Series: Wallander

This is Wallander on a good day.

Nobody deserves to die.
Kurt Wallander, Sidetracked

Swedish author Henning Mankell's Nordic Noir series of crime novels follow Kurt Wallander, a middle-aged, diabetic inspector who is often up against both criminals and his own demons. In the novels Mankell explores social and political issues affecting modern-day Sweden, as well as providing the reader with plenty of mystery and suspense.

The novels became the basis of several film and TV adaptations: a Swedish televised film series for SVT starring Rolf Lassgård as the titular character, a Swedish television series for TV 4 starring Krister Henriksson, and most recently an English-language adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh. The first two have now concluded their runs, while three more episodes are left in the English version.

The English adaptation is unusual in its use of Translation Convention. Filmed in Ystad, the Swedish setting of the novels, it renders all spoken dialogue into English (complete with idioms like "done time"), but keeps all on-screen written text in Swedish (with the exception of the screen of Wallander's phone on occasions).
This series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Wallander's daughter Linda, who choses to join the police like her father.
    • Wallander's colleague Ann-Britt Höglund.
    • Isabelle Melin in the Swedish series.
  • Actor Allusion: In one of the Swedish episodes, Wallander is talking to the coroner Karin Linder about the possibility that the victim may have drunk himself to death, and gives her a sly look as he refers to death by alcohol poisoning as "Finnish suicide". Stina Ekblad, who plays Karin, is a Swedish-speaking Finn.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Not the most extreme example, but in One Step Behind, Louise was in love with Svedberg and claims that Svedberg was in love with Wallander, who never noticed and is also presumably straight.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty frequently. Pretty much all of the victims in The Fifth Woman, for example, were themselves horrible criminals who had been Karma Houdinis up to that point. Sidetracked is also full of these, from the ex-justice minister with a dark secret to the murderer's father who was abusive to his family.
  • Ate His Gun: Happens in the Swedish episode The Secret.
    • In the final episode of the Henriksson version, Wallander himself almost does this after his Alzheimer's is exposed, which will end his career, literally loading his pistol and putting it in his mouth. He is however unable to pull the trigger.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Many of the scenes between Wallander and his daughter Linda turn out this way. Although they have the unerring knack of infuriating each other and often argue, they still care very deeply for each other.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Martinsson in the Branagh version of One Step Behind, who follows Kurt to his house, and shoots Åke before he can shoot Linda.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of the written Swedish in the British version. For example, when Wallander checks his inbox, viewers are treated to a bunch of annoying emails from Tom Hiddleston's character Magnus Martinsson, with headlines like "Vem stängde inte av kaffebryggaren?" ("Who left the coffee maker on?") and "Glöm inte möte med Martinsson!" ("Don't forget meeting with Martinsson!").
    • It's worth pointing out that the Swedish Wallander is fluent in English and uses it on a few occasions.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In Firewall, this is how you can tell that Ella's not going to make it. Indeed she seems to have been shot in the gut. Averted in The Man who smiled, although it would have been fatal without Wallander's prompt intervention.
    • Used at the end of the Swedish episode Blodsband to show that Oskar Ung has been fatally shot.
  • Buffy Speak: Kenneth Branagh's Wallander is really good at muttering half cut off, incomprehensible words when he is distracted.
  • Bury Your Gays: Svedberg in One Step Behind ends being this, killed by one of the men he was involved with, who ended up having been a mass murderer who preyed on happy people. He killed Svedberg because he was too close to discovering his secret. Averted with the others in the novel.
  • Butt Monkey: Wallander can't even go out to eat without the universe abusing him. In one episode, Nyberg forgets his wallet and Kurt's card is out of date, so they come off looking like bums and get yelled at by an angry waitress.
    • He survives an assassination attempt because he trips over a rug.
    • In the Swedish films starring Krister Henriksson, Officer Svartman is undoubtedly also a Butt Monkey. He gets shot at, beaten by thugs, has something horrendous done to a sensitive part of his body and has his car shot to pieces by mooks.
  • Character Outlives Actor: Johanna Sällström (Linda Wallander) killed herself in 2007 between the first and second seasons of the TV 4 series. Linda was written out of the second season and recast for the third.
