You know a character has hit the big time when they get a “young” prefix. This month, detective Kurt Wallander joins the ranks of Sheldon and Frankenstein with a quasi-prequel on Netflix, where we meet the maverick inspector as a rookie cop. Following a couple of Swedish versions and a BBC reboot with Kenneth Branagh, this English-language series opens with a murder on the young Wallander’s (Adam Pålsson) doorstep. His is the only native accent on a rough estate that’s apparently populated by Londoners, which makes it feel more like watching “Young Luther”.
What’s also confusing is its timeframe; the show is set in the present day, suggesting Kurt ages backwards like Benjamin Button or Keanu Reeves. The contemporary setting does allow for discussions on current issues and the injection of Wallander into modern rave culture, but why use an established character if you’re not really interested in the circumstances of his youth? Not only is it hard to detect continuity when a timeline runs in reverse, it also seems like a missed opportunity to explore the protagonist’s past, when that’s surely the point of the production.
Ultimately, the young Wallander could be any of the thousands of tragic cops on TV, and the programme works as a standalone police procedural that happens to share a name with a successful detective franchise. The story is compelling, and the performances are strong, but this Scandinavian noir lacks the frosty atmosphere of its predecessors and falls back on clunky cop clichés like, “You don’t have to be a hero”, and, “This job’s full of tough choices, son.” This often results in awkward interactions between underdeveloped characters, particularly when compared to Branagh’s effortlessness in his role.
For fans of the genre (regardless of their familiarity with the character), there’s a smörgåsbord of procedural action to enjoy here, but Young Wallander is hardly a prequel for the ages.
Young Wallander is released on Netflix on 3rd September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Young Wallander here: