‘Young Wallander’ tempts fate as prequel to Sir Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Wallander’

Sir Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander from the original ‘Wallander’ series / Courtesy: BBCdsc

The British seem to not only have written the book on how to create brilliant original content but they could also hold a masterclass on how to remake a series and/or create a successful spin-off series in the form of a prequel.

What immediately comes to mind in recent years is the original series, Inspector Morse, and the series spin-off, Lewis, followed by the Morse prequel, Endeavour. Nothing but quality television on all three counts. While Prime Suspect: Tennison, the 2017 prequel to the original Prime Suspect series starring Dame Helen Mirren, didn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the early ’90s series, it was good telly.

n 1973, Jane Tennison (Stefanie Martini) was still an inexperienced WPC getting to grips with her new job. Photo: ITV

Generally, a prequel can start out with two strikes against it from the beginning if the original series is placed on the proverbial pedestal of greatness. Fans of the original series will, in many cases, have a preconceived notion in their collective mind-palaces that may run counter to the prequel storyline. If done well, however, it can extend the life of the original and could enhance the narrative by shedding light on a main character and their actions.

Either way, a prequel is a semi-dangerous “endeavour” that needs to be given the benefit of the doubt but with a degree of caution. Given the greatness of the original, such will be the case with the forthcoming 6-part series, Young Wallander.

Don’t shoot … Adam Pålsson in Young Wallander. Photograph: Johan Paulin

Adam Pålsson stars as early days Kurt Wallander, the green but well-meaning street cop who is fresh out of police academy when he witnesses a brutal crime and is pulled into solving it under the wing of superintendent Hemberg (Richard Dillane). The original Wallander, which starred the brilliant Sir Kenneth Branagh as Henning Mankell’s iconic detective Kurt Wallander, premiered on BBC1 and PBS in 2008. In 2016, four series and 12 episodes later, Branagh called it quits.

On the surface, Wallander seems like the perfect candidate for a prequel series. Branagh once told Radio Times magazine that Wallander is “an existentialist who is questioning what life is about and why he does what he does every day, and for whom acts of violence never become normal. There is a level of empathy with the victims of crime that is almost impossible to contain, and one of the prices he pays for that sort of empathy is a personal life that is a kind of wasteland.

I’m still proceeding into this with more than just a bit of caution, however. I really want to like it but Wallander just may have been too good for me to give it a chance. How about you?

Young Wallander streams beginning September 3 on Netflix. 

In: Drama