The Swede Smell Of Success
Tripwire continues its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Counting down to its first choice at the end, here’s its 16th entry, Svensk Filmindustri’s Wallander…
Creator: Henning Mankell
Stars: Krister Henriksson, Frederik Gunnarsson, Mats Bergman
Based on the hit crime books by author Henning Mankell, Wallander features Krister Henriksson as the titular protagonist. Kurt Wallander is a Swedish policeman serving in a small town, a flawed and troubled figure who has a fraught relationship with his daughter Linda (Johanna Sällström).
Wallander was a series of immense importance, as it firmly put Scandi Noir on the television map. Without it, there would have been no The Killing, The Bridge or any of the other Scandinavian procedural shows. It captured the imagination of worldwide audiences and it also demonstrated that a quality crime or police series didn’t have to come from the UK or the US to offer something different or engaging.
Henriksson is superb as Wallander, a slightly diminished policeman struggling to maintain his position in the force while juggling with less than ideal personal circumstances. He has made mistakes in his life but despite this radiated a warmth and empathy that connected with the viewer. Wallander also matured and evolved as a character as the series progressed, thanks to some accomplished writing. The series also offered very high production values, making sure it could compete with the best in crime and police drama that other countries produced. This was despite the unglamorous, languid and downbeat feel throughout, whose immersive introversion was vastly at odds with the freewheeling kinetics of U.S. projects and provided the template for what followed.
The supporting cast like Sallstrom, who played his daughter Linda in the first series, and Sverrir Gudnason, who was fellow policeman Pontus a little later on in the run, reinforced the consistent quality of the show.
There was also a wry and clipped humour throughout which helped to humanise the cast and also leavened the grittier moments of each episode.
The series also never outstayed its welcome, with just 32 episodes produced over a nine year period. Every story felt like event television – Wallander was the touch paper for what became the golden age of Nordic Noir, which, as the spiritual descendant of Bergman, whose bleak, stately tone is subtly visible across each show, rewrote the genre for global success.
JOEL MEADOWS/ ANDREW COLMAN
Wallander is on now on Amazon Prime in The US