Did we like it?
Brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed, suffused with an atmosphere that appears simultaneously alien and familiar, it bounds and stumbles following a deliberate, relentless pace, but sadly perhaps too much effort is expended on this admirable gloss as the holes in the plot were plugged with all the dextrous skill of Donald Duck let loose with a tube of polyfiller on the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole.
What was good about it?
• Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. Since the peak of his fame in the early 90s where he was heralded as the new Olivier, we’ve forgotten just why he earned such a elevated reputation. His role as Kurt Wallander reaffirms this talent; the greatest achievement of any actor is to let the viewer slip inside them, to feel every nuance of pain, each sediment of joy.
• When Wallander’s daughter Linda consoles him when his estranged wife asks for a divorce so she can marry again, we can see the unease on his face, as if he doesn’t want to be reminded of his imminent social exclusion and how he is blissfully trapped in this netherworld between marriage and divorce, almost hoping that time could be frozen, while his job offers him a distraction from his own blazing cowardice.
• The scenery is astonishing and magnificently shot. Filmed on location in Ystad in Sweden, through the eerily cloudless skies the low sun splashes light on Wallander to accentuate all the crags, and lines of doubt that subtlety float to the surface. While outside, the wind helpfully billows across the wheat fields as if an omen for the approaching Wicked Witch of the West, and the oil seed rape fields resemble the Elysium Fields with dancing angels pirouetting through the foliage – although this was wonderfully usurped in the first episode when a girl set herself alight.
• The real attraction of the second episode, which was also a feature of the first, is how two apparently open and shut cases beguile Wallander, forcing him to probe deeper into the circumstances – and, as in most good cop dramas, he is helped by a team of underlings whose greater professionalism stunts their instinct compared to the “poet detective” Wallander.
• Although hugely and improbably contrived, the sub-plot of Wallander’s lonely heart was expertly woven into the main plot as his internet date Ella gently extorted information on the two cases before feeding the details to her master criminal husband.
• Wallander creeping about in the dense fog, while Sonya’s murderer stalks him. And when Wallander searches Falk’s flat he is shot at. Instead of shrugging off the incident, he seems rather shaken, which is a novelty for a TV detective.
What was bad about it?
• The unsatisfactory holes in the plot. The co-conspirator Falk died in “a million-to-one chance” brain aneurysm just as he completed a trial run of withdrawing money from the cash machine that would later be used as the trigger to obliterate the global financial markets. He also died on the evening when Sonya, one of his minions, had murdered a taxi driver, and therefore drawn unwelcome police attention to the plot – for which she was later murdered.
• Sonya was induced to murder the taxi driver as he had given his son a false alibi after he was accused of raping her, another infuriating coincidence. And Sonya’s motivation for killing the taxi driver three years after her attack – she believed “it wouldn’t matter” if the world’s economy collapsed – was also unconvincing.
• And that when the gang caused the power cut that enabled them to kidnap and murder Sonya from police custody, they also chanced upon an email that Wallander’s daughter had sent him to join an internet dating agency. Quick as a flash, the conspirator downloads his wife’s details into the dating service as a perfect match for Wallander, so that she can seduce him and extort information on the investigations. This was absurd.
• The conspirators wanted to cause the collapse of the financial systems as part of a moral crusade rather than for material gains – rather similar to a Spooks episode – but this was utterly out of date as the markets have already succumbed to a near “complete elimination of the financial systems” thus making the endeavour appear rather redundant.
• Wallander’s habit of enunciating each and every word of an email he sends Ella. Nobody above the age of five does that. The excuse is that the commendable decision to keep everything Swedish except the spoken language means it would be difficult to show the monitor as he typed it out.