The ultimate crime: Swedish mystery dramas stole my heart!

11 Jan

Bloody Swedes.

I mean that quite literally. Dead Swedes covered in blood.

Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t do it!

I had some time off at the end of last year, and as with every other holding-a-full-time-day-job, busy-raising-a-family-too indie author, I spent this unexpected block of time off as you would expect:

Binge watching television.

Because it’s not like I have anything better to do.

Like sleeping.

Or getting my second novel out.

I didn’t set out to binge watch anything. I just wanted to see a few movies that came out a year or so ago and that I missed in the theater.

However, the crappy streaming service I have, which I use to stream flicks over the net, and which I’m too polite to name, didn’t have any of those movies available.

So I got desperate.

Which led me to Wallander.

It was either that, or join the Missus on her The West Wing binge.

But I have to stay away from that dreamy Bradley Whitford, or there could be dire consequences for my marriage!

No, not the Kenneth Branagh version put out by BBC Scotland. I’d already seen some of that series on PBS.

And I know it won Branagh a BOMF or BAFTA or WHAM! award or some such, but I just couldn’t handle that level of soul-crushing bleak over the holidays. Branagh’s portrayal of the Swedish detective makes wintering in a Soviet-era Siberian work camp seem like a Disney musical in comparison.

Plus it turns out he mispronounced everything Swedish, even his character’s name.

How do I know that?

Because I watched the Swedish version, where Swede Krister Henriksson, who plays Wallander, pronounces it, presumably correctly since he’s Swedish, ‘Vallander’.

Yes, I watched the Swedish version. Though apparently the second Swedish version, with a new Swedish actor.

It seems in Sweden there is nothing to do but read Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels while shivering in the cold winters, and then deciding the time is right to film a reboot of the television series.

It’s like Sweden’s version of Doctor Who.

But much to my surprise, it turns out that subtitles do not make a show unwatchable. In fact, I became addicted to the few episodes available on my flicks-on-the-net streaming service.

The irritatingly few episodes.

That skip over Series One entirely, to start in the middle with Series Two, and oh, by the way, Series Three is also out there but not currently available.

Bastards at that service that streams a paltry number of flicks over the net!

Actually, aside from the foreign language, the more liberal rules about nudity and swearing, and the locales, Swedish television isn’t that different from American television.

Heck, they even have some spoken English in them!

The first time there was a spate of English uttered on the show, I felt a warm sense of smug superiority as I thought, “Ha! All those Swedes watching at home probably needed subtitles for the English bits, while I understood them just fine!”

Then the Missus pointed out that most of the people in Sweden probably understood the English just fine, as they would also most likely understand French or German just fine.

Just when I thought I had proof I was better than other foreign nationals, the Missus has to come along and point out how not cosmopolitan I am compared to Europeans.

Qué triste.

But I noticed other commonalities to our domestic programming.

Uneven writing, for example. Some episodes, people’s actions or motivations were so absurd as to be ludicrous.

People (and I’m not talking about the murderers that each episode centered on) would casually break the law or do something so counter to common sense that I would jump up and down, screaming “No!” until, in supreme frustration, my frontal cortex shut down and I degenerated into a foaming-at-the-mouth string of “Bork bork borks!”

But the problems weren’t just limited to the writing.

There were scenes with Wallander acting so self-assured and macho, I couldn’t help but think of David Caruso in CSI: Miami.

It didn’t help that Wallander had red hair and wore very similar sunglasses.

Shot in the face? Fully dressed? Don’t let that stop you from jumping off a boat into the freakin’ ocean to rescue a young girl who we have no reason to suspect is incapable of swimming.

I kid you not, that happened. And after saving the girl, he continued his swim to shore, climbed out of the wafer, and started chasing after the bad guy.

Fully dressed. Soaking wet clothes.

Clearly the men of Sweden are made of sterner stuff than us Americans.

Or at least me.

Pontus! Nooooooo!As written, the character isn't depressing enough. We can do better!Acting this bad... Is a crime.Which of these three is not like the other?

And then there was the melodrama.

Oh! The melodrama!

Wallander had two trainees under him, a young woman named Isabel (who despite having depth to her character was pretty much obviously there as eye candy), and a young man named Pontus.

An inexperienced, impetus, eager to please Pontus.

Wallander spent a lot of episodes racing towards Pontus, arms extended, dramatically shouting, “Pontus! Noooooo!”

One might argue he spent too many episodes doing this.

I suspect some sort of homoerotic subtext, and I’m convinced that fluency in Swedish would confirm that suspicion.

Speaking of subtext, Wallander’s dog in the series is named Jussi, pronounced ‘juicy’.

Come on! Even Branagh had the sense to drop the dog from the UK version.

A dog, even one involved in a subtextual homoerotic relationship, would have done too much to counteract the blitzkrieg of bleak Branagh was clearly aiming for.

And then I reached the last episode. Hooked, I searched for more, and quickly discovered there were additional episodes.

Episodes I could not, and still cannot, access.

Shortly after this discovery, the Missus found me curled up in the fetal position on our bed, quietly murmuring, “No! Bork bork bork!”

And now, ruthlessly deprived of the remaining Wallander episodes, I’ve resorted to watching the other Swedish crime drama available on my crappy streaming service, Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter.

I don’t even try to understand how a ninety pound Photoshop-perfect looking woman in her early twenties managed to have two kids, the oldest of which means she was fifteen when she gave birth to the child.

American television has trained that sort of critical thinking out of me.

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Posted by on 11 January 2014 in Life, Mystery


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