Wallander (2008, 2010)
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Sarah Smart and Richard McCabe
Series Writing credits: Richard Cottan (6 episodes, 2008-2010), Henning Mankell (6 episodes, 2008-2010), Peter Harness (3 episodes, 2012). Based on Henry Mankell’s novels.
I love my crime thriller TV shows more than most. There is something that compels me to watch them. From my adolescent times I loved CSI and for a while wanted to be a forensic scientist, then I discovered I hated chemistry and because that was a major component of being a forensic scientist I decided it wasn’t for me. The investigation and the intrigue that comes with crime shows is something I love because it is narrative driven. However when it comes to a show like Wallander there is something primarily different about it. The pace, the setting, the characters, the stories, and the audience it attracts is very different from your usual CSI, NCIS, and Law&Order audience members. It is much more character driven than other crime shows and it is for this reason that it has become a new favourite for me. That and Tom Hiddleston is in it. He is the reason I started watching it. I may be a little obsessed but don’t let that bias my opinion of the show because disappointedly he is only a minor character in the show and so it isn’t the reason I kept watching.
This show follows the man Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) as he is confronted with the harsh reality of murder and the emotional damage that being around crime can have on a detective. It shows a different aspect of a detective as he continues to investigate these murders, it shows the character’s moral dilemma and the weight that is placed on the detectives as they try and make sense of the irrationality of murder. Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Kurt Wallander is full of theatrical depth that you expect from a thespian of his caliber but the most interesting this about this casting is that his performance is almost entirely held in his expressions. Wallander is a man of few words, he is closed off, cold, and tormented by his vocation and Branagh is able to convey the complexity of this character in a single eye flicker or the way he holds his body as he approaches a crime scene. Wallander is a man that is confronted with the most horrific of human behaviours and struggles to deal with the trauma of these circumstances. Branagh grabs you and takes you with him as he explores the world of Wallander and pulls you in as he becomes more emotionally and mentally drained by these cases.
The pace of this show is one of the surprising things I found in watching it. It is slow and quiet. The atmosphere is dense and weighty and it feels all encompassing as you sit and watch these characters and stories unfold. It is definitely not a style that most people would enjoy and I would compare it to a popular fiction reader attempting to read literary fiction for the first time. It is heavy going and it does take a while to get into it. There are particular moments in each episode where if I hadn’t felt compelled to find Tom Hiddleston in the first episode that I may have switched off, but once you meet Kurt Wallander and get to know him a little bit more you can’t help but keep watching. The stories are particularly dark and complex but also truly intriguing. I have really fell in love with the characters in Wallander and the stories that connect them together. It shows the real pace of investigation and the humanity that lies behind both the criminal acts and the justice provided, as well the haunting of those detectives who are faced with the horrific. It is moving and beautiful at the same time and I have felt connected to these characters more than I usually do in tv shows. They feel real, they feel like they could be out there in the world, they feel true. It is a look at the darkness that underpins the evil in this world and the grief that is carried through the acts of violence that police have to deal with. This is a beautiful and tragic look at investigation of crime.