What I Watched Last Night: Wallander, BBC vs. Swedish Editions

How I ended up being really interested in a more high-brow variety of crime television, I’m not entirely sure, but both the English-speaking and original Swedish versions of Wallander satisfyingly scratch that itch.

Wallander: English-speakingNetflix has both the BBC and Swedish productions of the show available for streaming, though the Swedish version has only episodes 14-26, which originally aired January 2009 until July 2010. The BBC’s Wallander has all three series available, which originally aired from November 2008 until July 2012. Each episode of both versions is roughly an hour and a half long.

The stories are based off a series of books by Henning Mankell (which I have not read), set in the port town of Ystad. Krister Henriksson plays the title detective in the Swedish version (which has English subtitles), and Kenneth Branagh stars in the English adaptation.

Apart from Kurt Wallander himself, the storylines that I have seen do not overlap, though in a cursory perusal of the older Swedish episodes that are not on Netflix, I see that certain characters do appear in both, like Wallander’s adult daughter, Linda. The English-speaking version is still set in Ystad, and I appreciated that websites and signs still appeared in Swedish.

Both versions are very good, and they are different enough from each other that it doesn’t feel like a re-tread to watch one production after completing another. Henriksson and Branagh have different approaches to the character, choosing to make Wallander subtly fragile in different ways. Branagh’s personal life is a bit more of a shambles, and Henriksson’s version can be more brusque with his co-workers.

Wallander: Swedish Edition
(“Courier”)

What is also enjoyable about both shows is that the female characters are strong, highly capable and not there as mere romantic foils. Sure, in the Swedish version, Wallander and the prosecuting attorney, Katarina Ahlsell, dance around potentially dating each other, but her character serves more of purpose than only that. Also, you Tom Hiddleston fans will be happy to know that he appears in many of the English-speaking episodes as Magnus Martinsson – until, presumably, he became famous/busy enough to be quickly written out of the show.

Have any of you watched either series or read the books?

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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