Oh Joy! Wallander's Back

Express, 15 July 2012
By David Stephenson

The world’s most miserable detective has returned. What a joy! Wallander (BBC1, Sunday) has the sort of life we have nightmares about.

Much of his recent mood, we expect, has been caused by those Scandinavian upstarts such as Borgen and the woman in the chunky hand-knit, who have shown that this part of the world revels in its crime drama almost as much as we do.

Such is our fascination with these dramas it was disappointing not to see Swedish subtitles over the English dialogue.

Have no doubt Wallander is the original misery but, at the start of this series, Kenneth Branagh’s put-upon sleuth was determined to turn the corner; into another cul de sac.

He moved into a new house with his girlfriend (Saskia Reeves), who was terribly pleased to find a pleasant farmhouse tucked away in the countryside where they would never be bothered. She was also hoping not to wake him every morning with his usual companion, a bottle of red wine tipped over his trousers after another engaging night with his own thoughts.

However, on the first morning Wallander received a call on the phone with the most annoying ring tone ever about a body part washed up on a beach nearby.

Arriving there in his standard-issue Volvo, he discovered what looked like a side of lamb from the butcher’s hook. It was actually what happens when a young girl attempts to hold on to a ship’s spinning propeller. Wallander never spares you the detail.

Within seconds, they had not only found the ferry she had been on, but the truck driver who had claimed to have seen her “jump”. These Scandinavian cops are so good, they don’t even need to do any detective work.

Then the coup de grace (a little-used Swedish phrase): back at the farmhouse, Wallander’s highly-trained hound dug up some bones in a shallow grave. His own forensics team descended on the find, with one wag pronouncing: “I thought you were trying not to take your work home with you!” Who said the Swedish don’t have a sense of humour?

Then it got even worse. His pretty sidekick (Sarah Smart) tried to head-butt a sledgehammer as they attempted to question a nutter/suspect over the disappearance of his daughter. The sound of the hammer blow even made my television shudder in horror.

While engaging enough, the conclusion to the drama was very unsatisfying. There’s a tendency now to produce a killer who the audience hasn’t met before. This time the weird farmer they wheeled out had a psycho son who also happened to work on the ferry. He turned up in the final two minutes.

No wonder they’ve got a great clean-up rate. The crimes solve themselves.

The best line of the drama fell to Wallander himself who was sounding a little deluded: “I’m basically a cheerful person.” Was he at the red wine again? He continued. “I’m who I am because of what I do.” I think that confirms it.


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