This review of Young Wallander Season 2, aka Young Wallander: Killer’s Shadow, is spoiler-free. It does, though, contains spoilers for the first season.
The first season of Young Wallander, Netflix’s Swedish origin story for a character popularised in a British series which was remaking another Swedish show, itself adapted from a series of novels, wasn’t very good. Its complicated history is part of the reason why. It was difficult to figure out who this new version was for, and where exactly in the current media climate it fit. Part Scandi crime drama, part sledgehammer-subtle political screed about Sweden’s immigrant crisis, it was tactless, often illogical, and dramatically inert.
The good news, then, is that Young Wallander Season 2, also known as Young Wallander: Killer’s Shadow, is a lot better. It still has some big topics informing the mystery of its six new episodes, but they’re shunted into the background in favor of a more coherent, engaging case, and stronger character development for returning players. Without the incessant lecturing, the show is much more amenable and, ironically, more effectively about the things it’s trying to be about. Where it does build on the first season, though, is in continuing the character development from a finale that left several key characters disillusioned or dead.
Among those disillusioned is Wallander (Adam Pålsson) himself, who has retreated into civilian life after the death of his boss and mentor Superintendent Josef Hemberg. He’s living with Mona (Ellise Chappell) but is reluctant to return to work, despite having left Rask (Leanne Best) in charge of Major Crimes and Reza (Yasen Atour) as a uniformed officer after being overlooked for a detective role in favor of Wallander — something that doesn’t go unaddressed when Wallander is quickly compelled back into action by a seemingly accidental hit-and-run.
I’m reluctant to say any more about the case in fear of giving things away. And, while solid, it’s hardly where the show excels anyway, since the lingering after-effects of the first season, and some new conflicts brought into starker focus by new Superintendent Osei, who is there to bring an impulsive and emotional department back in line with protocol, is where Killer’s Shadow does more interesting work. Wallander, a naive and idealistic copper trying to balance his emotions and his new responsibilities at home, makes for a compelling anchor, while Rask and Reza both deliver strong supporting turns as his friends and colleagues grappling with their own issues.
As alluded to at the top, there are still important issues at the root of things, but they’re handled much more tactfully and not in a way that derails the mystery. The pace is sustained throughout all six episodes — the perfect number here, I think — and the overarching plot holds at least a couple of surprises, even for savvy genre aficionados. The whole thing remains handsomely shot and capably performed, though this time with a script — by Chris Lunt and Michael A. Walker — that is actually compelling. It still isn’t perfect thanks to lapses in logic here and there and some frustrating decision-making, but it’s a significant enough improvement that I’d actually welcome a third season. And I didn’t think I’d be saying that going in.