Wallander (Swedish) — Killer TV No 22

6151516-low_res-wallander-swedishTV4, 2005-2013

‘Good cops allow themselves to be ground down. The job absorbs them.’ – Kurt Wallander

Krister Henriksson, Mats Bergman, Angela Kovacs, Johanna Sällström, Charlotta Jonsson

Identikit: Kurt Wallander, a police inspector and detective in Ystad, Sweden, balances his harrowing caseload with his troubled private life, including a tempestuous relationship with his daughter, Linda.


logosSWEDISH TELEVISION made 26 episodes of stories adapted from Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, all of which starred Kirster Henriksson. Where Kenneth Branagh was subdued and thoughtful, bordering on glum, in the BBC version, Henriksson portrayed a more rounded character who, though trapped somewhat  by his police career, could reach out to those close to him. Henriksson is the definitive Wallander to many, but he came to the part only after the bear-like Rolf Lassgård had made a series of Wallander films (1994-2007). But Henriksson’s understated, approachable Wallander is a good balance between Lassgård’s irascible portrayal and Kenneth Branagh’s ultra-glum version. Henriksson’s very first story in the TV series, Before the Frost, saw the detective uncovering a dangerous religious cult headed by a sadistic killer, while also struggling to make up for his failures as a father to his daughter, Linda (Johanna Sällström), newly qualified as a police officer herself. This was an absorbing drama, beautifully mixing the personal stories with an investigation into tragic and horrific events. The two 13-part series openers – The Revenge opened season 2 – were released in cinemas in Sweden and were better than the mid-season episodes, which were less carefully crafted and a bit more predictable. A third and final season (six 90-minute films), featuring Charlotta Jonsson as Linda Wallander, aired in 2013.

Classic episode: Before the Frost was the TV series’ first episode and a compelling mix of tragedy. Kurt is on the trail of a poisonous cult leader, and the detective’s painfully tangled personal life, particularly in his uncomfortable relationship with his daughter, Linda, is to the fore. A gripping debut and definitely one of the best of the 32 episodes.

Watercooler fact: Henning Mankell was so deeply affected by the death of Johanna Sällström, aged 32, who suffered from depression and had narrowly survived the 2004 tsunami in Thailand with her daughter, that he was unable to write the last two novels of a planned trilogy about Linda Wallander.

Wallander: The Sad Bird, BBC4 – final episode

Kurt Wallander (KRISTER HENRIKSSON) BBC4
Krister Henriksson in his final outing as Wallander. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: Saturday, 21 June, 9pm

Story: A well-known restaurant owner is kidnapped at gunpoint, and as his family waits for a ransom demand, the Ystad team tries to untangle a web of deceit surrounding the missing man.

And now the end is near, Kurt faces his final curtain. We’ve come a long way with Krister Henriksson’s Ystad detective – he’s been on UK screens since 2008 – and of course many fans have devoured Henning Mankell’s popular novels – but tonight’s story, The Sad Bird, is the Swedish series’ final episode.

Sad is right, too. Kurt, faced with a difficult case about a kidnapped restaurateur, is also grappling with his fading mental faculties following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

We’ve recently seen Poirot’s dignified demise on ITV, and authors often prefer a grander send-off for their creations – such as Holmes plunging with Moriarity over the Reichenbach Falls – but it is to be expected that Mankell, Sweden’s most distinguished crime novelist, would give his man a more down-to-earth, sobering end.

Krister Henriksson’s final Wallander episode

Having done such an excellent job is exploring modern Sweden’s challenges with immigration, social

Linda Wallander (CHARLOTTA JONSSON), Hans von Enke (LEONARD TERFELT) Wallander BBC4
Linda tells her husband about Kurt’s condition

disintegration and inequality, it is fitting that the author should use Wallander to explore one of the great medical crises facing society.

Painful viewing it is. We’ve stuck with the detective through his failures as a parent and his solitary lifestyle. But seeing him feeding his dog twice, losing his keys and forgetting the victim’s name is glum viewing. His daughter Linda also gives us a taste of how harrowing it is to be the close relative of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

It is a sign of how well we feel know and empathise with the lonely but decent Wallander that this final 90 minutes with Krister Henriksson’s portrayal is so affecting.

Henriksson, Lassgård or Branagh?

