Happily, we’re back to the rain-sodden streets of Ystad after last week’s stickily uncomfortable adventure in the heat of South Africa. On his home ground, Kurt seems to be more himself again – gloomy and negative. It doesn’t help that he’s mugged by motorbike thugs, then called out to the home where his father died. But he’s fit enough to collect his grand-daughter from school and tell her a joke about an elephant (which we’re sure wouldn’t work in Swedish).
A dead woman is found in a field, and the suspects seem to be a biker gang she had rented a farmstead to. In fact there don’t seem to be any other suspects; Wallander makes a show of questioning various lawyers, neighbours and foster children, but is distracted by a visit from Baiba (Ingeborga Dapkunaite), his on-off girlfriend from Latvia.
There’s an interlude where Kurt visits his daughter’s snooty in-laws, who seem to be haunted by events in the Cold War; and Kurt himself seems to be having episodes of distraction, dizziness and hallucination. At one stage he even accuses biker chief Gustav Ericsson (Clive Wood), of setting fire to his kitchen, when it’s clear he’s just left the gas on.
It’s pretty obvious from early on that the killer was the dead woman’s missing daughter, Hannah, and that she has been hidden by Pontus, son of the head biker. It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but with motorbikes.
The drunken mother had been killed by the daughter when the two fought over hidden letters from the child’s foster parents, and Wallander finally finds Hannah hitchhiking. Still, he almost lets her give him the slip when he has another funny turn, and finally gets suspended when he distractedly leaves his gun in a family restaurant and it’s found by a young girl.
All the seemingly irrelevant sub-plots in this investigation now start to take on more significance. Kurt’s relationship with his daughter, strained by the parting with her mother; his connection with Baiba, perhaps easier for him to sustain because he knows it has no future; his feelings about his father, whose painting he gives to his daughter’s in-laws; his own sense of isolation and fear for his future. All these things will play into what must now be an inevitable decline.
As Kurt goes for an MRI scan, we know that the news isn’t going to be good; when all he has to value is his wits, losing them will be a final defeat. When we know that Henning Mankell’s final Wallander books were suffused with knowledge of his own mortality, the conclusion is doubly bitter. Next week’s finale is bound to be hard going – Wallander’s last case may be one it’s impossible for him to solve.
For our episode one review, go here