The Hero’s Journey in “Young Wallander”

When we first meet the titular Young Kurt Wallander (played by Adam Pålsson), the troubled Scandinavian detective is a young rookie 20-something beat cop who drives around the streets of Ystad with his partner Reza Al-Rahman (Yasen Atour) shutting down rabid parties. He lives in the bad part of the town in Rosengård, where laws of the men are different, and no one in his neighborhood knows he is a cop.  

That is until an act of violence tears the place apart. When he is unable to save a teenager from a gruesome attack in his own neighborhood right in front of his own eyes, Wallander is hit by a wave of guilt and remorse like never before. What begins as a relentless investigation into the crime soon turns into a desperate quest for justice. The question is will Wallander be able to deliver justice to those who were wronged?

Netflix’s latest detective series ‘Young Wallander’ is based on the best-selling Kurt Wallander novels by late Swedish writer Henning Mankell. So how would we best describe it — is a prequel or a reimagining? Well, it is a little bit of both. Creator Ben Harris and the team behind the new series directors Ole Endresen and Jens Jonsson and writers Anoo Bhagavan and Harris, do not stray from Kurt Wallander as we know him — old, rattled, broken, troubled, all shades of disturbed and nursing a strong sense of empathy.

Adam Pålsson as Kurt Wallander and Leanne Best as Frida Rask (Netflix)

Following the brutal killing of the teenager, Kurt finds himself working with Superintendent Hemberg (Richard Dillane) and Frida Rask (Leanne Best) trying to put the pieces together of a crime that is far from over — and to prevent one that will leave all of Sweden maimed. Set against the backdrop of racism, anti-immigration laws, terrorism and Nazism, the series also offers commentary on social issues much like Mankell’s novels.

As he races against time and hopes to deliver justice, he loses a little bit of himself, stuck in a labyrinth that has no escape. At one point, both Rask and Hemberg realize that the case is getting to the detective who is too young to have his world ripped apart by the crude reality of the violent gullies of Sweden. But this is Kurt Wallander, and this is his calling. 

There is something about the way that Pålsson plays Wallander that tugs at your heart. His eyes tear up every time that he thinks back to the night of the violent killing — they haunt him endlessly through his days and nights. Often times, you catch him in a stupor (much like Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander), recalling the night and all the nights since, grappling for clues.

Pålsson is quite literally the star of the show — carrying the series on his shoulders and delivering a thoroughly impressive performance that has the viewers rapt with attention. Paired with cinematography by Gaute Gunnari, it is quite difficult to tear away from the screen. In every episode, every scene, the audience knows only as much as Kurt does.

Ellise Chappell as Mona with Pålsson as Kurt (Netflix)

The young Wallander also has a swoon-worthy romance with Mona (Ellise Chappell), a character that is quite different from the books and any previous portrayals on television. Mankell’s Mona was a hairdresser while Chappell’s Mona makes shelter homes for illegal immigrants in search of a better life. For fans who know the Wallander universe, Mona will eventually become Kurt’s wife and they will come to share a daughter Linda.

Their relationship will see a painful downfall as a result of life-long bad decisions and eventually descend into alcoholism and culminate in divorce. It is quite the heartbreaking love story, but Pålsson and Chappell have chemistry and are adorable on-screen together sharing tender kisses.

We know exactly where ‘Young Wallander’ is headed and where it will take Kurt Wallander. The creators of the prequel-reimagining series have no intentions of straying away from the path that Mankell set for the Scandinavian detective — forlorn and despondent yet empathetic, down in the dumps of Alzheimer’s. But it is a thrilling ride to watch him try and solve his first case — sort of like a puzzle that’ll lead us to the conclusion we already know.

The ride is half the fun, anyway, innit?