“Someone will remember for you,” says the – what? ghost? – of Kurt Wallander’s deceased father at the end of a heartbreaking episode of the Kenneth Branagh detective drama.
Wallander, you see, is facing the end of his life, and a slow decline into dementia. He can’t, he says, link up his memories. His life doesn’t “join up” any more.
The name of the final episode, The Troubled Man, is perhaps as apt a description of our hero’s plight as you can imagine – in all the episodes, but doubly so here, for the very last time in his BBC1 incarnation.
For the Branagh Wallander, there are no more dramas to adapt from creator Henning Mankell’s source books, and the character’s condition has forced him to retire from the Ystad police. But what a send off this was.
The story was a good one. The disappearance of a family member – Hakan (Terrence Hardiman), the dour father-in-law of Wallander’s daughter Linda (Jeany Spark) – opened up a layered story of Cold War and familial intrigue that had us guessing right up to the end.
As it turned out, Hakan was hiding a terrible secret from his days as a submarine captain. Rather than missing, he was in hiding, awaiting a promised rescue from his shadowy CIA associates which never came.
But overshadowing everything was Branagh’s Kurt. At the beginning of the episode he was told by the specialist that “it was time to tell people” about his diagnosis, which would get rapidly worse in someone so relatively young. The sound in this scene as the diagnosis was delivered was distorted. It felt eerie – as if we were inside Kurt’s head, hearing the terrible news, not quite able to process it, perhaps not being entirely able to…
Wallander being Wallander, his first reaction was to go home and try to solve a Sudoku puzzle, to prove to himself that he still had a working mind. The way he shoved the textbook on Alzheimer’s under the clutter of his front room bric-a-brac was also heavily symbolic, as is the way of things in this drama.
But he couldn’t tell his daughter Linda – not yet. Hakan’s disappearance had thrown everything off kilter, just as he was rehearsing how he was going to break the news of his condition to her.
So off Kurt pootled to Hakan’s grand house in the country through a grey cold drizzle that perfectly embodied the mood. Even with his mental abilities foundering he managed to crack the case, rumbling the CIA’s involvement in the whole story. The might of the US secret service is no match for Kurt, even a Kurt with a failing mind.
Hakan left his family before his time, and Kurt was about to do the same, though in a way that was beyond his control. In the end, Linda twigged about her dad’s plight only when she found him raging and confused in the fields behind his house. But before then he had managed to tell Linda how much he loved her and he shared a heartbreaking moment with her husband Hans (Harry Hadden-Paton).
“Being a parent is more or less along process of letting go,” he said as he watched Linda and their daughter Clara (and not forgetting his lovely black Labrador) play in the winter afternoon light at Hakan’s funeral. “I’m glad she married you,” he added.
And we left him on the beach, talking to the ghost of his deceased dad Povel Wallander (David Warner) who made a surprise reappearance.
“It’s just memories now, Dad… they don’t join up. My memories, my life, doesn’t join up,” said Kurt.
Povel, the artist who painted the same scene over and over again, movingly replied to his son from beyond the grave: “Someone else will remember for you”.
And then Kurt was joined by Linda and Clara before the last words we will hear Branagh utter in the role – ”yeah I’m fine” – and a final walk on the beach.
It was stunning.