But, of course, there is also an engrossing investigation woven into the story. Paolo Salino is a successful restaurant owner – but his business seems to have a turnover way higher than it should. Is this down to drugs? Is there corruption involved?

The one bright part of the tale for Wallander is that he must work with Jenny Blom of Malmo CID. He likes her and perhaps recognises a soul mate – she is also something of a maverick who has been running her own personal investigation into Salino following the death of her partner.

It’s a memorable, engrossing send-off for Sweden’s greatest detective. Wallander buffs quibble over the pre-eminence of the different Wallanders – Henriksson v Rolf Lassgård in the movies v the beeb’s Kenneth Branagh.

But while there isn’t really a duffer among the three (and the BBC’s series are certainly the most beautifully filmed), Krister Henriksson’s incarnation will certainly be sorely missed.

For Wallander fans, however, there is a silver lining. Kenneth Branagh’s fourth Wallander series should be in production next year.

Cast: Krister Henriksson Kurt Wallander, Charlotta Jonsson Linda Wallander, Douglas Johansson Martinsson, Mats Bergman Nyberg, Leonard Terfelt Hans von Enke, Linda Ritzen Jenny Blom, Per Graffman Paolo Salino, Johannes Bah Kuhnke Olle Tjader

Also check out…

Krister Henriksson: why I’m leaving Wallander in The Guardian
BBC4 Wallander
Our review of Wallander: The Troubled Man

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Wallander: The Troubled Man, BBC4, with Krister Henriksson PREVIEW

Troubled water – Krister Henriksson as Wallander in The Trouble Man. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★ 

BBC4: Saturday, 17 May, 9pm  

Story: Attending a family meal at the home of his daughter Linda, Kurt Wallander is intrigued when Hakan von Enke, his son-in-law’s father, a retired Naval Commander, is called away by an urgent phone call. And then von Enke goes missing…

THE KILLING and The Bridge have stolen the limelight from Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander lately, but he returns to BBC4 this weekend with an engrossing film to remind us what we’ve been missing.

This features the marvellous Krister Henriksson in the title, looking pretty baggy and washed-up here in

Final case for Wallander

what is an adaptation of the final Wallander novel. His character has fallen into a drinking habit, which causes him major problems when he leaves his service gun in a restaurant after a late-night solo booze session.

All of which complicates his life even more, as he is suspended just as a national scandal hits Wallander at a personal level. The Troubled Man of the title is Wallander’s father-in-law, retired naval commander Hakan von Enke.

Nordic noir and The Troubled Man

Wallander notices something is amiss when he attends a family meal at his daughter Linda’s house, and sees Hakan called away by an urgent phone call. It soon becomes clear Hakan is involved in the recovery of a diver’s body from the waters of the Stockholm Archipelago.

Since the groundbreaking 1960s novels of Swedish duo Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Nordic noir has been distinguished by the way it used the whodunit to peel back layers of social issues affecting the apparently idyllic Scandinavian way of life.

In The Troubled Man we’re skilfully taken from a dinner party into a national and historic mystery that began during the Cold War and involves international espionage. Hakan von Enke is a distinguished Cold Warrior with a very comfortable lifestyle, but what lies behind the facade?

Krister Henriksson

Moreover, the tale works as Wallander’s personal journey as well. Henriksson evokes sympathy as the lonely detective, perhaps feeling more isolated than ever as Linda, with whom he’s had a troubled relationship, is now moving on with her new life and motherhood. There are hints here of Wallander’s

Fishing expedition? Wallander and a witness

end in the man’s occasionally distracted behaviour…

Henriksson has been playing the role since 2005, and his Wallander is less showy than Kenneth Branagh’s on the BBC. His understated performance is more affecting. The Troubled Man is the latest of his 32 Wallander episodes and was released in cinemas in Sweden.

Having said he did not want to play Wallander again after completing 2009’s series, he did eventually sign on for this adaptation of the final Wallander novel. It’s a strong and moving portrayal, and a reminder of what a superb character and series of stories that Henning Mankell created.

Cast: Krister Henriksson Kurt Wallander, Charlotta Jonsson Linda Wallander, Leonard Terfelt Hans von Enke, Signe Dahlkvist Klara Wallander, Marika Lindstrom Louise von Enke, Sten Ljunggren Hakan von Enke, Peter Andersson Sten Norlander

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