Wallander: An Event In Autumn, Episode One Review

WALLANDER: Sunday 8th July, BBC1, 9pm

Kurt Wallander is, at the best of times, not a happy character. In the first episode of the third season, we meet Kenneth Branagh’s brooding sleuth after he’s moved into his new house in the country. It’s an old farm house, with a fire-place and a black Labrador. It could almost be the setting of a John Lewis ad, if you put up some Christmas decorations and added a bland cover song. Our dour detective has moved in with his girlfriend and her son, with the intent of straightening himself out and coping with the fairly upsetting nature of his job – which for the most part involves crouching over a murdered prostitute like a driving instructor checking for tyre wear.

As you can imagine, he isn’t best pleased when his dog digs up a corpse in his new garden. On top of that, he’s got to deal with some body parts which have washed up on the shore. This is not the middle-class oasis he was promised. In light of these events, Kurt adopts a firmly fatalistic attitude, lamenting that the discovery of the body is “fateâ€? and assertively stating “there’s no such thing as coincidence.â€? It’s an odd tact for a detective to take – surely he’s met someone who shares the same birthday? Curiously, no-one raises this with him; perhaps because he’s the best detective around, making you wonder what other nonsense he can get away with spouting. Probably anything, provided it’s said with conviction and sounds really, really serious.

The investigation of the two bodies leads him to the docks of the Swedish Baltic coast and of course the rural expanses familiar to murder detectives. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed – the grim Swedish countryside is typically powerful in its ominous beauty. Alongside the strong acting, intriguing plot and complex characters, it’s the landscape that makes Wallander so identifiably… Wallander. It seems hard to imagine the show without these melancholic vistas and indeed, whilst you won’t find it written in travel brochures, the ideal place to contemplate on the senselessness of taking a life. It’s not often that a remake of a foreign programme is set and filmed in the same country as the original, and here, every lingering long take reminds us that this was the only way to go about it. You couldn’t bring Wallander to Hertfordshire.

It’s been nearly two years since we last saw Branagh in this role and since then we’ve been inundated with more “eurocrimeâ€?; dramas such as The Killing, Spiral, and The Bridge. For some, this latest batch of episodes could be seen as more of the same, for others, another excellent addition to a fantastic line-up of shows, but the fact that unlike the other shows, Wallander gets a prime-time slot on BBC1, speaks volumes.

Devoted fans of the detective will find a lot to like here (unless you’ve pledged allegiance to the Swedish language version and you think Branagh is a false prophet) and it’s a fine introduction to both the genre and the character for recent inductees to Scandavian crime-noir. If you’re tired of the “gritty” Brit Cop procedurals that we churn out at an industrial rate, this provides an ideal escape. You need never hear the letters “DCI” again.