Wallander – Review

I have been meaning to write about a show that I watched on Netflix that was quite enjoyable, the BBC production of Wallander. A police procedural, with a backstory, right up my alley.

The series is adapted from the Wallander thriller novels penned by Henning Mankell, a Swedish author. The series starts with the principal protagonist, Kurt Wallander, just after he become the DI (Detective Inspector), of his little hamlet, about age 42, and over the series covers about 20 years of his career.

The cases involve homicide, and the first episode highlighted the tensions of the asylum seekers and refugee encampments, with the native Swedes, particularly as this ramped up during the early 1990’s.

The series is quite good, with each episode chronicling a case, and building on the character of Wallander, who at the beginning was recently separated/divorced from his wife, somewhat estranged from his daughter (this is a major evolutionary plot tale through the series) and battling his inner demons. In a subtle foreshadowing of his life’s story arc, we see his father, an artist, slide into senility, and irrationality, ultimately dying fairly early in the series.

The author of the novels this is based upon, Henning Mankell, weaves a long story (that of Kurt Wallander), with the episodic adventures, into cliff hangers, and often surprising twists and turns. More than just Police procedurals, the tales dive into economic and societal concerns, that particularly resonate with the then current events (written largely in the 1990’s, but the show is set in the 2000’s.)

To get a feel for the novels I bought a couple for the consumption during my morning commute, and no doubt about it, Henning is a masterful practitioner of his craft, on par with one of my other favorite crine/drama authors, Ross MacDonald. The novel I read, “Faceless Killers” is the first in the series, and also the tale that the pilot episode was based on. Of course, I didn’t read it in the original Swedish, but the English translation was phenomenal, almost as impressive as the original story. The BBC adaptation, was superb. The protagonist, played by the outstanding Kenneth Branagh, is a semi-polished DI, with enough rough edges, and a complex back story that Mankell develops throughout the series.

One of the striking characteristics of the book that I read, was the amount of attention that Mankell paid to making Wallander “Human”. As an example, the separation from his wife a few months prior to “Faceless Killers”, we see Kurt has gained weight, and his diet has suffered. Fast food, ordering unhealthy meals, with the guilty thoughts of “doing it better” that all of us face. It adds humanity and generates some sympathy between the viewer and the character. Masterful.

Of course, it is a Swedish tale, cast in Sweden, and we are seeing the characters speak english, even while all the signs/reading materials, etc. are in Swedish, so you must suspect some belief. However, that is the only nit, and it is minuscule. The show is outstanding, engaging, and beautifully produced.

A highly recommended watch.

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