  • Cult: Wallander investigates one in Before the Frost.
  • Corrupt Politician: In Sidetracked, a former Minister of Justice is murdered because of his shady past and using his influence to cover up what he had really been up to.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nyberg.
  • Defective Detective: Wallander is divorced, has a rough relationship with his daughter, and has to deal daily with violence and the other darker aspects of life. He has an uneasy relationship with alcohol and frequently feels lost and lonely.
  • Depraved Homosexual: One Step Behind has Åke/Louise, a homosexual male transvestite who goes on a killing spree, motivated by his resentment of other people's happiness.
  • Deus Angst Machina: While True Art Is Angsty, the Branagh adaptations could possibly be called "Wallander's Horrible Life".
    • In the novels, Wallander is often generally unsatisfied with his life, with no idea how to improve it. In The Dogs of Riga, he's so fed up with life that he experiences chest pains and nearly quits police work to take up a much less stressful job in security instead. That said, in the novels he does have some happy experiences, especially when he's spending time with Linda or his Latvian girlfriend Baiba.
  • Dirty Communists: Deconstructed. The second volume, The Dogs of Riga, mostly takes place in the then-totalitarian state of Latvia, which was in the process of falling apart in the time frame of the series (it had fallen apart the year before the novel was written, although it wasn't entirely clear what would be happening to the country at that point). It is quite clear that Mankell, while sympathetic to the ideals communism was avowedly intended to serve, strongly detests the Soviet system. Most of the sympathetic characters in the novel at some point criticise the Soviet system for failing to uphold those ideals, and the disparity between incomes of corrupt "public servants" and the rest of the country is a rather notable theme of the book (not to mention the complete lack of any semblance of civil liberties).
  • Disappeared Dad: Erik Westin in Before The Frost, who left his daughter Anna when she was quite young. Unfortunately he turns up again.
    • This could also apply to Wallander, who wasn't around enough when his daughter was growing up.
  • Driven to Suicide: Happens to Stefan in the Swedish episode The Secret.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Wallander's. Let's see: Kurt's estranged from his father and his new wife, can't cope with his father's dementia, and forgets his birthday. His daughter Linda has a hard time dealing with her dad always forgetting their dates and never checking his messages, and has to take his place at his father's side. Kurt's wife left him and he can't stand the thought that she may love someone else. There's genuine affection between him and Linda, despite all this.
  • Fair Cop: Ann-Britt Höglund.
    • Linda Wallander as played by Johanna Sällström probably counts as this.
    • Isabelle Melin from season two of the Swedish films.
    • The BBC Magnus is improbably young and improbably pretty.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: In the novels, Wallander spends years yearning for a pet dog and a house by the sea. In The Troubled Man, the final book in the series, he finally gets his wish.
    • The second season of the Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson also shows Wallander with his pet labrador, Jussi, who he clearly adores.
    • A couple of episodes of the Swedish series show him taking care of other people's dogs and loving it.
    • Branagh's Wallander gets his house and dog in the third season.
  • Heroic BSOD: In The White Lioness Wallander shoots and kills a Russian assassin (and sees another one burn to death) and suffers this as a consequence. It's so bad that for a long time he considers quitting the police force, until he gets drawn in to the events of The Man Who Smiled and changes his mind.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Discussed and then played straight in the Branagh version of The Dogs of Riga.
  • Homage: In Dogs Of Riga, our protagonist travels to a foreign country, and the first thing he does there is to attend the funeral of an acquaintance involved in mafia, corruption and black marketeering. There, he meets the late acquaintance's girlfriend and a very suspicious-looking local chief of police. I can't believe it's not The Third Man. (Bonus points for taking a stroll with said girlfriend on a rather long stretch of cementery lane.)
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Ebba, the police station receptionist, can find out just about any information Wallander needs on anything, is a top-class organiser and can even track down such obscure items as a tofu pie to feed a vegan witness.
    • In the Henriksson series, she's also shown to have a decent singing voice (her actress, Marianne Mörck, is also a stage and opera singer).
