Young Wallander Season 1, Episode 1 recap: Kurt Wallander hunts a killer

Young Wallander - Courtesy of Netflix
Young Wallander - Courtesy of Netflix /

Young Wallander Episode 1 recap: Kurt witnesses a hate crime.

As I mentioned in my primer, Young Wallander is a new prequel series about the famous fictional Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Young Wallander Episode 1 tells us that this series is going to be a rather grim and solemn affair with its dim lighting and dismal gray color palette.

The hour begins with Kurt (Adam Pålsson) and his partner Reza (Yasen Atour) dealing with run-of-the-mill assignments like a noise complaint and an obnoxious partier. Finishing up for the night, the two commiserate, and we learn Reza will soon be leaving Kurt, who is a rookie, behind for a promotion to the Major Crimes Unit.

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At home, Kurt runs into his neighbors, a teenage kid named Ibra (Jordan Adene) and his mother, Mariam (Kiza Deen). Mariam is rebuking Ibra for fighting with some kids earlier. It seems Kurt is friendly with the pair as he chats with her after Ibra leaves. She’s trying to be protective because Ibra recently received a professional soccer contract. Her concern is that he’ll mess it up by doing something stupid.

Later, Kurt awakens from sleep to the blare of fire sirens emanating from a spare maintenance room in Rosengaard. He calls it in before entering the building himself to see an empty trash can full of flames. He puts out the fire and then emerges into massive commotion as all the neighbors flood outside to see what’s what.

It quickly becomes apparent that the fire merely a distraction from the real act of the evening. Kurt sees a young Swedish boy named Hugo Lundgren tied to a fence with duct tape across his mouth. Several teenagers are mocking him as they take pictures next to his squirming form. Ibra is present in the crowd.

Kurt pushes his way forward to try and get everyone to calm down and help Hugo, but before he can reach him, a mysterious man in a black hoodie rushes up and rips off the tape, revealing a grenade. Within moments, the M57 explodes, killing Hugo instantly and causing an uproar.

The young detective is traumatized by what he witnessed and cannot stop feeling guilty for not being able to prevent it. Detective Frida Rask (Leanne Best) tries to get some information out of him. He tells her the suspect appears to be a Middle Eastern man between 20 and 30 years of age. She then advises Kurt not to skip counseling.

Reza also tries to make him feel better, telling him he did what he could, and there’s no way he could have known Hugo had an explosive in his mouth.

Young Wallander Episode 1
Young Wallander Episode 1 – Courtesy of Andrej Vasilenko/Netflix /

Young Wallander Episode 1 recap: Kurt’s observational skills earn him a promotion.

It doesn’t take long for the cops to arrest their first suspect. Kurt is shocked to see Ibra sitting in the interview room. Even in a country as seemingly progressive as Sweden, racism is still alive and well.

Kurt tries to plead with Rask that there is no way Ibra could have done something as heinous as this, so she lets him into the observation room to watch the interview unfold. He discovers Ibra previously threatened to kill Hugo, and they also found bullet casings in his bedroom.

Afterward, Kurt finds a way to get Ibra alone so he can question him about this. He admits to threatening Hugo but claims it was because they got into it during a soccer match as Swedish kids don’t always like being bested by someone who isn’t white.

According to Ibra, one of his mates also has detailed footage of the incident as they were filming Hugo’s humiliation for YouTube, at least before things turned ugly.

Following Ibra’s lead, Kurt finds a man named Bash (Charles Mnene) located near the apartment complex. He’s the top dog in the area. Ibra was one of his lookout boys. Kurt manages to convince Bash he’s trying to help them out since he knows Bash and his men didn’t kill Hugo, which means the threat came from outside.

Bash follows through and sends him the video footage they have. Unfortunately, right before a clear visual of the suspect comes into focus, the explosion happens, and the camera jerks out of focus.

Kurt’s next stop is to the restaurant where Mariam works so he can keep her up to date on the investigation. He says they have 96 hours to find some proof that Ibra was not involved, or they’re probably going to charge him as a collaborator. She wants to know if Kurt believes in Ibra’s innocence, Kurt dodges the question and says it’s not about that.

“It’s about what we can prove.”

As if he’s destined to be involved with this case, Kurt stumbles upon another clue in the parking lot of his apartment complex. He notices a green van that he only saw for the first time on the night of the murder. The way Kurt explains it to Rask and Detective Hemberg (Richard Dillane) when he calls them is that there is an unwritten rule in the lot where residents park in their space, nowhere else.

He knows every car in the lot, except this one. Hemberg jimmies the lock on the truck and lo and behold — they find a piece of duct tape. After contacting the precinct with the license plate numbers, Rask verifies the car was purchased a few weeks earlier in cash by a man whose description fits the one Kurt gave to her earlier.

Hemberg is impressed by Kurt’s keen observation and his connections to the area. Even his friendship with Ibra is waved away as a positive if it means he’ll open up to him easily.  Hemberg wants Kurt promoted to Major Crimes to be part of the investigative team, but that means knocking Reza out of the running.

Considering Kurt just returned from a farewell party for Reza, and he’s one of his close friends, it’s a painful betrayal he’s not interested in making, but Hemberg won’t take no for an answer and orders the swap.

Kurt confesses what happened to Reza that night over dinner. He’s as understanding as he can be, but it’s an uncomfortable moment for both men, especially when you notice how welcomed Kurt is at their home.

Reza’s daughter calls him “Uncle Kurt,” and his wife Jasmine (Sara Seyed) kindly asks Kurt how his relationship with Helena is going. Earlier in the episode, Kurt and Lena met up at a bar, and he proposed getting serious with her, she did everything but laugh in his face.

“Before a relationship, I suggest a therapist.”

So, that’s over.

Worst of all, though, is that Reza and Jasmine recently exchanged houses and were ready to move into a bigger place. Now Reza wants to keep his demotion secret from his wife, but how will he pay the new mortgage?

Young Wallander Episode 1 recap: An anti-immigration march turns even uglier.

Back at work the following day, Kurt, Reza, and the other officers gear up for the anti-immigration march. It’s unsettling how familiar all of this looks to me as an American.  The entire event is a powder keg of racism, anger, and emotion ready to blow, especially as counter-protestors arrive.

Eventually, a white supremacist group shows up chanting about purity and trying to rush a church hiding several immigrants. The cops form a chain to prevent the members from breaking through as they foam at the mouth to “take down the church.”

Someone yells bomb, and chaos reigns. Then, Kurt notices the same man from Hugo’s murder emerge from the church and gives chase, leaving his fellow officers —  including Reza — behind to get a serious beatdown from the protestors.

Kurt corners the man, but struggles with the cuffs, giving him a chance to break free, stab Kurt in the gut, and make a  break for it. In the final moment of the episode, Kurt begins to bleed as he sinks to the ground and tosses out a flare in the hopes someone will find him before it’s too late.

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Stray Observations from Young Wallander Episode 1

  • I really hope there’s more to the story than a Middle Eastern man supposedly being a terrorist threat of some kind. Hollywood has done enough damage in making Islamophobia mainstream.
  • As the Ready Steady Cut recap points out, Young Wallander Episode 1 does a great job at “painting a picture of deep mistrust on all sides of the law and community.”

Did you enjoy Young Wallander Episode 1? the whole season is now streaming on Netflix.