Hunting for the truth in his final case, Wallander talks with a fisherman who knows something. (More accurately his father knew something, which could well be the subtext of the whole episode).
He’s reluctant to talk, until as man rather than detective Kurt pleads with him: “I need to know if my family’s in danger, and I don’t think I’ve got much time left.” (No, actually that is probably the subtext of the episode.)
Hans’ father Hakan (introduced last week) has vanished during his morning walk, and as Wallander investigates he discovers more and more secrets of the family into which his daughter has married. By the time he has uncovered an institutionalised sister that Hans knows nothing about, and accusations that Hakan was a Cold War Soviet agent, Hans’ mother Louisa has been murdered. And by the time Wallander has followed the trail from waitress to journalist to fisherman, it really has become a race against time.
Kurt’s notes on his investigation are compiled on an ever-increasing number of scraps of paper kept in his pockets. So it’s an obvious image, but still very powerful, when he scatters them all to the wind during the first full ‘attack’ of the alzheimers he has been diagnosed with.
After a career based on finding the links between apparently disconnected facts, he is now confronted with his whole life becoming more and more fragmented and confusing. Wandering and ranting in the field behind his house, he stops long enough for the extraordinary Kenneth Branagh to break our hearts when he asks Linda, “Are you my daughter?”
It is, for now, a temporary thing and with his wits restored he tracks Hakan to where he is hiding, waiting for an American rescue that will never come. Hakan was a spy, we discover, but for the West not the East – and thirty years on, with the political climate changed, Uncle Sam isn’t especially interested.
There’s an old-fashioned, gentlemanly dignity to the confrontation between the two grandfathers. Kurt could let Hakan go, Hakan could shoot Kurt, but they both know that it would not be the right thing to do. There is a last twist, though. On the boat taking them back to the mainland. Kurt loses focus again, and Hakan takes the opportunity to jump overboard and let the water take him instead.
With the mystery solved, the final scene sees Wallander apparently resigned to the slow decline he faces. “My memories… My life doesn’t join up,” he says to the air. (Or rather, to a brief cameo of David Warner as Kurt’s late father which doesn’t entirely work.)
For what has been billed as unequivocally the last ever episode, it’s surprisingly open-ended.
Although Kurt has left the police service, the medical outlook is that it may be five or six years before he becomes really ill – and as the Wallanders enjoy a stroll along the sunlit beach and the credits roll, it feels more upbeat and decidedly less final than we might have expected.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 5 June 2016 on BBC One.
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