A few years back, I checked out the first series DVD of Kenneth Branagh’s take on the popular Swedish character, Wallander. In a nutshell, I was smitten by it — which is quite a feat indeed, considering I wasn’t a big Branagh fan to begin with. The introductory BBC adaptation lured me in like a hungry fish in a cold dark sea, and the promise of more feature-length episodes along the same caliber had me praying the subsequent contributions wouldn’t do that which so many American shows tend to do so early on in their often-limited lifespan and jump the shark real quick like.
Well, here I am now, more than three years down the line, reviewing Wallander (Series) 3 — and I’m very pleased to report that the show is just as good as it was when I first laid eyes on it. Part of the charm is possibly contributable to the fact that the character of Kurt Wallander — as portrayed by the aforementioned Mr. Branagh — hasn’t changed too terribly much. He’s still just as miserable as ever: his title as police inspector has not liven up his personal life any — which is not surprising since a job wherein you frequently follow Death is unlikely to earn any brownie points with your loved ones.
As it turns out, Death is a regular visitor to this part of Sweden — and has once more left a bundle of joy at Wallander’s doorstep. Actually, it’s in the yard of his new home in the country that he discovers some skeletal remains; a mystery he attempts to unravel in his own time as he tries to find out why a young woman was pushed to her demise from a ferry at work in “An Event in Autumn,” the first of three offerings in this series. The second episode, “The Dogs of Riga” finds Kurt investigating the gang-style murder of two Latvians, which takes him to Latvia for a take on the timeless ol’ fish-out-of-water tale.
The final episode here, “Before the Frost,” pits our tortured hero against what initially looks like a murderous pyromaniac, but which soon unravels to be something much more frightening. Interestingly, the source novel for this episode — from the original Wallander author himself, Henning Mankell — cast Wallander’s daughter Linda as the protagonist. Linda does appear here (played by Jeany Spark, who reprises her role as Kurt’s estranged daughter) just so we’re all clear, though as a secondary character in this instance.
Freely adapted storytelling aside, Wallander 3 hits DVD via BBC Home Video in a two-disc set boasting a truly stunning transfer overall — and this is a Standard-Def release, mind you. The 1.78:1 widescreen video presentation is a joy to behold, and brings out the best the shot-on-Red-One-cameras series has to offer. Likewise, the Dolby Digital Surround audio track delivers admirably. The biggest disappointment in this set without a doubt, however, is the complete and utter lack of any special features whatsoever. Still, though, it’s nice to see more of this series, so I won’t throw the book at Wallander just yet.