In some ways, the BBC are onto a hiding to nothing by adapting the Kurt Wallander novels of Henning Mankell. Firstly there are the afficiandos of the books who might be offended, then there are the lovers of the swedish adaptations that appear on BBC Four. However, thanks to Kanneth Branagh's brilliant performances, I think they have delivered in this second series, probably more than the first.
Branagh is astonishing. His acting is pitch perfect throughout the three episodes. By the last one in this series - The Fifth Woman - you almost feel like smashing through your screen to give him a hug. It's not just that he does misery well - and these shows are bleak, both in subject matter and style - but he also manages to get across the sudden bursts of hope that are almost more painful than the agony. The most impressive moment was when he learns of the death of a close relative. His face, his manner, his tone were all spot-on. It made me think of the moment when I heard about the death of the same person in my life; a jolting, uncomfortable moment for me, but one that left me pointing at the TV and telling my kids, solemnly, that's exactly what it's like.
The other pluses of the show are a strong supporting cast; superb locations; a haunting title track and his mobile phone ring tone - which just about undercuts all the wintry despair every time it trills.
I have read all three novels that these adaptations were based on and, yes, some elements of the books gets lost. I found this especially in 'Faceless Killers' where Wallander - in the book - is an utterly compelling train wreck, but Branagh more than compensates for the deviations and deletions from the source material in his performance. The man is Kurt Wallander.
I saw all of these on the telly, but I will be buying this set so I can put it next to those other Branagh masterclasses on my DVD shelf - Shackleton, Conspiracy and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.