In the fine British tradition of Van Der Valk and Bergerac comes another crime series set in a foreign land populated by english speakers and utilising the scenery as another character. This is not to disparage it at all, but it's not a rarity.
What makes this show compelling is the very Swedishness of it, making it similar but somehow just a little off-kilter for the rest of the world - even if it isn't entirely what Sweden is like. The scenery locations and the sets are beautiful, evocative and lovingly shot with camerawork that makes every image something to hang on the wall.
But looks aren't everything. The storylines are convoluted, interesting, full of red herrings and clues (sometimes quite subtly placed for a detective series) and enjoyable, with the interplay between the characters and the main - Wallander - very natural.
Wallander himself, played believably by Branagh, cares too much for the people he's trying to help and hates himself when he fails, and is quite hopeless in his private life. No-one seems to understand his situation, not his family nor his workmates, and it's rare for him to crack a smile. Sure, he's a bit of a depressing character, but something about his wounded, caring detective makes you want to be on his side. Especially as people seem to have a habit of dying in front of him. It shatters him but he pulls together and carries on - this is not the American-style guns blazing, life is cheap type of show.
The combination then of good cinematography, moody music, believable characters, strong acting and sharp, intelligent writing make this a series that's well worth watching for people who like crime stories and those who like human tales. Just don't expect to come out of it feeling happy.