WALLANDER

(2en­ter­tain) Out 21 June

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

Was it worth the wait for the fi­nal se­ries? Find out in our re­view!

Was Sir Ken­neth Branagh per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for the rise of Nordic Noir? Not ex­actly, but he played a ma­jor role in the Scan­di­na­vian crime boom when, in 2008, he in­tro­duced view­ers to melan­choly Swedish de­tec­tive Kurt Wallander. While Hen­ning Mankell’s majestic nov­els al­ready had a de­voted read­er­ship, Branagh put Ystad in south­ern Swe­den on the map with his at­mo­spheric English lan­guage adap­ta­tion and Bafta-win­ning per­for­mance.

Eight years later, Branagh is back – along with the de­tec­tive’s ir­ri­tat­ing ring­tone – for the fourth and fi­nal se­ries of the BBC drama. How­ever, we now live in a world of Wal­ter Presents and its on­line cu­ra­tion of for­eign drama, as well as rou­tine Satur­day night sub­ti­tles on BBC4’S crime im­ports and a prime­time hit for Chan­nel 4 with the Ger­man-lan­guage Deutsch­land 83. Hav­ing left a four-year gap be­tween se­ries, per­haps Branagh risked con­fus­ing a TV au­di­ence that now ex­pects to hear Swedish char­ac­ters ac­tu­ally speak­ing Swedish.

Scandi-crime snobs will no doubt in­sist that they pre­fer the two Swedish ver­sions of Wallander (star­ring Kris­ter Hen­riks­son and Rolf Lass­gård), though it would be a mis­take to over­look Branagh’s achieve­ment in the fea­ture-length adaps that have al­ways been faith­ful to the books. With no more nov­els left to film, he has sen­si­bly de­cided to call it a day.

As Mankell’s read­ers will know, The Trou­bled Man is an up­set­ting lit­er­ary fi­nale, and Branagh doesn’t flinch when it comes to por­tray­ing a man forced to con­front mor­tal­ity in mid­dle-age. But there are a few more cases for Kurt, start­ing with a trip to Cape Town for the open­ing film based on the third book, The White Lioness. He’s sup­posed to be speak­ing about po­lice work at a con­fer­ence, when the real thing takes over: a case in­volv­ing a Swedish ex­pat whose wife’s gone miss­ing.

Paired with a lo­cal of­fi­cer, Grace Mthembu (Bon­nie Henna), Wallander dodges bul­lets in a shan­ty­town and un­cov­ers a plot in­volv­ing a po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tion. The pale po­lice­man may be wilt­ing in the South African heat, yet his de­tec­tive skills are still

top-notch: he finds a lead by man­ag­ing to get lost just like the miss­ing woman, then solves the case by recog­nis­ing the dis­tinc­tive call of a pea­cock. It has to be said, the mo­tive for mur­der is never ad­e­quately es­tab­lished – some­thing vague about prof­i­teer­ing and cor­rup­tion – but the Western Cape is a dra­matic back­drop to Wallander’s im­promptu, un­of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

If any­thing, the forests, beaches and lakes of the film­ing lo­ca­tions in Swe­den and Den­mark – shot over­head by di­rec­tor Ben­jamin Caron, and set to a sonorous sound­track – look even more stun­ning than South Africa. Again, the mys­ter­ies in the fi­nal two episodes (both based on The Trou­bled Man) are not par­tic­u­larly knotty – and Wallander’s col­leagues don’t re­ally have much to do. But Branagh’s im­mer­sion into this an­guished de­tec­tive makes for a mes­meris­ing, emo­tional per­for­mance that mer­its fur­ther awards recog­ni­tion.

As he tries to make sense of his fad­ing health, Wallander’s tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der of a woman and the dis­ap­pear­ance of her teenage daugh­ter. A rowdy biker gang is con­nected with the case – a fairly ob­vi­ous plot dis­trac­tion – un­til the solution ul­ti­mately lands in his lap. He even has time to en­joy a ro­man­tic in­ter­lude with an old flame, though hap­pi­ness is al­ways fleet­ing for this lonely Swedish de­tec­tive.

The fi­nal Wallander is an ele­giac, some­times har­row­ing, episode in which the ail­ing de­tec­tive faces a race against time to find the miss­ing fa­ther-in-law of his daugh­ter, Linda (Jeany Spark), while he’s still phys­i­cally ca­pa­ble of con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Hav­ing been sus­pended for a mishap with a firearm, Wallander’s free to re­visit the in­trigue and treach­ery of the Cold War, and the 30-year-old se­crets he un­cov­ers might ex­plain the dis­ap­pear­ance of former sub­ma­rine com­man­der Hakan von Enke (Ter­rence Hardi­man, prob­a­bly still best known as The De­mon Head­mas­ter).

Try­ing to pro­tect his fam­ily is the strong­est pos­si­ble mo­tive for the de­tec­tive to keep on hunt­ing for clues, while cop­ing with ob­vi­ous ill health in this com­pelling con­clu­sion. Branagh’s de­ci­sion to bring him back will more than sat­isfy fans, though it’s still hard to ac­cept it re­ally is Wallander’s last case.

“BRANAGH DOESN’T FLINCH IN POR­TRAY­ING A MAN FORCED TO CON­FRONT MOR­TAL­ITY”

Kurt Wallander (Sir Ken­neth Branagh) chases loose ends as his health de­clines.

South African Bon­nie Henna plays lo­cal of­fi­cer Gracemthembu.

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