The Weekend's Viewing: Wallander, Sun, BBC1
The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part 1, Sat, BBC2
Sinbad, Sun, Sky1
"She thinks I should leave things at the door a bit more, stop carrying all this stuff around," Wallander said to a colleague in last night's episode. "She" is Vanja, Wallander's new partner and "this stuff" is the Nordic thunderhead of gloom that generally hovers above Kurt wherever he goes.
It seems to be working. As he moved into his new house in the country – the fulfilment of a boyhood dream – the corners of Kenneth Branagh's mouth twitched unsteadily onto the horizontal and then, wonder of wonders, curled ever so slightly upwards. You needed a Large Hadron Collider to detect it but the scientists were in agreement. It was definitely a smile.
It couldn't last, naturally, though even dedicated viewers may have been surprised at the audacity with which the drama wiped the smile off Kurt's face again. With cardboard boxes still piled in every room, the dog hurtled out into the garden like a hairy guided missile and scored a direct hit on a murder victim buried beneath the hedge. In other words, it hardly matters whether Wallander brings his work home with him any more; he's moved in with it. "It's just a coincidence," said Vanja, in what may be one of the limpest consolations ever offered to a man who's just discovered that he's unwittingly purchased a murder scene. "Policemen aren't supposed to believe in coincidences," replied Wallander, the face now recognisable again as a mask of misery.
One corpse is never enough. Wallander's unpacking is also interrupted by the discovery of a severed human arm on a nearby beach, leading to the investigation of a murder on a ferry. And before half an hour is out, he's standing in a junk yard with two dead dogs and a colleague who's just had her head stoved in by a sledgehammer-wielding lowlife who pimps out his own daughters. Hardly surprising really that Wallander should find it difficult to relax at night, and it does raise the question of why so many viewers find this anguished panorama of human depravity and sorrow a soothing way to see out the weekend. It's not one I can answer myself.
While Branagh, one of the foremost Shakespearean actors of his generation, was playing the gloomy Swede, Tom Hiddleston and others were delivering the second part of The Hollow Crown, the BBC's new adaptation of the history plays. Henry IV Part 1 was adapted and directed by Richard Eyre and the first credit turned out to mean something more than mere editorial excision. For the opening of his film, Eyre had intercut and transposed Shakespeare's opening scenes, beginning at the Boar's Head with Falstaff and Hal and then cutting to Jeremy Irons' agitated, elderly king. It worked well, a visible shock of temperature difference between the roistering warmth of Cheapside and the chilly diligence of the palace.
What followed matched up to that opening, with Simon Russell Beale both touching and ridiculous as Falstaff and Hiddleston sorrowfully accepting that his days of delinquency are done. I thought Joe Armstrong just a little too loudly hot-headed as Hotspur but it was a flaw that failed to safety, and didn't disrupt what television discloses so brilliantly in the plays, which is the intensity of their head-to-head arguments. Eyre sensibly spent a bit of money on CGI for some wide shots of his battlefield but mostly pulled the camera in tight for the hard labour of combat – metal-beating work so exhausting that Hiddleston could barely gasp out his lines over the dead Hotspur. It's Shakespeare that's great, of course, but so far in this excellent series nobody has let him down.
Sky1's Sinbad is not aimed at me. Which isn't always a guarantee that I don't get hit anyway. Not this time. The action is muddled and unconvincing and the characterisation Saturday-matinee thin. Pre-war Basra looked impressive, though.
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