In a story that could have been plucked out of the week’s news headlines (the US case of ‘Laura’, the latest in a series of all-too-frequent historic abductions), Kurt (Krister Henriksson) finds himself thrust into yet another investigation with stomach-churning resonances from his past.
When all trace of eight-year-old blonde angel Ella and her bike vanish en route to school, the plods at Ystad immediately suspect that she has been kidnapped in a cross-border custody dispute between her Swedish mother Helen Svedberg (Liv Mjones) and Chilean father.
Kurt – though still under a cloud after leaving his gun in a bar in last week’s episode – is back at the police station after his suspension by his long-suffering boss Svartman (Fredrik Gunnarsson) and doubly depressed to realise that not only is he the subject of colleagues’ gossip, he also must be babysat by Magnus Martinsson (Douglas Johansson). It is just the latest humiliation for Kurt in what has been become an increasingly antagonistic relationship.
The detectives are hotly pursuing the parents’ tug-of-love motives after interviewing helpful shopkeeper Viktor Nilsson (Gusted Hammarsten), the last person to see the youngster before she disappeared, and discovering her discarded lollipop and bike. This line of questioning looks fairly watertight when they also uncover packed clothes and two one-way tickets for a flight to Santiago.
But Kurt is having painful flashbacks to a decade before and a similar unsolved case involving unstable Jannika Hammar (Anna Wallander), whom he had suspected of being complicit in her own daughter’s abduction. When he finds an identical piece of evidence – a pen – at the latest crime scene, he goes to enlist her help. But he gets short shrift as an embittered and grim-faced Jannika tells him she still dreams of killing him for putting her through the hell of arrest and questioning.
Any veteran of TV police procedurals will have pinpointed the identity of the perpetrator, who is easily perceptible from the first 15 minutes or so – we meet the abductor fairly swiftly as he is passed over by the detectives as no one of particular interest. The fictional baddie is almost always the character who wants to make the best impression on everyone involved.
But it is no less satisfying for that. This episode was very elegantly paced; about two-thirds of the way through it is given several jolts that accelerate the race against time and veer the story into a startlingly different direction. For this reviewer video evidence of a road race offered spooky shades of the Dutch movie Spoorloos (The Vanishing) as (although this time it’s running rather than cycling).
There is also a bittersweet moment with the introduction of an incipient love interest for Kurt, Klara’s teacher Bea (Malena Engstrom). Taken up with his investigation, Kurt forgets to pick up his granddaughter from school and offers to give the teacher a lift home as thanks for minding the girl. When she leaves her book-club tome in his car, he jokes to Klara that he’s not the only one who forgets things. Does this incident presage something that could be more tragic? Once again, we are reminded that our hero’s age and lifestyle are working against his hope of enjoying a nice retirement.
There is light amid the shade to leaven the tension – a funny bit of business features two detectives on a stake-out of a suspect, eating sweets and discussing which colours taste best; mouths play a bigger part in the plot later on. And Kurt moves closer to re-establishing himself as a hero to Linda.
We are left as Kurt and his new ladylove walk along the beach in a romantic dusk. Will he be joining Bea’s book club, so to speak? We await developments.
For Wallander S3 E1/6 review, go here.