Young Wallander in a Contemporary Sweden

Henning Mankell’s popular character, Kurt Wallander, was brought vividly to life with a standout performance by Kenneth Branagh. The series, focusing on the Swedish police detective, ran for four seasons from 2008 to 2016, first on BBC and then on PBS. As with so many beloved crime fighters, there was incentive to produce new programs. Rather than recast Branagh (with an aging Wallander, the storyline had run its course), the decision was made to go back to the beginning of Wallander’s career. Young Wallander, now streaming on Netflix, stars Adam Pålsson as a recent graduate of the police academy. Unlike other prequel series that place the action in the past, Young Wallander is set in contemporary Sweden so there are cellphones, drones, and DNA evidence. 

In the six episodes, Wallander finds himself caught up trying to solve a grisly murder fraught with racial overtones. (Placing the film in present time means dealing with immigration issues in Europe.) A young Swede, his face painted with the Swedish flag, is tied to a fence, his mouth covered with duct tape. When the tape is torn off, it sets off a grenade planted in his mouth. Because the spectacle is staged in an area inhabited by immigrants, the murder is immediately cast as racially motivated. 

Wallander lives in the complex, but his neighbors are unaware that he’s a detective. But when he steps forward to calm the crowd, he is forced to reveal that he’s a cop. Distrust of law enforcement among recent arrivals makes Wallander’s ability to investigate the crime difficult. When his superior officers find out he has connections to some of the residents who might be involved, they ask that he step back, an order he immediately violates. 

Yasen Atour as Reza

Wallander had a brief glimpse of the immigrant dressed in a dark hoodie who removed the duct tape. When he and his partner, Reza (Yasen Atour), are assigned to manage crowds during a white supremacist march, Wallander sees the suspect and gives chase. His action not only leaves Reza to sustain life-threatening injuries meted out by the unruly crowd, but also results in Wallander getting stabbed by the assailant who escapes. 

Even a stab wound won’t keep Wallander in the hospital, especially because he suspects the immigrant was coerced into killing the young man. Wallander goes back to where he first saw the suspect, coming out of a church now being used to house those seeking asylum. The facility is being managed by Mona (Ellise Chappell), who directed disparaging comments about the police during the march. She takes pity on Wallander, however, since he’s bleeding through his shirt and volunteers to patch him up. Her distrust melts away when he explains that the suspect, soon identified as Zemar, was probably forced to cooperate. 

Ellise Chappell as Mona and Adam Pålsson as Wallander

Zemar is killed, however, before Wallander can find out who is behind the murder plot. He begins to focus his attention on Gustav Munck, from a wealthy Swedish family, whose foundation is supporting Mona’s facility. While Wallander is able to convince his two superiors, Rask (Leanne Best), and Hemberg (Richard Dillane), that Gustav is somehow involved, finding evidence that will link him to the crime remains elusive. And going up against one of the most powerful family dynasties in Sweden becomes even more difficult when higher-ups in law enforcement begin to put up roadblocks.

Leanne Best as Rask and Adam Pålsson as Wallander

Young Wallander is a tense ride. We know Wallander won’t get killed, but have no assurances that those close to him won’t suffer that fate because of what’s been set in motion by the investigation. 

While the series proved to be well received, the production also was criticized for failing to cast only one Swede – Pålsson  – in a major role. The other actors were mostly British. In addition, filming took place in Lithuanian rather than in Sweden, something that angered Swedish fans of Wallander. 

The series ends with major plot lines unresolved, leaving many to hope there will be a second season. So far, Netflix has not made any announcement about continuing the series. We hope they will. 

Photos courtesy of Netflix

Top photo: Adam Pålsson as Young Wallander

About Charlene Giannetti (410 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that completed filming on February 1, 2020. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.