It’s dark, it’s foggy, and our man is buttoned into a pea coat and looking unsettled. In other words, Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) is back in Sweden where he belongs, and everything’s as it should be—for the moment.
Then, a couple of thugs zoom up on a motorcycle, pummel him for no apparent reason, and leave him face-down in the parking lot. And it suddenly becomes clear…
Wallander is too old for this stuff.
He’s 55 and—who’d a thought—a doting grandfather to little Klara (Kitty Peterkin), who lives in Copenhagen with Wallander’s daughter Linda (Jeany Spark) and his son-in-law Hans (Harry Haddon-Paton, fresh off a couple of seasons wooing Lady Edith on Downton Abbey). The stage looks set for Kurt to settle into playing happy families. Even Baiba Liepa (Ingeborga Dapkunaite), Wallander’s Latvian love interest from “The Dogs of Riga” in Series 3 returns for a surprise visit that makes Wallander’s heartbeat quicken.
Can we hope that Kurt Wallander has found peace and happiness at last?
If you are familiar with the Kurt Wallander books by Henning Mankell, you know that hope rarely is fulfilled. (You also know where we’re headed in this final series of Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery, so please don’t spoil it here!) Kurt Wallander doesn’t take life’s happy moments for granted, and he’d be almost unrecognizable without a thorny coating of fatalism. There’s a bit of both here.
“A Lesson in Love,” was written by Peter Harness, whose other credits include Case Histories, based on the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson, and the adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that aired on BBC America last year. It’s a prelude to the final episode of Wallander and includes some threads plucked from Mankell’s last Wallander novel, The Troubled Man.
Here are several troubled men. One is Håkan von Enke (Terrence Hardiman), Linda’s father-in-law. Although he and Wallander are linked by marriage, they have little else in common, and Wallander is uncomfortable among von Enke’s wealthy, powerful set. A former high-ranking navy officer, von Enke is toting some heavy ethical baggage with him and it’s Wallander whom he trusts enough to confide in—however sketchily—about a government cover-up dating back to 1980.
Gustav Ericsson (Clive Wood), head of a motorcycle club that has taken a long-term lease of sorts on a local farm, is another troubled man. He’s old enough to remember Easy Rider, which means he’s too old for his current gig. Now he’s wrestling with whether he’d like his son to follow in his motorcycle tracks—and whether one of his own could be responsible for murdering their landlord. That case is what brings him and Wallander together.
Then, of course, there’s Kurt Wallander himself. He’s a perpetually troubled man, and now a troublingly forgetful one. Something’s amiss with his health, and he’s having difficulty focusing his mind. This has him concerned—worry edging into paranoia. Since his unprovoked attack, he’s seeing motorcycles everywhere, swarms of them buzzing past like locusts. There’s a notable level of sympathy in the way he watches an elderly dementia patient being led back to her care home after she’d wandered away in the night. And his father, who ended his days with dementia, is never far from his thoughts.
Equal helpings of hope for happiness and resignation to fate; you could say that sums up Kurt Wallander’s world.
“We all have our furrows to plow,” Håkan von Enke tells Wallander. “I go for the same walk every day. Drink the same coffee. Think the same thoughts. You come to an age like mine, you start to realize it’s impossible to be anybody other than who you have always been.”
Wise words from one troubled man to another.
We pick up next week with the final episode of Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery.
Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.