanwhile at a pub, Zoya Velichko, played by Svetlana Ustinova, is flirting with a man named Pitko. She learns that he is leaving for Leningrad tomorrow, and with no time to spare, he pays her. She smiles and responds by saying that she knows of a very nice place.
Arina’s father, Pavel Timofeevich, arrives home. Arina and Volodya are waiting for him. On finding out that the couple intends to marry, he is overcome by joy, but is disappointed that they do not want a big wedding. However, he then gives them a few pieces of jewelry – family heirlooms – and tells them that they wedding gifts and can be sold to buy anything they need.
Back with Zoya and Pitko, they are now in an underground bunker, making out. Suddenly, Zoya pushes him away, and a man appears, aiming his pistol at Pitko. His name is Voron, and Zoya is his assistant. Voron takes Pitko’s wallet but then finds his badge, indicating that he is a member of the secret police, the NKVD. Voron does not want the state chasing them down, so he cold-heartedly stabs Pitko while Pitko pleads for his life and talks about his family.
In Pavel’s apartment, Pavel confides to his wife why he gave the couple the treasured family heirlooms. He responds by telling her that he was called in for investigation earlier because the NKVD found his brother Illarion, whom he has not seen since the Civil War, in Paris, probably cooperating with the Germans. The couple falls into silent.
Nikolay Petrov, played by Evgeny Pronin, arrives at the Intelligence School and meets an attractive female instructor, Matilda Genrikhovna, alone in a classroom. Matilda tells him that the students will be female, but he argues that intelligence is a male profession. She then announces that she is happy with the room except for the portraits, which she wants to take down. Petrov helps her onto a chair. Vorotynnikov enters and Matilda yells for Nikolay to catch her as she intentionally falls off the chair. Revealing that he overheard their conversation, Vorotynnikov tells Petrov that sometimes females are better for intelligence service. To prove it, he asks Petrov for his weapon and documents. Petrov has neither. Matilda smiles lightly and returns the two items to him. Before leaving, Vorotynnikov gives Petrov a stack of profiles of promising candidates and assign him to pick the best one.
Zoya is cooking in her old apartment. Her daughter Katya is reading an ABC book and asks when she will go to school. Voron returns and Zoya finds out that he lost all of the stolen money at gambling. They fighting. Zoya has an uncle in Brest, and she wants them to move there, so they can start a new life and Katya can go to school. Voron becomes angry and hits Zoya.
The scene cuts to Arina suggesting to Volodya that they sell the ring and give the money to the state to build a plane or a tank – and possibly improve their standing with the state and help the bureaucracy place them together in service. Volodya argues that serving as a soldier and teacher will also serve the country. Arina persuades Volodya to visit a pawn shop to see how much the ring is worth.
Already in the shop is Zoya, also trying to pawn a ring, but discovering that it has little value. She overhears that Arina and Volodya’s ring is very valuable. When the couple leave the shop, she follows them and introduces herself as Margarita Davydenko, the niece of a jeweler. She says the ring actually holds greater value than what the shop’s owner claims and promises that she can ask her uncle what the right price would be. Volodya is sceptical, but Arina eagerly agrees to meet Margarita after.
Zoya plans to use the ring to run away with her daughter. However, Voron discovers her plot and considers shooting her. He eventually relents, saying that they will go take the jewelry, and he will show her mercy. She asks him not to kill anyone, but he does not respond.
Petrov and Vorotynnikov discuss Petrov’s top candidates, all of whom Vorotynnikov deems as bad candidates because they do not have strong familial relationships. Petrov argues that they are good because they are Komsomol members. Vorotynnikov believes that ideals are not enough. A spy needs a stronger motivation. He then shows Petrov the chosen candidates, which include one criminal, Yana Kovalchik.
Zoya comes to Pavel’s apartment. It is late and Arina answers the door. She is surprised by Voron, who knocks her unconscious. Voron then threatens Vera, but Pavel tries to talk him down. Zoya finds the ring and tries to leave, but Voron thinks the family is rich and refuses to leave until he gets more. A fight breaks out between the family and Voron, during which the NKVD arrives to arrest Pavel. Voron, however, kills the officers and shoots both Vera and Pavel. Zoya, however, knocks him unconscious and leaves with the ring.
Zoya goes home to retrieve Katya and hides the ring in Katya’s teddy bear. They will run away.
Arina wakes up and is interrogated by the NKVD. When she cannot describe all of what happened, the investigators believe that she staged the event to avoid Pavel’s arrest and that Pavel killed all of the officers while resisting arrest. She is detained.
Meanwhile, Volodya is meeting his general with his cadet friends at the train station – but recognizes Zoya, who is also there with her daughter. Zoya realizes she will likely be caught now and tries to give her daughter a letter and instructions so that she can get to Brest and find the uncle on her own. She is indeed caught, but smiles because the train is leaving, with her daughter away to a new life. But then she hears her daughter’s voice, running closer and yelling at the officers to let her go. Zoya cries her heart out.
Vorotynnikov and Petrov are visiting Yana at the detention center, and they run into the screaming Zoya who is just brought in. Vorotynnikov shows interest in her. Zoya is placed in a room with Arina. The episode ends with her banging the door, telling the officer outside she needs to talk to her interrogators again.
Разведчицы interestingly tells the story of two females during wartime. The character of Zoya Velichko is adapted from Zoya Voskresenskaya, who was actually an NKVD secret agent and diplomat in 1960s-70s.
There is a debate on kino.teatr.ru, a well-known Russian source for movies and TV content, whether or not the show accurately portrays the history. However, the show still receives a considerable amount of praises, which go to the impressive acting and good character development. One user said, “In terms of credibility, the show is very weak… As for the game of actors, then everything is much better.”
The website Дата выхода commented that Разведчицы fits in the trend a Russian TV series to be either about police or war, and hence, immediately received positive feedback from the audience after its release. It also mentioned that season 2 was not likely to be produced despite the desire of many fans. The reason is most likely that the series was originally meant to be completed in 12 episodes in one season.
In 2014, it won the Best Fiction TV Series at the Together International TV Forum. In terms of rating, the series receives an 8/10 on IMDb and 6.889/10 on kino.teatr.ru.