With Wallander facing his final case – and indeed his own mortality – we face issues of the past and responsibility, both in Kurt’s case and in that of his daughter’s father-in-law. Haakon (Thomas Hardiman) takes a walk in the woods, and disappears. Last week we heard of his connection with the Swedish Naval Intelligence and a Cold War incident involving a Russian submarine – is there a connection?
Kurt is struggling to cope with being diagnosed with an unspecified degenerative condition – he should tell his family and colleagues, but since he’s on suspension, it’s easier for him to just accept his daughter Linda’s plea to come and help investigate the disappearance.
Local cop Ytterberg is searching the woods and lake, but Haakon’s wife Louise (Ann Bell) seems fatalistic – ‘He’s dead isn’t he – what the hell’s been the point?” she says.
Haakon’s son Hans (Harry Hadon-Paton) seems equally detached, but Haakon’s friend Sten (Christopher Fairbank) says Haakon was depressed – ‘Like about 60 percent of the population.’ He says that the Russian submarine incursions into Swedish waters in the ‘80s had been preying on Haakon’s mind, and Kurt finds a Dictaphone tape discussing whether a spy could have been involved.
Kurt discovers a secret child who has been institutionalized, a log-book of submarine exercises, and a mysterious American contact, Steven Wilson (Garrick Hagon), but then
Louise is found hanged in mysterious circumstances, with Stasi microfilm in her pocket. Was she the target of a clean-up operation?
Ytterberg discovers that Hans has been taking money from his parents, so why has he been keeping it secret? Kurt confronts him, to no real effect, and has a confused episode on the streets. By the time Linda finds him, he’s running around in the fields at home ranting in his vest.
In a moving scene, finally revealing the extent of his condition to Linda, Kurt finds her reassuring – “It’s going to be hard, but it is as it is” she says. Ironically, Kurt’s then told that he’s been docked a month’s pay, but can return to work; whereas we know that he’s about at the end of his functioning abilities as a policeman.
Forcing himself to concentrate on the case, Kurt finds material about an Ostermalm dining club, and Ola Vikander (Michael Byrne), the journalist on the Dictaphone recording; Vikander claims that Haakon was the traitor, and that a fisherman’s son has the evidence.
Kurt recovers the evidence, which is an American sonar probe; Wilson (who is evidently CIA) turns up to admit that the supposedly Russian submarines were actually American, that Haakon was working for him as part of a successful plot to destabilize the pro-communist Swedish government, and that his disappearance prompted Wilson to start a clean-up operation. But Wilson won’t take responsibility for Louise’s death, or for bringing in Haakon; this he lands on Kurt, who grabs a rifle and goes in search of the presumably desperate Haakon.
Guided to him in a derelict naval base, Kurt confronts Haakon with the death of Louise, which Haakon tries to justify; but as they sail back to the mainland, Haakon slips over the side of the boat to a watery grave.
Kurt destroys all the evidence, and in the final scenes, reads Nobel laureate Tomas Transtromer’s The Half-Finished Heaven at the couple’s funeral. Being a parent is, he muses to Hans, a long process of letting go. Kurt says he’s glad Linda married Hans, though to us he seems to be an emotionally detached workaholic.
Having cleared his desk, at last Kurt finds some peace in himself, with the memory of his father (a cameo by David Warner), and in the knowledge that while his memories may slip away, they will be preserved in his family.
While this plot and the death of writer Henning Mankell effectively closes the door on any further Wallanders, the legacy of the character, and of the three actors who have played him, will continue. Branagh brought to the role perhaps a more sympathetic and nuanced performance, while Rolf Lassgård in the films, and Krister Henriksson on TV, were perhaps truer to the Scandi ethic of miserablism.
Does this then mark the end of the Scandi ouvre? Quite the opposite. There are some positive signs in the shape of Acquitted, Dicte, the forthcoming Wisting, and of course the final series of The Bridge; but there will be a giant Wallander-shaped hole in our viewing next season. Can any character fill the gap left by this shambling, self-destructive, yet sympathetic giant of Nordic detection?
In memory of writer Henning Mankell – “People always leave traces. No person is without a shadow.”
Four our episode one review, go here
Four our episode two review, go here