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Thursday, October 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Netflix youth movement gives us ‘Young Wallander’

Dan Webster

Above: Swedish actor Adam Pålsson stars as the title character in the Netflix Original series "Young Wallander." (Radio Times)

In looking for new ways to reinvent old material, miniseries producers seen to have fallen in love with youth.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Those of us who were born in the years immediately following World War II were probably among the first generation of Americans that glorified the notion of being young.

As someone the same age as many whose motto was “Never trust anyone over 30,” I’d be a hypocrite to claim otherwise.

I find it interesting, though, that fictional characters who were created as middle-age, cranky, sometimes alcoholic and often having little luck with enduring relationships are now being depicted as their younger, more naive selves.

I first noticed it a few years ago when one of my favorite crime characters, Commissario Salvo Montalbano (played by Luca Zingaretti) was reborn in a series titled “The Young Montalbano” that showed his beginnings as an Italian cop (and played by Michele Riondino).

Then came “Endeavour,” which stars Shaun Evans the younger version of the character who would become the protagonist of the “Inspector Morse” series (starring John Thaw).

And there likely are others that I’m unaware of, or even are now in production. One I just finished watching, though, is the Netflix Original series titled "Young Wallander."

The series is based on the character, Kurt Wallander, created by the late Swedish novelist Henning Mankell and portrayed in the past by a number of actors in films (Rolf Lassgård) and television (Krister Henriksson; and later for the BBC, Kenneth Branagh).

But unlike the moody, introspective character in Mankell’s novels, the “Young Wallander” (played by the Swedish actor Adam Pålsson) is, at least at first, both officious and ambitious.

In the series’ six-episode first season, the younger version of Wallander is shown first as a street cop who is recruited to help out during a murder investigation. Pretty soon he shows the skills that would later propel his career – and, in the process, pretty much ruin his attempts at living a normal life.

I enjoyed watching the series as it fit in with the current rage in my house to explore all that Nordic noir has to offer (even if the series is in English and doesn’t require subtitles, which I prefer). I do wonder, though, about some of the decisions – such as filming in Vilnius, Lithuania, instead of Sweden itself (apparently tax incentives and a film-friendly environment were the main reasons).

Even more baffling, though, was the decision to place the younger version of Wallander in a contemporary time frame and not in the early ’70s, which would have aligned with Mankell’s novels. After all, in the first Wallander novel, 1991’s “Faceless Killers,” the characters is all of 42 years old – which, doing the math, would have put him in his early 20s during the early ’70s.

Writing for The Guardian, television critic Ellen E. Jones was less than impressed, wondering how much better the series might have been had it been set in Mankell’s original era.

“Just imagine if the show had researched and recreated ’70s Malmö, where the Henriksson-timeline Wallander would have been a rookie?” Jones wrote. “Imagine exploring how that very specific time and place – the era of plane hijacking, radical politics and Abba’s Eurovision win – shaped Wallander’s character?”

Different certainly. But better? Well, that’s debatable.

But then what in life these days isn’t?

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