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Faceless Killers: Wallander Returns to Masterpiece Mystery

Every now and then a series comes along that features the perfect actor, the perfect character, the perfect scripts, and the perfect setting.

Right now, that series is none other than PBS/BBC's haunting and existential mystery drama Wallander, which returns for its second season on Sunday as part of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery (check your local listings). The series stars Kenneth Branagh as Ystad detective Kurt Wallander, a man gripped by his own concerns as he investigates the grisly and brutal crimes inflicted on the inhabitants of his Swedish port town. (For more on Branagh's take on the character, you can read my interview with him over at The Daily Beast.)

But Wallander's purview isn't just finding the perpetrators of these crimes--which include, in the first installment, the brutal murder of an elderly farmer and his wife--but in examining both the damage that such crimes cause and the fractured psyche that carries them out in the first place. So strong is his repugnance to these crimes that he takes on culpability for them, simply for being a member of the human race, turning a magnifying glass on his own failings.

It's hard not to love Wallander, even as he shoulders an increasingly heavy burden. In "Faceless Killers," the season's first episode, a stray remark sparks an all-out race war in Ystad, even as he comes to terms with the fact that his daughter Linda (Jeany Spark) is dating a man of Syrian origin. Is Wallander racist? Or is he just taken aback by his daughter's ability to surprise him?

Even as he attempts to grapple with his inner conflict, he's presented with further pressure: the condition of his father (the great David Warner) is greatly deteriorating and a series of inexplicable behaviors point towards his Alzheimer's significantly worsening. Can Wallander be the son that his father expects him to be? The father than he daughter wants? The man that he himself wants and needs to be?

Those questions loom large over the action and the wind-swept Swedish landscape, captured in a haunting blue hue that perfectly matches the detective's own psychic malaise.

What follows is an extraordinary season of turmoil, murder, and self-reflection, not to mention some of the smartest and tautest mysteries to air on television. You'd be wise to make room in your schedule for Wallander; once it has caught you in its somber spell, it's impossible to let go.

Season Two of Wallander begins this Sunday on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery. Check your local listings for details.


Anne said…
I saw my first Wallander episode recently. Good Lord—what a depressing, dark, tortured piece of crap!

Wallander needs a good shrink, a love interest or at the very least something to engage him in life instead of merely staying alive for no good reason—perhaps a pet.

The film is so typically Swedish, so depressing, so devoid of humor and just plain dark and vapid.

Who the Hell cares!

It’s difficult to care about a man with a wino beard who looks as if he sleeps in his clothes and has no human warmth or self discipline. Being obsessed does not cut it! Why does he care about the human race and who kills who? Wallander’s caring certainly does not come across in the film–however, obsesssion, does. Wallander doesn’t care about anyone, certainly not himself; so why should we care about him?

I’ll take the British inspector Lewis any day. At least there is some humanity and humor as well as variety in those films.

Where the Heck is Miss Marple?
Anonymous said…
No more Masterpiece Mystery in L.A. Sunday evenings. KCET is broadcasting old movies instead. How dumb is that!

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