Near the end of ‘A Lesson in Love’ there’s a touching moment.
Having accidentally killed her mother, teenager Hannah is arrested, and as we see her being interviewed by the police the adult accompanying her is Marlene Sidaway as her former foster mother, despite the fact that she hasn’t seen her in seven years.
We only glimpse it through a window as the camera pans away, not much is made of it. The same is true of aggressive biker Gustav whose son Pontus has (in a vaguely Romeo & Juliet kind of way) been dating Hannah despite his dad’s ongoing dispute with her mother. When Pontus is finally released from custody, his father meets him not with violence but with an unconditional embrace.
Both moments underline an episode that is as much about how we are and who we are with the ones we love, as it is about a missing girl and a dead mother.
For Wallander it’s an episode of mixed fortunes. He’s happiest spending time with granddaughter Klara, even though his nose is put a little out of joint when her other grandfather Hakan (Terrence Hardiman) drops in with a dolls house. Klara is a child, her love for both grandfathers full-on and uncomplicated. For adults, things are more complex. So when Kurt accepts Hakan’s invitation to his birthday party, it’s out of love for his daughter rather than a desire to socialise.
Wallander is also delighted by the unexpected return of former lover Baiba (from Season 3’s ‘The Dogs of Riga’). She is a past Kurt is pleased to revisit, but the same cannot be said when the memory of his father’s decline is revived – first when the case brings him back to his father’s old care home; and then throughout the episode as the fear that he may be going the same way himself begins to take hold.
At first it’s just momentary lapses of focus, unfinished sentences and struggling for the right word – but later on he’s forgetting the existence of a foster brother in the case at hand, forgetting the gas he’s put on under the kettle at home; and accidentally leaving his gun behind in a restaurant.
The episode spends a lot of its time giving Kurt hopes of a ‘happy ending’. A warm relationship with his daughter and granddaughter; a happy private life with Baiba; even at work his standing is such that he is now mentoring younger officer, Tobias.
But this is gloomy old Wallander so the main objective in showing us all this promise is so that we feel it all the more when it begins to be taken away. Professionally the forgotten gun means he is suspended from duty; and personally, after consulting with his doctor the episode ends with Kurt undergoing a brain scan.
With only one more episode to go, clearly this week is the beginning of the end. It looks like the series is going to finish in its usual style: gripping, but grim.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 29 May 2016 on BBC One.
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