On the small screen, keen interest in all things Nordic has exploded since the success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, with Danish television series The Killing and Danish/Swedish co-production The Bridge being two stand-out examples. If the Larsson effect kick-started this mass public appreciation, then it’s fellow Swede Henning Mankell who should be credited for laying the groundwork in the 90s with the abrasive. emotionally troubled maverick detective Kurt Wallander.
Of the three different sets of Wallander adaptations that have been broadcast in the UK so far, the most well-known are the two television series, the first starring Krister Henrikkson as the eponymous detective and the more recent UK remake with the newly knighted Kenneth Branagh. Before both of these though was the original Swedish film series in which Wallander was portrayed by Rolf Lassgård, who is currently playing the lead as a similarly embittered former cop in Sebastian Bergman.
As a crime show, Wallander and its central character cover well-worn ground. The series’ protagonist is overly invested in his work to the point of obsession and at the cost of maintaining personal or professional relationships. He battles both personal demons and authority figures, he struggles with fits of booze-soaked depression and is a perpetual outsider whose colleagues are alternatively fascinated and frustrated by him.
The series is not afraid to surround its hero with female characters who are strong, capable, but also flawed and thus completely realistic, such as Wallander’s boss Lisa Holgersson (Kerstin Andersson) and his colleague and some-time-girlfriend Maja (Marie Richardson). They are hints of the kinds of female protagonists later developed with Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) in The Killing, Birgitte Nyberg Christensen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) in Borgen, and Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) in The Bridge.
Whilst the six feature-length episodes that are included are well worth watching as stand-alone stories, the plots remain faithful to Mankell’s original material and are well-rounded, fast paced, and suspenseful. Episodes move confidently between huge topical issues and smaller, more personal storylines, with the two-parter Firewall entering the world of technology and cyber terrorism, while Pyramid looks back to Wallander’s previously unseen first case.
Wallander has superbly entertaining murder mystery plots and is well made and sensitively acted; there’s much to recommend for both avid fans of the crime genre and casual viewers alike.