Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010) is based on the sixth book by Henning Mankell published as Den Femte Kvinnan, which perhaps makes it appropriate that it’s the sixth adapted for this television series by Yellow Bird. What makes this a fascinating series is the way in which the adaptation messes with the original structure of the series. In the novel, Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) is actually not quite as unhappy as usual. He’s just back from a holiday in Rome. In this version, his normally sunny disposition is blighted when Povel Wallander (David Warner), his father, insists on leaving the nursing home where he’s attempted to retreat from the world. With the unerring foresight of those who’ve read the whole script, Povel knows he’s not long for this series and, if he’s going to go, he prefers to die in his studio. So despite the muted protests from Gertrude (Polly Hemingway), Wallander loads them both in his car and drives them back to their home. Needless to say, all this achieves is to dump the nursing problem back into Gertrude’s hands. Never let it be said Wallander is anything other than a thoughtful and caring man. As soon as he has his father sitting in his favourite seat looking out at the sea, he gets a phone call and is off to view a body. Not for him the quiet weeks away from work looking after his father. That’s what second wives are for. Anyway, as a parting gesture, Povel advises his son to find someone to stand beside him. He offers the assessment his son is a weak drip who will dry up under the merciless Swedish sun unless there’s someone around to keep him moisturised. Actually, Wallander later talks about getting a dog. Never let it be said this man ever drops his mask.
Of course, the next time we see Povel, the old guy has died peacefully while sleeping his favourite chair in the studio. He, at least, has the sense not to overstay his welcome with one of these long-drawn-out death scenes. We then have to go through the embarrassment of Wallander failing to come to terms with his father’s death. Not surprisingly, Gertrude has absolutely no patience with him and, when they show up for the burial, both daughter and ex-wife give him short shrift. In the midst of all this, a vigilante is killing off old men who’ve been guilty of abusing their wives and mistresses. As is required in the structure of these shows, all the victims deserved to die so the moment the grieving Wallander shows up, the victims all say they are profoundly glad to be rid of these men. This is supposed to make Wallander feel better because, no matter how hard he tried, he never really liked his father and is also not a little relieved the old guy can no longer bug him about being a lousy human being.
To ensure we all think Wallander is an abusive squad leader, we get to see him shouting at the loyal trio of Magnus Martinsson (Tom Hiddleston), Anne-Britt Hoglund (Sarah Smart) and Nyberg (Richard McCabe). The scriptwriters in this series never miss a chance for a little thematic conscious parallelism. All this would be dire were it not for the appearance of Vanja Andersson (Saskia Reeves). She was one of the abused women but she somehow kindles a vague sense of kinship with Wallander and, over the course of the episode, they slowly edge towards each other until, in the final shot, she goes with him to see his father’s grave. We therefore have the usual trajectory into despair as Wallander sleeps in his clothes night after night and must, by the time he gets close to catching the vigilante, be broadcasting his approach to everyone downwind of him. But, despite his BO problems, he may have found a woman who can put up with him. Alternatively, she’s been taking abuse from one man on and off for several years so Wallander must seem a big improvement.
At the end, there’s the now ritualised melodrama as Wallander ends up soaked in blood and in something of an existential crisis. As the latest set of three episodes winds up, we should be grateful he may now have a shoulder on which to lay his weary head. Perhaps even a dog to stand by him with moisturising cream coating its jaws to bite him back to health. Wallander: The Fifth Woman is not the worst of the series but I remain unconvinced this vigilante could have managed the deaths as described. Like how did she dig the pit without the first victim seeing her from his window? I suppose the kidnapping was possible but how did she get the victim from the house to the woods? Similarly, how did she get the chloroformed victim to the side of the lake? This is another of these episodes which requires you not to ask awkward questions.
For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)