The final episodes of this Swedish interpretation of Wallander more than live up to the high standards of the earlier series. Given the lead character’s situation – his gradual acceptance of intellectual decline and the onset of dementia – they have the potential to be mawkish, morbid or just plain miserable.
But instead each 90-minute self-contained episode carefully balances the criminal elements with the personal storyline, and Wallander’s situation never overwhelms the murder / mystery investigation which forms the backbone of each stand-alone story.
Wallander’s complicated relationship with his daughter, now fully grown and an excellent investigator in her own right, is delicately portrayed as the father finally accepts that his child has matured into an equal. Eventually, it is he who has to seek her support as the reality of his condition becomes all too apparent.
Similarly, his involvement with the much younger love interest, Bea, is nuanced and affecting – he clings to the solid comfort of physical contact when the mental moments of disintegration threaten to overwhelm him.
On top of all that, there are half a dozen absolutely excellent investigations to enjoy; each of them as fully developed and intriguing as ever. The season-opener, The Troubled Man, is adapted from Henning Mankell’s original novel and reintroduces the cast of characters – Wallander’s daughter, Linda, now with her own young child, and the welcome return of Nyberg and Martinsson in the police team who provide a solid framework which highlights Wallander’s later fragmentation.
In The Betrayal, a straightforward whodunnit murder, it appears that the unsympathetic husband is the most likely candidate for the killer of his estranged wife – especially considering his troubled and dubious relationship with his daughter. Here, Wallander’s own experiences with Linda echo throughout his handling of the young woman and eventually enable him to solve the case. Similarly, Wallander’s empathy for the criminal – seeing more than one victim in a situation – provides him with unusual insight into the case of a young arsonist who’s been released back into the community but appears to be sliding back into violence. In The Loss, a prostitute’s dismembered body leads Wallander to follow a thread of international trafficking and reveals the misery of the family in Eastern Europe, wondering why they don’t hear from their missing daughter who has ‘gone travelling’. Back in Sweden he uncovers people doing the wrong thing for the right reason – and he must reconnect with their sense of justice to save lives at the end.
And yes, it’s possible to pick holes in this final collection and suggest that no police detective who behaved like Wallander does would be able to keep up active duty, much less make brilliant deductive leaps which resolve tricky situations. Someone who forgets where he parked the car and then reports it stolen, and who can’t remember the names of suspects or even critical events which he witnessed, would surely be rumbled by his colleagues and quietly put out to grass. But that’s the brilliance of this series. It allows us to suspend our disbelief to explore a very pressing aspect of social concern… which is what crime fiction – Wallander more than most – has always done.
Poignant, thought-provoking and provocative, this subtitled, Swedish-language series is no shoot-em-up action-adventure. It’s intelligent, nuanced TV drama.
If you haven’t watched the earlier episodes starring Krister Henriksson already then I’d suggest you go back to the beginning and start fresh, because the final series will make all the more impact if you’re fully acquainted with this interpretation of Mankell’s iconic detective.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Wallander: Episodes 27-32 is available on DVD from Amazon