I still have never read any of Henning Mankell’s books, but the BBC series based on it is always worth watching.
Well, with one exception.
Season 3 includes three episodes, beginning with “An Event in Autumn,” a story about hopes dashed — both the victim’s and Wallander’s. First a young pregnant woman commits suicide by jumping off a ferry. But is it really suicide? Then, Wallander uncovers a body in the garden of the home where he’s just moved in with his significant other, Vanja. She’s a wonderful person so you know it can’t possibly go well for poor Kurt. He feels that somehow the body was left for him to find, although it’s not clear whether he thinks he’s expected to solve the mystery or if it’s just a plot to ruin his life. Either way, death and unhappiness seem to stalk him. As is typical of “Wallander” episodes, this one is melancholy when it’s not downright sad, but it’s well-acted, meaningful, and thought-provoking.
I can’t say that for the second episode, “The Dogs of Riga.” Two bodies are found floating in a boat in Ystad, and it turns out they’re involved in the Latvian drug trade. Wallander briefly works with a Latvian detective, Karlis Liepa, but when the detective is killed in the same spectacularly painful way as the drug dealers, Wallander rushes to Latvia where he manages to uncover a conspiracy and police corruption, despite the fact that he doesn’t speak the language, is completely unfamiliar with the culture and history, and has no connections to speak of. Oh, and his hotel room is bugged and he’s being shadowed. My friends, Wallander is a fine detective but no one could overcome those odds. Perhaps I was just annoyed and not paying enough attention, but I kept getting confused about who people were and which side they were supposed to be on, and in sum this is my least favorite episode, ever.
The final program, “Before the Frost,” concerns religious fanaticism, a topic I don’t remember from any of the previous episodes and not something I’d typically associate with Sweden. The episode begins with a crazy man setting fire to geese and killing a woman who witnessed too much. Her body is discovered buried in the woods with a Bible. Things get even more strange when Wallander realizes that the murderer was connected to a childhood friend of his daughter, a woman who has struggled with mental illness and is now a member of a fundamentalist Christian group. I particularly liked seeing Wallander interact with his daughter, Linda, as they struggle to reach an accommodation in their troubled relationship, paralleled by the problems her own troubled friend has with her mother.
I recommend the series in general and the last episode in particular, especially if you don’t mind a dark story and endings that are never really happy.