Wallander: The Most Beautiful, Miserable Cop Show, Ever



wallander_1Photo: Courtesy BBC.


Full disclosure: We love TV. So much so that sometimes we'd rather spend a whole weekend in front of the tube than dancing at da club until 3 a.m. The lack of any kind of television service holding you back from feeling our joy? No problem! You can get by just fine on Netflix, Hulu, and the myriad other streaming services rapidly taking over the home entertainment industry (thank you, Internet!).

Some shows are just better when binge-watched. Whether it's the latest BBC comedy, a PBS miniseries from the '70s, or just that cultish show prematurely scrubbed from a network — we're hooked on the stream. So, we're unrolling Staying In(stant), a new feature highlighting the best of streaming content. Each week, we bring you a show we're obsessed with and think you should be, too.


This week? Wallander — the British-produced take on a Scandinavian mystery series where the stark visuals are achingly beautiful, the crimes are achingly awful, and the detectives are just plain, old aches.

Where To Watch: Amazon Prime, Netflix, PBS and BBC streaming apps.

How I Got Hooked:
I accidentally came across Wallander one cold night. I landed on a beautifully filmed, somewhat hallucinogenic scene of teens in full 18th-Century, Marie Antoinette dress, frolicking deep in a sunlit summer forest. Suddenly, a mystery figure holding a very modern, silenced pistol was quietly gunning them down. A quick cut to the saddest theme song ever followed and I soon was watching a grizzled, emotionally gutted detective (played by Kenneth Branagh, bonus!) standing over the crime scene. The accents were British, but the locale was, evidently, Sweden. "A BBC production with gorgeous cinematography about a depressed, brilliant detective played by a Shakespearian actor hunting the silent murderer of Age of Reason cosplayers in the Scandinavian woods?" I thought. "Melancholy, let's do this!"

Best Episode:
With the quality of each and every 90-minute-long episode of Wallander, picking "the best" is hard. Right now, I'd say it's either Faceless Killers or The Fifth Woman, both from the series' second season. In each, the rumpled, red-eyed Kurt Wallander runs himself ragged trying to solve brutal crimes with topical themes, tests his strained relationship with his daughter, and falls asleep every night in a knockoff Eames chair, a half-empty bottle of red wine by his feet. What pushes these episodes into greatness, though, is the performance of David Warner as Wallander's father, Pavel — a painter rapidly and angrily descending into dementia. Their complex relationship is fraught, authentic, and, ultimately, very touching. (We did warn you that this is the most miserable cop show, ever.)

Why You'll Love It:
The crimes, mysteries, and solutions you'll see in Wallander aren't really that much different from those you might see in an episode of SVU or old Law & Order, But, they're so good (and long), you'll actually remember each one. Alone in cop shows, Wallander sports engrossing acting, seamless production, and a true sense of humanity (without being a drag like The Killing). There's even a geninue chuckle here and there. If that's not a draw, just stare at it: We can't think of any series that has employed cinematography and those beautiful, natural, and sometimes broken-down locations so well. I know it sounds quite dour, but it's that kind of sweet, sad comfort food one laps up by spoonfuls — a bowl of artisanal mac-and-cheese misery.

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