UPDATE: I’ve seen some question as to whether or not Wallander is still in Netflix in 2014. According to my quick research, both Wallander (with Kenneth Branagh) and Henning Mankell’s Wallander (the Swedish TV series) are both still on Netflix. Please let me know if that’s not the case.
As many others have noted, Netflix streaming has changed the way that we consume TV series, or at least those series that we missed or don’t feel like having to keep up with every week. While a marathon can sometimes undermine a series, making the structure feel repetitious, it is the best way to consume a series set at a slower pace. I imagine that people watching a marathon of The Wire have less trouble adjusting to the pace than did those of us who watched it weekly. As British series are often done at a slower pace and with greater faith in the viewers’ ability to pay attention, those series are often excellent when episodes are watched one after another. The latest series that I have come to enjoy on Netflix is Wallander.
I was introduced to Wallander by a friend who recommended it as an alternative to The Hour. Her main basis was that she would never watch The Hour because that series featured the detestable (her word) Dominic West. This was also the reason she wouldn’t watch The Wire. (I know, I should have treated her recommendation with skepticism.) She told me about Wallander and about how excellent Kenneth Branagh was in the lead role. (Evidently Branagh had either never hit on or had hit on my friend, whichever was more appropriate.) I added Wallander to my Netflix queue and forgot about it until the wife and I were scrolling through it looking for something to watch.
Wallander is about Swedish police inspector Kurt Wallander. It is set in the town of Ystad, Sweden and each series (British for season) features three ninety minute episodes. Although all of the characters and settings are Swedish, everyone speaks English. This may seem strange at first until you remember that you accepted, for example, ancient Romans speaking English. The series is based on the novels of Henning Mankell and had previously been turned into a Swedish film series and a Swedish TV series. (I don’t know if these are available on Netflix.)
Branagh has had an interesting film/TV career. He was the golden boy of British cinema in 1989 when he adapted, directed and starred in Henry V. Equally impressive was that he was married to Emma Thompson. We imagined future adaptations of Shakespeare that would make us forget about our (Americans’) general insecurity with regard to the Bard, movies that would star Branagh and Thompson which we would look forward to every few years. It didn’t work out that way.
In Wallander, Branagh looks like the former golden boy that he is now. I’m not sure if Branagh is in as poor shape as Wallander but Branagh is convincing as a man who cares too much about his work to the detriment of every other part of his life. Part of the reason that watching the series on Netflix is so rewarding is that it removes any potential frustration at watching Wallander’s slow struggle to deal with the normal requirements of life.
Between Wallander and the Millennium Trilogy, I’m reluctant to ever visit Sweden, although I imagine if you look hard enough you will find something disturbing in any location (even in a place as idyllic as Brooklyn). However, if you are scrolling through your queue and you can’t decide what to watch, take a chance on Wallander. If nothing else, there’s no Dominic West.