Leaden dialogue weighs down a premiere with potential as Wallander begins investigating a hate crime that occurred on his doorstep and is whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment in Malmö.
This recap of Young Wallander season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
Before any character in Young Wallander has a single line of dialogue, we hear on the radio about how Malmö is rife with crime and drama and unrest; this show isn’t intending to be subtle. Almost immediately, Wallander and his partner, Reza, are breaking up a rich boys’ club by threatening the arrogant reveller with a drug test. All for the greater good, obviously.
Wallander lives on an estate that looks and sounds like the set of Top Boy, full of youths with London accents giving the clean-cut copper grief. A local woman whose son is threatening to throw away the opportunity for a professional football contract by fighting asks Wallander pointedly what he does for a living and he swerves the question. You know how it is.
That night, a blaring alarm and pouring smoke lead Wallander to the scene of a break-in, where a burning rubbish bin distracts from a hate crime — a blonde-haired white kid with the Swedish flag painted across his face is strapped up to a wire fence, duct tape across his mouth. Wallander tries to intervene but is held back until he flashes his police badge, at which point the whole estate predictably turns on him: “You’re a pig living with us?” Oh, and someone removes the tape from the poor kid’s mouth, pulling the pin on a grenade in his gob. Boom.
Wallander is introduced to Detective Frida Rask, who’s conducting the interview with him in the aftermath of the crime. The victim wasn’t known to the police or the estate but had been involved in an incident with a resident earlier in the evening. Wallander can recall that the man in black who ripped the tape away was of Middle Eastern origin, but little else. Frida tells him he did his best, and that no rookie should have to experience something like that, which seems like little comfort at this point.
It doesn’t make things better when Wallander, presumably inspired by his near-death experience, tries to take things further with his booty-call in an awfully-written exchange; she reckons they don’t know each other anywhere near well enough for that. His colleagues want the grisly details. The prime suspect is, wouldn’t you believe it, Wallander’s footballing neighbour, Ibra. And the parents of Hugo, the victim, aren’t shy about their contempt for how little Wallander did to intervene. Young Wallander episode 1 immediately paints a picture of deep mistrust on all sides of the law and community.
Wallander at least tells Rask that the lad they’ve arrested isn’t the type, and she lets him sit in on the interrogation. Several witnesses overheard Ibra’s threatening argument with Hugo the previous day. The officer conducting the interview smugly reveals an envelope full of bullets that were found in his mattress, so he’s swabbed and photographed and processed. He remains tight-lipped even when Wallander takes him aside privately and lets him know that he’s going to get fingered if it doesn’t let on what he really knows. He tells Wallander to look at the video they were filming for YouTube. Wallander claims all the phones have already been confiscated, but apparently not.
Wallander’s friend Reza is being promoted to Major Crimes, so the unit throws him a going-away party by going bowling. Wallander’s not in the mood, though. He returns to his estate and tries to charm Bash, the local shot-caller, who thinks he’s brave for coming back in the first place. Wallander wants the phone with the video to help keep Ibra out of prison: “The police lock up the first estate kid they find,” says Bash. “That isn’t how it works,” replies Wallander, naively. “Okay, Kurt. Whatever you say.”
There are anti-immigrant protests in Malmö, the news tells us, since that’s this show’s favorite way of delivering wider context. Through Wallander’s letterbox drops the video of Hugo’s death. The tape-puller walks right towards the camera… and then looks away as the grenade detonates. All Wallander can get is a hazy image, but it’ll do for now. Anti-immigrant sentiment continues to fester in the wake of Hugo’s death, despite the protestations of philanthropic billionaires insisting on the news that it’s nonsensical to treat an isolated incident as a blanket rejection of Swedish moral values among immigrant communities. I mean, it is nonsensical, but Wallander’s boss at the station undermines the point because it’s a billionaire making it — it’s not the message, after all, but where it comes from that matters, and the elite are always seen to be talking down to the rest of us, even if what they’re saying is obviously right.
Wallander, alongside Rask and Hemberg, poke around in a vehicle left behind at the scene, in which they find duct tape. Hemberg “accidentally” breaks the lock, making a rather obvious point that not everything is going to be entirely by the book. Didn’t the opening scene make that point as well? No matter! Hemberg, determining that Wallander “isn’t entirely useless” and might indeed prove advantageous given the fact he lives on the estate and has connections there, wants Wallander on the case — which means he’s giving him Reza’s new job, despite Wallander’s protestations. Feeling guilty, he goes to see Reza, whose wife tells him that they’re moving to a much better house with a bigger mortgage. Awkward.
Wallander eventually gets around to giving Reza the news, and he takes it pretty well but insists not a word to Jasmine, which is obviously going to blow up in his face at some point. But there’s a peacekeeping mission in the meantime, with the police despatched to the anti-immigrant march for the defense of free speech, as Reza laughingly puts it. The march is exceedingly dense with bearded white people and incensed counter-protestors, one of whom, a pretty lady, calls Wallander a fascist pig. “Hostile elements” begin a rapid approach, and the police do a frankly terrible job of detaining the uniformed — tan shirts and black gloves, black ties tucked in — assailants, who’re heading to a nearby church that’s harboring immigrants. Batons come out. In the chaos, Wallander spots the Middle Eastern suspect from the killing and gives chase, leaving Reza to be brutally beaten. Wallander pursues him through a graffitied tunnel where a locked gate thwarts the suspect, allowing Wallander to hold him at gunpoint. But Wallander’s too careless in his arrest and ends up shanked, bleeding out on the floor of the tunnel as the harsh red light of a flare makes a hellscape of the place. Young Wallander episode 1 ends there.
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