Posted by: patenttranslator | May 22, 2015

The Best Mystery and Thought Provoking Bloodshed Is Now Found in Subtitled TV Cop Shows

The Krister Henriksson version of Wallander is by far superior to either the Ralf Lasgaard or the Kenneth Branagh versions. (The Branagh series was DIRE!). Henriksson IS Wallander, arguably one of the best cop shows on TV, helped by the superb supporting cast. I have the complete series on CD they are watchable time and again. Did’nt Charlotta Jonsson make a good Linda?

From a comment on Youtube by a commenter in Lancashire, England.

There was a time when good thrillers were produced in Hollywood. “Three Days Of The Condor” with Robert Redford was one of them. “Silence Of The Lambs” with Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins was another one, and I liked “Panic Room” and “The Brave One” very much too.

These days, I am supposed to watch The Game of the Thrones instead. I tried, but my inner child must have died a long time ago and now I am too big for fairy tales about nothing, no matter how fantastical they may be. Or maybe I am too smart for these flashy, extravagant, extra-expensive circus shows, or maybe too stupid, take your pick.

There is probably something wrong with me if I need to be able to identify with the theme of a movie or TV series that I am watching, and I don’t know how to do that when I watch Vin Diesel chasing yet another evildoer in his sport car or turning yet another’s villain’s face into a bloody pulp again. When the conflict between good and evil, the very foundation of a good thriller, whether it is told by Sophocles, William Shakespeare, or Georges Simenon, is absent in films that are based mostly on car chasing, boxing, fighting and shooting, I get bored after about 20 minutes.

Life really is about the conflict between good and evil, is it not? Especially since what appears as evil to one person may represent an unquestionably good and noble purpose to somebody else.

There is one cop TV series on US cable channels that I watched this year that is not too bad. It is called “Banshee”. But it is mostly carried by the incredible performance of one person, Anthony Starr, an actor from New Zealand who plays the role of a fake sheriff named Lucas Hood. But the fake sheriff is actually an escaped convict who killed the real sheriff in self defense in a bar fight (just like in Bob Marley’s song “I killed the sheriff”). I watched about half a dozen episodes, but in the end I got tired of the predictably choreographed final bloodshed scene. There probably will not be a tragic, Macbethean end to Lucas Hood – how could they let such a cute guy who has tens of thousands of female followers on Twitter die in the end?

Although my cable package used to include all of the movie channels, I have not seen a good new American cop show on my TV in a very long time. So I eventually canceled all of them except for HBO, but I almost never watch HBO either because I can’t find much worth watching on it either.

If I want to watch a good thriller or cop show these days, I go to Netflix and look for films or TV series in foreign languages. This year I watched three excellent, non-Hollywood TV cop shows on Netflix. As far as I know, these foreign-language TV series are not shown on any of the US cable TV channels. American TV channels only seem to show reruns of old American TV cop shows, with lots and lots of commercials thrown in between car chasing, shootouts and other staples of this particular genre. But I don’t watch these TV shows because I can’t stand the long periods of loud, idiotic commercials, which make my movie viewing experience about as enjoyable as coitus interruptus.

The last time I watched shows like this, while muting the commercials, was 30 years ago when I was working Saturday afternoon shifts as an employee of a Japanese travel agency on the top floor of an expensive hotel in San Francisco, because every Saturday, they were showing reruns of Inspector Colombo at 4 PM Pacific Time. I was mostly watching the Colombo reruns because there was nothing else to do there – once I confirmed that the flights of Japanese tour groups were on time, I was just there in case an interpreter was needed if something happened to a tour group.

The French TV Series “Spiral (“Engrenages”)

The series Spiral, called “Engrenages” in French, is a French cop show with a Season One that is 10 years old now. I was able to watch only Season Four, the last series on Netflix, because, as I found out from Internet, only Season Four is available on Netflix “due to a licensing issue”.

What can this “issue” be, I wonder? Most of the time, people use the word “issue” when they don’t want to say what they really mean and you are supposed to figure it out on your own (or not). For example, one of our neighbors told me that the cute puppy that she had recently bought or adopted “had issues”. Upon further questioning, I was able to find out that the puppy was pissing on the carpet in her house. I suppose the term “issue” sounded better to her than the perfectly neutral expression “housebroken”. Later I heard that she got rid of the poor puppy.

What struck me about Spiral right away was how believable were the actors in their roles of the police, judges, illegal immigrants, drug dealers and terrorists. They wear their roles as a second skin. Unlike in most American police drama, the main female cop-character is not really a beautiful woman, she is about 40, has several moles (beauty marks?) on her face and nasty commitment “issues” (she sleeps with her former boyfriend and lies to her husband). At the same time, she is one of the sexiest female cops from any police drama series that I can think of.

I found out from the Internet that the show was sold to broadcasters in some 70 countries, among them Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. United States of America is somehow missing for some reason. I think that the “issue” with this TV series was probably that Hollywood did not want the competition.

