{television} wallander, series 2


Sean and I finally got around to watching the second season of BBC’s Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander. The series consist of three 45-minute episodes following the home and work life of a Swedish detective, based upon Henning Mankell novels, though not shot in order of publication. We’d seen the 1st and 3rd seasons, having missed the 2nd on PBS Masterpiece and forced to wait for it to stream on Netflix. The show is ridiculously good, so beautifully photographed, and Branagh is truly remarkable. But Wallander does require a bit of a mood, because they are grim and, well, I’m still haunted by a series 3 opening sequence involving swans, a lake, and fire. This time round there is this haunting image of a horse in a closing sequence.


The Elderly do not fare well in this season of Wallander (2010). And Kurt deals with generational issues both at home and work—as well as relational ones: questions of legacy, of good parenting, and adult children. The crimes and what they reveal are too grim to be golden; nostalgia is hard to come by and just because we do not want to believe the darkness of days past do not linger, Wallander is witness to their very present-day devastation.

“I am not interested in correctness, but the truth.” ~Kurt (“Faceless Killers”)

wallander povelwallander

Kurt’s father is suffering from age and dementia and already father and son are troubled by a difficult relationship. Kurt’s father Povel (David Warner) expected more of his son, finds his career path disturbing, and wonders what he has become. We see, however, that the artist father has not been without influence. Kurt is a keen observer and a very aware and sensitive person.

wallander FacelessKillersBBCE1: “Faceless Killers” : Directed by Hettie MacDonald : written by Richard Cottan.

“Wallander investigates the brutal slaying of an elderly couple at an isolated farmhouse, while a police leak of the wife’s dying words leads to an outbreak of racist reprisals in Ystad. The fallout from the case leads Wallander to doubt everything, including his abilities as a police officer.” (wiki)

What do you want to matter versus what really does matter… and what do we do with our expectations once they are confirmed or denied—or yet unknown? Here is an episode which opens with a beautiful white horse that is steeped in the racial tensions of its present-day Sweden.

Iranian migrant worker when Wallander asks for a detail: “Swedish Color”

Kurt replies with a weariness that belies more than a lack of sleep: “blonde then.”

wallander faceless-killers

Kurt’s daughter Linda (Jeany Spark) is seriously dating a medical doctor who is also Syrian and Kurt is worried. She thinks he is foolish to have a concern, but we soon learn upon what his worry based. Fear and hatred of the migrant agriculture workers of color, finds brutal expression following a murder of above-mentioned elderly couple. Kurt has to reconcile the grim realism of his work and the healthful optimism of his daughter. And she is an adult after all.

The generational tensions between parents and children (to include correlating work-relationships) are at the fore: who takes care of whom when the child has grown, and is it possible to retroactively fill the spaces made by absence. A question of good judgment comes into play, some seem to have it, but Wallander comes to doubt his (even if not everyone else does). And how does favoritism figure in… It is difficult to hand over control of a situation over to someone else who is determined to have it.

wallander the man who smiled posterE2: “The Man Who Smiled.” Directed by Andy Wilson : written by Simon Donald & Richard Cottan.

“Wallander is contacted by an old friend who is certain his father has been murdered. Wallander refuses to get involved as he is suspended from the police, but subsequent events convince him that there is more to the case.” (wiki)

In continuation of how there are really horrible people and events in the world… The helpless, the voiceless, they sometimes find a defender, someone with the ability to speak for them: policemen, philanthropists, religion, activists, relatives… The institutions that represent the afore-listed also deal in issues of guilt. What does one do with their guilt, and does your anguish make you a good man or a bad man? We see different instances of how guilt can lead to both positive and negative consequence; and how intervention really does require the determination of a person of means.

wallander man who smiled rupert gravesWe observe how privilege works: wealth, rank, resources… But who decides who gets to live or die (a question lingering from episode 1)? Who is subject to law, do intentions really matter—and who decides that?  {{and yes, that is Rupert Graves in the above episode photograph}}

wallander TheFifthWomanBBCE3: “The Fifth Woman.” Directed by Aisling Walsh : written by Richard Cottan.

“An elderly bird-watcher falls to his death in a meticulously planned and brutal murder. In an apparently unconnected case, a local man disappears and Wallander gets too close to one of the suspects. Wallander believes he is on the trail of a serial killer bent on revenge.” (wiki)

There is a certain poetry to the way the serial killer murders the first two victims; the way the murder tends to them the way they tend to their own subjects, the victims becoming a object to observe, commodify, and serve up. It really is disturbing.

wallander the 5th woman

Is there ever a time when the death of someone can be seen as a mercy?— especially if death is somewhat always violent in nature. An attractive attribute of Wallander is that he grieves. He grieves the loss of life and he grieves the “necessity” to take life. When we have stories of a worn detective of any years, their cynicism or gruffness comes from a disillusionment and distaste for humanity. Wallander cannot be described in such a way. He channels cynicism into compassion, into empathy. His work, his personal life, it keeps him awake, and drinking. But he fails to become hardened by his work—its lovely. Kenneth Branagh is able to evoke a complex character who can enthrall the viewer.

The next line is going to include a spoiler, sorry, but I am curious who else noticed:[[the last murder victim’s name is Blomvquist, and considering the subject-matter, a nod to Stieg Larrson’s Men who Hate Women.]]


wallander season 2 episode 2

I say a lot more about the characterization of Kurt Wallander and the filming of Wallander in my Series 3 review, do look at that, and do seriously consider catching this television series—especially if you love a good detective story or murder-mystery. The days are long and sunny, it is a good time to become acquainted with a grim world shot in breathtaking locations.

my review of Wallander: series 3 (2012)

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Such an excellent series. Wish it didn’t take them so long to come out. You are so correct in that there is a “mood” to these shows and being able to let that mood wash over you is part of what makes it an engaging experience. Have you guys watched Vera? Those episodes are very similar in that they are moody, brooding shows. Wonderfully shot. It is amazing how beautiful the scenery is when it is being shot in a way to evoke melancholy and loneliness. Branagh couldn’t be better. As I sit here at work on a cloudy day I feel myself aching to go home and start the series again from the start.

    1. L says:

      we have not watched Vera.. will have to remedy that. Watching Wallander and Sherlock and Luther, and having seen Zen, I really would love for some US channel to pick up on these rich and beautiful mini-series shows…

      1. There is a similar vibe, or mood, to the ones you mention that I really enjoy. I think it plays into what I like about autumn, the longer nights, the beauty of nature as it slows down and prepares to rest.

        As much as I lament the waiting game for these British shows, I prefer this kind of tv story telling to the 20+ episode seasons in the U.S.

        Curios, did you guys watch the new series Endeavor? All the episodes were out on PBS this past month and you may still be able to catch them online. I would recommend watching the pilot movie first though as it sets everything up.

        1. L says:

          sounds familiar… will check it out.

          1. They are the Inspector Morse prequels, from when he was first starting out.

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