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

Follow @crimetimeprev

Line of Duty series 2, Sebastian Bergman novel, Ruth Rendell’s Thirteen Steps Down on ITV1

• So, Line of Duty has been recommissioned for a second series, having concluded with the suicide of Lennie James’ character DCI Tony Gates at the end of the five-parter. The Beeb’s honchos are pleased with viewing figures of between three and four million for the drama, and Jed Mercurio did a fine job in creating a cop show that veered away from the boring procedural cliches – homicide cops turning up at a murder scene etc – for a more realistic slant on modern policing and corruption.

DS Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE)
Arnott and Fleming. Pic: BBC

The series had some tremendous twists, but the problem with stunning plot swerves is that the story then has to work bloody hard to make sense of them – and this is where Line of Duty went off the rails for me. Jackie’s murder was a gobsmacking moment, but was Gates’ appearance and framing for her murder fortuitous? Surely, it could not have been planned, so the killers, who were not that bright, suddenly improvised by setting up the detective? Gates’ suicide was another shocker, but somehow seemed a little false. After all, this was the great survivor, who insisted to the last that he wasn’t bent and loved his family.

And of course Dot’s emergence right at the end as the real supervillain was another stunner. So this suggests he knew of Tony’s secret affair with Jackie, and we were left to assume he somehow engineered his boss’s framing and downfall, though this was never explained. Arnott and Kate lying that Gates was pursuing the suspect when he was killed was ludicrous – there was a whole traffic jam of motorists behind who could have testified that that was not the case.

The Guardian has a good blog on the series, and they rightly point out that Line of Duty could have done with more episodes. And I also agree that it was more interesting when it was dealing with Tony’s corruption, before Jackie’s murder.

Overall, it was engrossing, and Lennie James, Vicki McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Neil Morrissey were all convincing in their respective roles. Series two should be interesting.

• Watch out for the forthcoming novel of Sebastian Bergman, on which BBC4’s recent two-parter from Sweden was based. I’ve been sent it by the excellent Shots ezine to review and I’m just about to start it. It’s written by a duo called (Michael) Hjorth (Hans) Rosenfeldt (the latter being the creator of The Bridge), and Rolf Lassgård was excellent as the police profiler tormented by the deaths of his wife and child in a tsunami.

• TV is absorbed with running, jumping, swimming and cycling at the moment, but there are one or two drama gems tucked in amid the London medal chases. Ruth Rendell’s Thirteen Steps Down comes to ITV1 on Wednesday, 1 August. Rendell seems to have less of a profile than she did 10 or 15 years ago, but she is still the queen of the disturbing psychological thriller. This two-parter, starring Luke Treadaway, Geraldine James and Elarica Gallacher, revolves around Max and the fantasies he has that steer him towards becoming a potential murderer. Preview coming next week.

• Finally, dreary Downton Abbey is up against Breaking Bad for best drama at this year’s Emmys. Breaking what? you may ask if you reside in Britain, owing to the criminal lack of airspace being given to this totally superb series in the UK. It’s better than Downton by miles, better than Mad Men, Homeland, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire – all of whom are in the face-off for the gong. Channel 5 showed series one and two of BB, which stars Bryan Cranston as a chemistry teacher with cancer who decides to become a illegal drug manufacturer. In terms of visually superb storytelling, originality and fine acting, BB is way out in front. Coming soon – CrimeTimePreview’s national campaign to get Breaking Bad back on our screens. Or you could get the DVD… Follow @crimetimeprev

Sebastian Bergman, starring Rolf Lassgård PREVIEW

Vanja Lithner (Moa Silen) and Sebastian Bergman (Rolf Lassgård). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: starts Saturday, 26 May, 9pm

Story: Sebastian Bergman, a leading Swedish criminal profiler, finds his career on the skids when he returns to his hometown, two weeks late for his mother’s funeral, but just in time to help the local force to solve the brutal murder of a 15-year-old boy.

Gosh, our Nordic neighbours do love an oddball hero. After The Killing‘s surly Sarah Lund and The Bridge‘s wacko Saga Noren, we have shambling Sebastian Bergman.

Double-chinned, overweight, unshaven, with a lecherous approach to women, that’s Sebastian. We first see the criminal profiler giving a rambling lecture to an audience of police officers. One of them, a former colleague, calls him a jerk.

But while he’s not in the Rufus Sewell/Rupert Penry-Jones league of dishy alpha males, he is a fascinating creation, a mixture of tragedy and courage. As this latest (in what seems an inexhaustible production line) of well-made Nordic crime dramas reveals, Sebastian has a lot of hinterland.

Detective Vanja gets the sharp end of Sebastian’s tongue

Young victim’s been shot and had his heart removed
He’s returned home to sort through his deceased mother’s belongings – two weeks too late for her funeral. He leers at a woman on the train, gets to the house and finds an old photo of his wife and daughter. He wails in pain.

He leans on an old police colleague, Torkel Hoglund, the head of CID whom he helped through his divorce, to give him a job back with the police. ‘I need this,’ Bergman says desperately.

Once back in the fold, investigating the case of a teenage boy who’s been shot and had his heart removed, Bergman is rude to his colleagues and witnesses – such as the headmaster of the dead boy’s posh school.

Who is the mystery letter from?
He also tries to hoodwink a detective into illicitly using the police computer to trace a woman who wrote to him 30 years previously, but whose letter his mother never passed on to him.  Who is the writer of the letter? Why is he so anxious to trace her? We don’t find out until the final devastating minutes.

Rolf Lassgård, popular in Scandinavia for his roles in Wallander and Beck, plays Bergman, and is a pickled herring in the face of programme makers who think only actors who are young and bland can carry a good drama.

Sebastian’s not exactly popular with his police colleagues

Cracker took us to similar territory, with the irascible wreck of a profiler forever correcting the detectives’ instinct for going for the bleeding obvious suspect in murder cases. Here, Sebastian’s first unpopular theory is that the bully neighbour of young victim Roger was not his killer.

BBC4’s Saturday-night Nordic fix
But Sebastian Bergman can stand on it own feet as an absorbing drama. The investigation is complex without being ridiculous, taking in blackmail, greed, snobbery and jealousy, while also giving us Sebastian, at first glance an unpleasant old so-and-so, whom we soon realise is carrying a lot of grief while retaining a wicked wit and humanity for the underdog.

His two 90-minute stories should more than adequately fill BBC4’s Saturday-night Nordic fix.

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