With an ill-timed subject, no sense of tact, mismatched accents, and utterly leaden dialogue, Netflix’s prequel series Young Wallander is a crime scene not worth investigating.
This review of Young Wallander is spoiler-free.
Longstanding fans of Kurt Wallander, either from the books or the Swedish series or the Kenneth Branagh remake, need not apply to Netflix’s Young Wallander, out today, a six-part prequel that is somehow set in the present day and casts handsome Swedish stage actor Adam Pålsson as the enduring scruffy detective.
Created by Ben Harris, this reboot inexplicably stocks Sweden with English-accented denizens – Pålsson, weirdly enough, speaks in a Swedish lilt – and wants to make some capital-P Points about Sweden’s immigration furor. As is typical of Netflix’s entire output, more or less, these points are made with a great lack of subtlety to the extent that what is otherwise a straightforward Scandi crime drama becomes a message-mongering political statement. Not that it’s any good as a crime drama either.
You can blame some lapses in logic for that, and a dramatically inert script that patronizes its audience with inelegant exposition and two-dimensional characters. Some of the one-line zingers are woeful and seem to have never been in the same postcode as irony. This is fitting since Young Wallander doesn’t seem to come from the same postcode as any of his inner-city neighbors on the troubled estate where he witnesses a hate crime virtually on his doorstep. We’re supposed to care how this young man one day becomes Kenneth Branagh. We don’t.
Pålsson is the highlight. He looks good and could probably sound good if he was regurgitating better material. Netflix hasn’t spared much expense on the show, which is as handsome as its star sometimes, even if it’s trying very hard to evoke the scuzzy tone most associated with this region’s crime offerings. The fusion of mystery and political subtext was done a lot better recently in Deadwind. The framing of a conflicted cop bending the rules in service of a greater good doesn’t play well in this climate, and nor does the underlying tactless social commentary. You can ignore these things, but there’s little else to pay attention to if you do.