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PBS Masterpiece Mystery! is featuring Faceless Killers, the first episode of Wallander, Season 2 online. Click here to see the video until November 2, 2010. Click here to read my review for the season.

Kenneth Branagh is Wallander

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Kenneth Branagh in Faceless Killers

Kurt Wallander’s life is all about work and it is killing him. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as  the world weary Swedish cop who cares about his cases at the expense of his family and physical and emotional health. The actor is fearless in depicting a tired, overweight and unkempt man who drinks too much, sleeps too little, and suffers from diabetes and depression. Wallander’s wife has left him, his relationships with his daughter and father stink, and he has no friends to speak of.

The first three episodes of Wallander (Series One) were a revelation. Series Two is as good if not better. The series is filmed in the bleak landscape of southern Sweden and in the small port city of Ystad. Initially, there was thought of producing a feature film, but Branagh voted against it, saying.

I thought it might be tough in the current climate to produce a film with somebody like me in it and expect it would last much longer than an opening weekend. Just because our business is incredibly brutal.” – Kenneth Branagh

Wallander is the brain child of Henning Mankell, a successful Swedish author who created the character in reaction to the anti-immigration sentiment expressed in his country.

I had no idea this would be the start of a long journey,” Mankell says. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden. And, since xenophobia is a crime, I needed a police officer. So the story came first, then the character. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden — and Europe — in the 1990s. The best use of that tool was to say ‘What story shall I tell?’, then put him in it.” – Times Online

Tom Hiddleston and Kenneth Branagh in Wallander

Wallander’s single-minded doggedness in solving his investigations leaves him with little room in life for anything else. The solitary detective is miserable but unable to do anything to change his life, as Kenneth Branagh explained in a recent interview:

So there is little room in his mind for small talk, superficiality. He’s not much interested in sport. He doesn’t have hobbies. He doesn’t have extra room or space for what might be therapeutic reflection. It’s almost always about why people commit acts of violence. And complicated analysis and consideration of what drove him or her to it. Or why the person he has interviewed responded in the way they did. And sometimes in his own life why he is unable to say to his own daughter, “I love you”, or return her call.

‘So all of that physically just makes you feel heavier. I remember reading the script for the first of these new ones – I’d not been near it for a year – and by the end of it I was hunched and bent over. And I felt as though my skin was sagging. I felt as though the gravitational weight of Wallander was starting to have an impact.’  – Telegraph Co.UK

Jeannie Spark as Linda Wallander and Arsher Ali as Jamal, the young doctor she is seeing

The first series, produced by Yellow Bird, Mankell’s film production company, in partnership with Left Bank Pictures, ran on PBS in 2009. Wallander garnered Branagh a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA for Best Drama Series for the first season.

PBS will offer the following episodes in Series 2:

Faceless Killers, October 3


An elderly couple is brutally assaulted in their rural farmhouse. The press takes hold of the foreigner angle, inciting swift and deadly retribution against local migrant workers. But there is more to the case — a potential mistress, a lost son and a large sum of money. Wallander’s inquiry takes him deep into his own damaged psyche, forcing him to examine and question his own motives before he can even begin to understand those of a killer.

The Man Who Smiled, October 10,

Gustaf Torstensson quietly chants “Mea culpa, mea culpa,” as he drives to his death. His son Sten Torstensson, a friend of Inspector Kurt Wallander, begs the detective to investigate the suspicious case — Wallander is his last hope. But hope has all but drained from Wallander’s life, as he’s now on indefinite leave from his work and has been all but forgotten after enduring an on-the-job trauma.

The Fifth Woman, October 17

Inspector Kurt Wallander is torn between two disparate cases while dealing with one harsh and heartbreaking reality — the demise of his father. When another victim is found, it is clear that a serial killer is at work in Ystad.

Other features:

As usual, PBS Masterpiece Mystery provides special features that add dimension to the series.

Other posts

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New Season 2 Wallander episodes can be watched online on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! To read my review, click here. To watch this week’s episode online until November, click here.

Watch Wallander on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, Sunday May 17th

Watch Wallander on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, Sunday May 17th

Missed the first two episodes of Wallander? Watch them online at this PBS link starting May 11, as well as behind the scenes videos and interviews with the actors.
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Kenneth Branagh’s performance as Wallander in PBS’s new mystery series of the same name is memorable. His baggy eyes are rimmed with red from lack of sleep, his middle aged body is lumpy and careworn, and he is as depressed as the families of the victims he investigates. From the opening scenes I immediately understood that this production of the popular Swedish detective series, which has a spare and existential feel, will offer no light frothy treatment of the detective genre. Set in southern Sweden and the Swedish port city of Ystad (pronounced EE-stad), the movie is beautifully filmed. Having never visited Sweden, it was a delight to view the film’s stark and gorgeous settings.

46802581PBS will offer three 90-minute installments of Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery during May. The first episode is called Sidetracked and opens with the gruesome suicide of a 15-year-old girl. Wallander is on the trail of a serial killer who, after he murders his male victims, scalps them. The story, while beautifully filmed and acted, was a little too easy for me to solve. I knew almost immediately that there was a connection between the young suicide and middle-aged victims, and I guessed the killer at almost the moment I saw the person. Mind you, I have never read Henning Mankell’s books, so I didn’t know the plot ahead of time, but when one is exposed to superb acting and excellent production values  (shot last summer, the series cost £7.5m), one can forgive the heavy-handed clues that were dropped like lead-footed bombs throughout the plot.

The author observed about Wallander:

My ambition from the beginning was to show a man who was always changing, never fixed,” Mankell says. “That is one of the secrets to his success. He has a working-class background, and to become a police officer, he had to choose his place in society. At that time, you had to be conservative. But he’s not completely sure about what’s right and wrong.

From Mankell’s description, Kenneth Branagh IS Wallander. You can watch the first episode online on PBS’s website for a limited period starting May 11. Look for the next two episodes to air Sundays on your local PBS station at 9 pm.

Sidetracked, Episode One of Wallander

Sidetracked, Episode One of Wallander

1. Sidetracked: A 15-year-old girl commits suicide by immolating herself. Click on the link to learn more about episode one.

2. Firewall: A teenage girl stabs a taxi driver and seemingly doesn’t care about the consequences. Wallander races against the clock to solve a mystery that is reminiscent of a ’24’ episode. In this episode Wallander shows his softer, tender side as his daughter convinces him to start dating again.  Unfortunately, he fails to balance his personal life with his work life, and his new relationship almost ends before it starts. Online episodes of Firewall will be available on Monday, May 18th.

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