I’ve been power-watching the BBC version of Wallander, based on a Swedish book series by Henning Mankell and starring Kenneth Branagh.  I’ve been getting into detective stories lately but I’d been avoiding this one because the clips I’d seen made it look very Masterpiece Theatre. Turns out I could not have been more wrong. Wallander is a lot closer to True Detective than Miss Marple. Visually it’s just gorgeous, and the performances are exceptional – especially Branagh, who is reminding me with this show why I wanted to be him back when I was naive college theater student. The stories are twisty the way good mysteries should be, and the crimes themselves are particularly dark in a way one does not expect from a British murder mystery. But then, the series maintains its Swedish setting, so maybe things are just a little heavier in Scandinavia. That is where the best metal comes from, after all.

As heartily as I recommend this show, however, I must warn against marathon viewings of the whole series. It is relentlessly depressing. Branagh’s performance encapsulates that quintessential kind of noir detective who lets himself get too emotionally involved in the cases he investigates. If it were one case that would be cool, but it happens Every. Single. Time. You might think that would get dull, but it doesn’t. Every time you think, this time he’ll be okay. This time he’ll finally reconcile with his daughter, or his father (the always awesome David Warner), or maybe he and his girlfriend will make it work…

It’s a brilliant show, but brutal. Watch it, but be warned. Also, it appears to mostly take place in Ystad, a town of less than 20,000 people. Some scary shit happens there. I’d stay away if I were you.