A new series has appeared on Netflix aimed at tracing the past of the iconic fictional detective Kurt Walander – the creation of Swedish crime writer Henning Mankel and the subject of numerous books and three previous TV shows. The character is the latest in a growing long line of pop culture choices to give an “original story” – a treat that was previously primarily reserved for comic book characters, but which has become increasingly prominent in film and TV storytelling in recent years.
The thing is popular, although the character may be good, after listening to this prequel series I was able to ask myself if anyone really needs a story for Wolander – isn’t he an interesting enough character? Well, Young Wallander does very little to dispel my doubts.
Aside from a few scattered mentions of the habit, Wallander fans know that Detective goes into his later life and the show goes into a very broad crime drama genre, with no resemblance to the different versions of the program we’ve seen Wallander before – above all because Where the character would have been even less. As a straightforward criminal drama it is decent enough – except for the particularly outstanding – but as the main story it seems completely unnecessary.
Another example is the upcoming Netflix series, Reached. The latest series from top TV producer Ryan Murphy (whose past work has included Glee and the American Horror Story franchise), Nurse Rached for All – provides an original story for those who act as the main opponent of a spiritual, oppressive nurse who flees the series Cuckoo’s Nest.
What makes Ratchatk a notable example of such source stories is that it is not only unnecessary, it also completely misses the point of the source material. One Flow Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – the 1962 Ken Casey novel and Milos Foreman’s masterful Oscar-winning film adaptation 13 years later – are powerful and relevant works precisely because they demonstrate the limitations of evil.
Nurse Ratchet’s character is not intended to be particularly wicked in a super-villain-esco way, but she is a symbol of a completely different and more subtle, but not a dangerous, wicked form – often driven by face-lifters that oppress bureaucrats. Providing an overly-dramatic inspirational story and proposing it completely refutes the original thesis of the fact that a woman always becomes a kind of ridiculous evil monster.
But even with that amount of source material not being explained, I would argue that in most cases of the original story there is very little work done to improve the characters whose pasts they are trying to explore. Often the thing that makes the best fictional characters so appealing is their magical nature: the ambiguous notion of a character’s inspiration may be exactly what makes them so sold, and so by providing a straightforward backstory, much of this mystery is lost. . Surely it is enough to know that a character is oppressed by their past without knowing every last detail of their personal history, or is driven by some secret remorse? Can’t we imagine something?
It’s related to why so many new series and films need to relate to an existing franchise, but it’s also significant to be somewhat different. This is something that is especially evident on the big screen and which I fear is similarly the growing signs of spelling on the small screen. If you look at the box office figures for a given year in the last decade, it will be interesting to see how the fotic fares are filled with less spots. It is clear that the franchise movie has qualities but it is isolated despite the lack of fresh ideas and new characters.
Of course, the existence of these source stories does not in any way detract from the quality of the originals – and in the modern era it has never been easier to avoid the things you want in abundance than the offerings in film and TV. But in my opinion so many movie studios, TV networks and streaming platforms with the idea of a story of excitement have left us hungry for some new, exciting characters – whose backgrounds are a bit more cloudy.
Looking for something else to watch Young Wallander is now available on Netflix? Check out our guide to Netflix’s best TV series and Netflix’s best movies or watch our TV Guide