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How Wallander finally figures out who the main villain is in The Dogs of Riga.
  • Inherently Funny Words: In the first Branagh series, Wallander's doctor tells him that he has an illness called HONK. Even he gets a laugh out of it.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Performed by Branagh's Kurt Wallander with a kitchen knife and a pen.
  • The Inspector: Wallander.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: in One Step Behind, Wallander pulls this on himself: after the trauma of shooting a dangerous suspect dead, he removes the bullets from his clip. Then the psycho suspect takes his daughter Linda hostage at gunpoint.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Happens in the Mastermind film in the first season of the Swedish films. The Big Bad does it to keep tabs on the investigation and gather information on how he can further harm Wallander and Martinsson.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: in The Man Who Smiled, the father of a friend of Wallander's is killed in this manner after he discovers too much about his employer's involvement in organ trafficking.
  • The Mafiya: They are smuggling drugs from Lativa to Sweden in the Branagh adaptation of The Dogs of Riga.
  • Norse by Norsewest: Averted in the Branagh version — even the Fair Cop has black hair. Though Magnus, Linda and Wallander all have light hair and eyes, brunettes abound. The Swedish productions avert this, of course, being... Swedish productions.
  • Red Shirt: Pontus from the Henriksson films, if only through his lack of fear of danger...
  • Running Gag: in the Swedish version, Wallander never seems to finish his physical checkup.
  • Scenery Porn: In all TV and film adaptations. Skåne is an exceptionally beautiful place, so you can't blame them really.
  • Self-Immolation: at the beginning of Sidetracked a teenage girl does this in the middle of a field, apparently out of fear of Wallander. Later it's discovered that she wanted to die because she had been trafficked into Sweden and was being forced to work as a prostitute.
    • A cultist also does this in the Branagh adaptation of Before the Frost.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: A rare female example in The Fifth Woman.
  • Sounding It Out: Wallander reads out an email that we see written in Swedish in English for the audience's benefit
  • Translation Convention: The English-language Branagh version anglicized several place names, for instance, Ystad's pronunciation is altered (from "ee-stad" to "eah-stad"). Wallander's name is pronounced "Wall-and-er", while the Swedish pronunciation is "Val-and-air".
    • One notable case in Firewall in which the on-screen status data of a computer specialist is in English, but it's entirely plausible for someone in a country where English is a second language of most of the population to do that. Combined with Swedish not always being a good option when it comes to computer programs (due to bad or nonexistent translations), it might not have been this trope, but exactly what it looked like: English.
  • Tender Tears: Count it up in the Branagh adaptation, and Wallander cries in literally four out of the six episodes that have been produced. There's a borderline case of shining eyes in 2x01, which could make it five out of six. But it's because he's so empathetic; he almost never cries for himself.
    • In the novels Wallander doesn't cry as often, but in Before The Frost Linda notes the tears in his eyes when he hears about the death of an old friend.
    • In The White Lioness Wallander is shown to be extremely empathetic towards those people suffering through no fault of their own, several times getting a lump in his throat as he deals with a murder victim and her family.
    • In the Swedish episode The Secret Wallander breaks down and cries when he realises that Stefan had committed suicide because he had been abused as a child and that he could have helped, but chose not to listen to him.
  • Title Drop: An unusual visual title drop with some hostile, barking police dogs in the Branagh adaptation of The Dogs of Riga.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Sometimes it seems that if Wallander ever felt real happiness, the world would probably end or something.
  • Vomiting Cop: In the Swedish series, Isabelle vomits at a gruesome murder scene made worse by the oppressive heat wave. She blames it on the stench.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In the Branagh adaptation of The Man Who Smiled Wallander is impressed by Harderberg's philanthropic work for impoverished children in Africa. He clearly feels that the man is a ray of goodness in an all-too-grim world. He even smiles a bit! And then it turns out Harderberg's foundation is a front for black market organ dealing, and he's probably had some of those adorable kids in the photos slaughtered for parts. Yeah.
  • You Look Familiar: A Swedish nationalist that Branagh's Wallander shoots dead is played by Fredrik Gunnarsson, who is in the Swedish version as Officer Svartmann!

Alternative Title(s):

Kurt Wallander