Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Wallander - "Firewall"
I reviewed the first episode of the three part series here, if you want to read it, but this review is for the second episode of the show Wallander, starring the great Kenneth Branagh. To summarize the show, I thought it was really good, but not great; the acting was terrific; but the relationship angles were more interesting and complex than the mystery angle itself. Does the same hold true for the second episode, entitled "Firewall"?
This time, Wallander is investigating the murder of a taxi-cab driver by an 18 year-old girl and the seemingly unrelated heart attack of a perfectly healthy man near a cash machine in a public square. The only possible connection is a computer system with a strange and menacing code constantly running. While Wallander deals with this, his daughter has signed him up for internet dating, and he begins the awkward first few steps of dating with a beautiful woman named Ella.
While the first episode was interested in themes of fathers, sons, daughters, and the past, this episode is interested in espionage, terrorism and action. "Firewall" contains far more action and shooting than "Sidetracked" and is probably worse for it. It's more... American in execution than than the previous outing.
The mystery was uninspired and the technological aspect was woefully underwritten, same with the motivations and connections between the villains of the piece. This was undercooked and left a sour taste in my mouth.
The few saving graces for this episode were, of course, the top-notch acting from the cast, the relationship angle (again), and the rather cinematic direction. This time, instead of the weird colour palette, the director goes with a different visual motif of blurring the edges of the screen. It gives the proceedings a more ethereal feel to it. While I didn't much care for the effect itself, the use of it was intriguing and gave the show a flavour beyond bland cop-movie feel.
I mention the relationship angle as a saving grace, but I add, with a caveat. Spoilers follow. It's a shame that the dating thing starts out so promising, giving depth and poignancy to an otherwise by-the-books cop-action show, but then devolves into a twist, mangling the character of Ella into a tiny conspiracy. It robs Wallander of any character development whatsoever.
While "Sidetracked" aspired to levels of stirring emotion, drawing parallels between the circularity of abuse, "Firewall" aspires to telling a ripping yarn. Normally, this wouldn't be a bad thing, but in comparison to the first episode, I found it superficial and disengaging.
If I had seen "Firewall" first, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it slightly more, but the computer angle and the - frankly - boring villain would have still stuck in my craw. It's still a high quality detective show, and I still look forward to the next episode. It just isn't up to the par previously set.