The Belgian TV Series “Salamander”

Another TV cop series that I really enjoyed this year was that Belgian series “Salamander”. I don’t think I ever watched a Belgian film before, let alone a TV series in 12 parts, although I did have Belgian beer and waffles before, and I have been to Liège and Brussels many years ago. I did not expect much from it, but the story drew me in right from the beginning in which bank robbers dig a tunnel to rob a bank. But instead of stealing just money, they steal the content of 66 safe deposit boxes belonging to bankers, politicians and generals and other prominent members of the Belgian crème de la crème, all of whom happen to be members of a secret society called Salamander that aims to take over power completely and get rid of what’s left of democracy in that small country. It turns out toward the end of the series that the seed money of the Salamander society is based on a murder from World War II committed to steal money from Belgian resistance to Nazi occupation.

The Salamander society is extremely powerful and extremely ruthless, it kills people who are in its way without a second thought. A cop called inspector Gerardi, who becomes a rogue cop early in the series because he disobeys the order not to go after a crooked, murderous banker, is the only person who is standing in their way now and they have to kill him first if their plans to openly take power are to succeed.

To me it sounds like a good theme for a Hollywood movie or cop show, especially since Hollywood is borrowing plots from European films all the time, and vice versa, of course. For example, “Talented Mr. Ripley” from 1999 with Mat Damon is basically a remake of the French film “Au plein soleil” from 1960 with Alain Delon (I saw both films, which are based on the novel “Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith). And I saw a French movie recently that I recognized as a remake of an American film … I can’t remember now what it was, maybe a reader can help me in the comments sections.

But of course, it would take a lot of courage to make a Hollywood movie that would dare to talk in these terms about bankers, generals and politicians, so instead, Hollywood put together yet another excellent, thought provoking movie full of special effects about …. Godzilla.

The Swedish TV Show “Wallander”

I have not seen a Swedish film since the seventies when I saw half a dozen Ingmar Bergman’s films at a film club, the last one was “Cries and Whispers” in 1972. I watched Episode Eight yesterday and I will probably watch Episode Nine this evening and then all the other ones provided that Netflix has all the 32 episodes (I sincerely hope it does).

The TV series, which is based on novels by Henning Mankell, a Swedish author of mystery novels and dramatist, has also been adapted into a series in the English language in which the Swedish inspector Kurt Wallander is played by Kenneth Branagh.

I will probably not watch the English version with Kenneth Branagh. Although he is among my favorite actors, it would probably clash too much with the Swedish version of the series in my mind and maybe it is DIRE! as the commenter from Lancashire, England, put it on Youtube.

Every episode of the Swedish series, in which inspector Kurt Wallander is played by Krister Henriksson, is 90 minutes long, just like a regular movie, and it usually starts with an apparently senseless murder of an innocent person, just like a good mystery should. Viewers then discover during each episode the reason that led to that murder, and by the end of it, several murders are usually committed.

But although there may be an occasional car chasing, a shootout scene or a sex scene thrown into the mix for good measure, the episodes are not mostly about car chasing, or shootouts or sex. The plots of each episodes seem to be crafted to force the viewers to take another look at the constant fight between good and evil, while thinking about their own lives.

This is something that only a few books, plays or films can do to me, but it happened to me so far with every single episode of the eight 90-minute-long films I watched so far this month. Today being a Friday, around 8 PM I will first go through the HBO channels on my TV. I think I have about 8 of them, but the chances that I will find anything worth watching there are pretty slim. Then, at 8:30 PM, I will check to see whether there is an interesting French movie on TV5 Monde, the only French channel that I can get here, and if there is not, I will switch to Netflix and watch the incredible performance of Krister Henriksson who plays an aging, lonely Swedish inspector who walks his dog on a beach near his house, a house that is full of old-fashioned records with classical music, in Episode Nine of Wallander.



  1. I’ve very much enjoyed “Engrenages/Spiral” (the translation is highly debatable, because “spiral” gives totally the wrong idea. I assume the point of calling it “Engrenages” was to reflect the way all the various parts of the French judicial/police system intermesh with each other) – although one of the series seemed to be pretty much a rehash of one of the previous ones. “Salamander” wasn’t as good, though I still appreciated the opportunity to improve my Dutch, or rather, Flemish, comprehension (this is the great thing for us translators – we can watch TV *and* put it down as CPD!).

    The other one to look out for is a Danish series called “The Killing”, I think it was (you can tell I haven’t watched it, can’t you?). That was very popular, although I kept forgetting to record it and see.


  2. Thanks, I’ll take a look at the Danish series once I run out of “Wallender”.


  3. Those all sound excellent – thank you for the recommendations.

    Here’s one for you: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. There are two seasons. It’s set in Melbourne in the 1920’s and boasts, in addition to clever plot lines and a very low does of gratuitous violence, strong characters that grow and develop. And incredible clothing styling, not limited to women.

    That last bit matters to me because of my academic interests (the use of textiles in the mythological corpus of Bronze Age Mesopotamia; I am blessed with focused and somewhat eccentric obsessions) and because of the way it tells its own story it tells of choices made before, during, and since that time, there and in other places.

    Useful to know when you run out of “The Killing” – which is also a wonderland of excellent textile (the sweaters).


  4. Thank you very much, Shunra.

    I will check it out.


  5. I agree – most series are a waste of time, especially with car chases, crashes etc. My favourite female lead is in “Body of Proof”.


  6. Also, “Mysteries of Laura” provides useful down time from engineering manuals…


  7. Thanks for the tips. I looked up “Body of Proof” and “Mysteries of Laura” on the Internet and I will give them a try.

    One reason why I wrote this post was that I figured hat other people might give me useful tips and it seems to be working!


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