Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Wallander, the BBC show whose third season (or “series” as they call it across the pond) was telecast earlier this year, holds a special place for this television viewer. To begin with, this Swedish detective, as played by Kenneth Branagh, is a morose and depressing figure and watching him trudge through life makes me feel good about my miserable existence. Secondly, the show is set in Sweden and, as an anglophile, I always enjoy shows that are set in new and uncharted European lands. Thirdly, Wallander’s first season was my introduction to the kind of high quality European mystery shows that are so rare on US television networks – in their defense though, this lack of quality may have a lot to do with quantity; for example, the Wallander series has telecast its three seasons, with three episodes each, over four years, something unimaginable for a US network show. Since there is an inverse relationship between quantity and quality, it’s not surprising that the quality of US mystery shows comes nowhere near to those of their European counterparts.
Before I get into the quality of episodes in the third series, those who are unfamiliar with Wallander should know that this show has never been about the mystery as much as about the mood. Similar to shows such as Monk where the mystery takes a backseat to the peculiarities of the character, Wallander focuses on the unique ticks of its lead character and allocates a significant amount of time in each episode to the developments that affect those ticks. This show, therefore, has always run the risk of generating accelerated diminishing returns as the ticks become repetitive and the character goes from unique to annoying. This, obviously, is not helped by a character as morose as Wallander and, since the series focuses exclusively on him, the pace of these returns gets exponentially faster with each episode. I am confident that the creators of this show realize this predicament and that is why they have announced that the next series – the fourth – will be composed of three episodes and will be the shows finale.
Having admitted that the show focused on mood more than mystery, it has never been a big surprise that Wallander’s mysteries were never that mysterious. What they did have was that something extra that set this show apart from others on the old boob tube. The first series impressed with a unique sense of style and a character that stood apart from everything else out there. The second series upped the ante with some truly first rate mysteries. In light of these facts, it’s not that surprising that the third series disappoints. As is the case with more third parts, the character has become tiring, the style is not new anymore, and all the smart mysteries have been told. Consequently, the third series totally blows. I continue to hold out hope though that since the next series will be the show’s last, it will spur the creators to change their patterns and make a series that will mark a return to form for this little, doughy, character – who knows, Wallander may even crack a smile!