The world’s most-read detective returns in three new entries from Masterpiece Mystery! beginning Sunday, September 9 and concluding Sunday, September 23, 2012, on PBS.
Henning Mankell’s Wallander books have been adapted twice before in Sweden in series which were hugely popular in their home countries. Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn, Henry V, Hamlet) returns as Inspector Kurt Wallander, the moody Swedish detective created by Mankell, whose series of books famously lit the spark for today’s passionate interest in Scandinavian crime fiction. Masterpiece Mystery! presents three new 90-minute programs based upon three of Mankell’s most popular books in this series.
I have seen the two Swedish series and, while they each have their own unique charm and appeal, Branagh’s Wallander is in large part much truer to Mankell’s novels. This can be very appealing to those of us who love a good mystery novel and who enjoy seeing our character brought to the screen. At times, however, the adaptations can lose something in translation. In the case of the Branagh series I find myself forgiving these lapses more than I would in other programs, mostly thanks to the actor’s interpretation of the character. When viewed over multiple programs, Branagh has infused subtle changes and growth in the depressed detective’s character, much as Mankell did with his books. The fact that this attention to character is so strong in these mini-films inspires my loyalty and desire to see further adaptations by Branagh and Co.
After and Emmy and Golden Globe nominated season in 2009, the second Wallander series was cited as being gripping and refreshingly different by many critics. I can only agree. The detective states to a colleague in one episode that, “I’m basically quite a cheerful person!” But his sunny inner outlook is obviously trapped in the unremitting Nordic gloom.
Wallander III finds the Swedish cop trying to improve his disposition – in the face of torture killings, dashed romance, homicidal do-gooders, and a resentful grown-up daughter. His caseload features these investigations:
An Event in Autumn – Sunday, September 9th at 8pm
A pregnant woman leaps to her death from the side of a ferry. Or was she pushed? The routine case barely disturbs Wallander’s newly blissful life with Vanja (Saskia Reeves, Page Eight), his lover from the end of series 2. But then the happy couple discovers a decade-old corpse of a murdered woman on their property. With Wallander’s work now getting too close to home, he follows the leads of two investigations that get increasingly entangled. On top of it, tragedy strikes one of his colleagues, and Wallander blames himself—with good reason.
The Dogs of Riga – Sunday, September 16th at 8pm
A raft adrift in Swedish waters has a grisly cargo: two horribly tortured Latvian corpses. Arriving to investigate from Latvia’s capital, Riga, is an enigmatic police major. He reports back to headquarters and then disappears. After hearing reports of his death, Wallander goes to Riga and meets the major’s wife, Kristina (Rebekah Staton, Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Together, they get embroiled in a desperate search for files that may document high-level corruption that threatens to make Wallander and Kristina the next victims.
Before the Frost – Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 8pm
An escapee from a psychiatric hospital sets fire to a flock of geese and then incinerates a passing hiker. And he’s far from finished. While investigating, Wallander is unexpectedly visited by Anna, an old friend of his estranged daughter, Linda (Jeany Spark). Then Anna disappears. As the arson attacks mount, it appears that Anna may be connected. Duty demands that Wallander reconcile with Linda and join forces to find Anna at all costs. But father-daughter concord is hardly helped by Linda’s memory that her dad once had an affair with Anna’s mother.
Wallander III airs Sundays, September 9th, 16th, and 23rd at 8pm on Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS. Check your local listings for showtimes.