As an actor, Kenneth Branagh came bursting out of the gate at full speed, with a fierce energy and churning wit that brought the works of the Bard to 3-D life on the screen. (In his rendition of Hamlet, even the Melancholy Dane came off as strangely proactive.) Given this history of kineticism, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Branagh's finest performance may very well be that of a withdrawn Swedish detective with a tendency towards inertia. The British television series Wallander
boasts eerily beautiful scenery, intricate plotting, and, above all, Branagh, who delivers a masterpiece of interior acting. The less he lets slip, the more fascinating the character somehow becomes. Based on Henning Mankell's novels, the series follows the downbeat adventures of Kurt Wallander, a world-weary police detective who operates in the Swedish town of Ystad. An Event in Autumn
, the first installment in this third collection, finds Wallander attempting to construct something like a normal life, moving in to a cottage in the country with his girlfriend and her son. Fate soon comes knocking, however, as a gruesome discovery in his garden leads to the uncovering of a murderous legacy. Based on the second novel in Mankell's series, The Dogs of Riga
finds the inspector traveling to Latvia, after a murder at sea entraps him in a deadly case of police corruption on unfamiliar ground. While narratively speaking this may be the weakest of the three, with at least one too many drawn-out travel sequences, the attention to fine detail and characterizations still pay big dividends, particularly in Wallander's dealings with a cynical Latvian policeman (Søren Malling) whose outlook on life makes the title character seem like Pollyanna. This collection finishes up in fine style with Before the Frost
, an exploration of belief and religious mania that ranks among the top episodes in the entire series. Adapting a novel that originally focused on Wallander's daughter Linda, the grim subject matter allows Branagh to further refine the beautiful dourness of his character: constantly expecting the worst, yet still not quite beaten down enough to give up hoping for something better. That it all ends on a ray of shaky optimism is reason enough to count down the days until the fourth series comes to light. --Andrew Wright
In An Event in Autumn, Wallander finds the remains of a young woman buried at the back of his garden. When another woman's body washes up on the shore, Wallander searches for the connection. In The Dogs of Riga, the corpses of two Latvian men, covered in mafia tattoos, are discovered in Ystad harbor. When Wallander travels to Riga in search of the killers, he becomes entangled in a web of corruption. And in Before the Frost, a childhood friend of Linda Wallander goes missing. Wallander and Linda worry for her safety when they find links between her and a murderer. Elegantly filmed, brilliantly acted and set in a strikingly beautiful location, this season of Wallander offers three new intriguing stories not to be missed!