Van der Valk debuted in the 1970s, starring Barry Foster (Frenzy) as Commissaris Simon "Piet" van der Valk. The series, which first aired in 1972, was a massive hit in the U.K. and was brought back in 1977, featuring a completely different cast with the sole exception of Foster in the title role. However, the series was considered to be too contemporary for Masterpiece Theater at the time and did not reach American shores until its 1990s era revival (again with a whole new cast, save Foster), where it ran first on nascent cable channel A&E before being picked up for the second run by local PBS stations.
How times have changed! Masterpiece jumped on board the Van der Valk reboot in 2019 as co-producer, with the new series kicking off the Fall 2020 season. Lockdowns delayed Season 2's arrival until 2022, but Season 3 was already filming before the second season was done airing in the states. However, it's been a year since Season 2 and three since the show's premiere, so here's everything you need to remember about the series ahead of its Season 3 debut.
For those who remember the 1990s era series (or have watched the 1970s episodes on streaming), the new series reimagined the characters. Piet Van der Valk (Marc Warren) is no longer a happily married man with a lovely house and a comfortable life. He is single and living in a houseboat. His wife, Arlette, is dead in this version, drowned in a car after they were run off the road by Theunis Visser, Van der Valk's old boss and mentor, who he discovered was corrupt and brought to justice. His assistant, Johnny Kroon, is now Job Cloovers (Elliot Barnes-Worrell), still a naive innocent, but one with a heart of gold, a knack for creative use of found objects against antagonists, and a family mystery.
Van der Valk's crew is also much more prominent than in the original, where it was him, his assistant, and the boss, Hoofd-commissaries Samson. The boss is still there, Hoofdcommissaris Julia Dahlman (Emma Fielding), and still dealing with the political fallout from Van der Valk's cases. But he also has a second in command and BFF, Lucienne Hassell (Maimie McCoy), Brad de Vries (Luke Allen-Gale), a hapless hunk of a sergeant, and Dr. Hendrik Davie (Darrell D'Silva) as his drunken pathologist. Plus, he has two non-officers who regularly help, such as barkeep Cliff (Mike Libanon) and barfly patron Homeless Frank (Peter van Heeringen).
Season 1 began with the arrival of Cloovers to the team and a case where a body turns up of a man who worked for liberal politician Paul Oosterhuis in a dead-heat campaign against right-wing opponent Ed de Klerk, who was already implicated in a gang bust Van der Valk took down the night before. Despite the political overtones and headaches, it turned out to be your run-of-the-mill child out-of-wedlock issue, derailing Oosterhuis' campaign and giving the election to de Klerk, much to Van der Valk's disgust. He and Hassell, who was just dumped by her girlfriend, end up getting drunk on his boat and crashing out.
Season 1's other two cases were similarly themed, where the case looked like it might have serious implications for scandal. A Muslim girl who was really into erotic medieval poetry and having an affair with a nun dies, a fashion vlogger with ties to the greening of the industry goes live on streaming, only for the camera to reveal him to be dead. However, in both cases, the politics was a red herring. The Muslim girl was killed by her twin sister out of jealousy, the fashion vlogger over professional backstabbing and potential fungal fabrics. The big shoot-out was with Visser's son, out for revenge for Van der Valk putting his father away, but Cloovers shoots the bad guy and saves the day.
Season 2 opened with Cloovers being exonerated for his role in killing Visser. Hassell is back with her girl, and Van der Valk also seems to have found someone, Lena (Loes Haverkort), who he is tentatively dating. Van der Valk is also tracking Cloovers, determined to find out why he lies about living with his mother when he is clearly homeless. The answer to that mystery turns out to be Cloovers' sister, an addict whom he is desperately trying to care for, even as he cannot actually bear to live with her, and Van der Valk offers him a place to stay, at least until he can get the situation figured out.
As for Season 2's cases, they begin with the case of a lawyer hanging from a windmill and a psychopath leaving notes of the extremely online kind. This one is a political problem, a man targeting those trying to evict a Romani-style hippie commune to build "The Amsterdam Eye." The ending also makes the news, as Van der Valk has to talk down the suspect, wearing a suicide bomb, in a speech broadcast around the web. Van der Valk succeeds in disarming the man, but the case shakes him, and he tries to break it off with Lena.
The second case isn't quite as dramatic; it's the death of the head of diamond merchants, which looks like a family feud. However, that is all a red herring, the matriarch of the family was faking her own death to escape the prison of her life. The final story brings back local law enforcement, the head of which was less than thrilled with Van der Valk's meddling in the premiere. It turns out to be a child sex ring case, and it turns out the head of the local bureau isn't the only one deeply involved in it; so are powerful businessmen all over Amsterdam. Van der Valk and his team find themselves battling the local police and the money to see justice done.
Van der Valk
As Van der Valk gets deeper into the case, he realizes he is really in love with Lena, and they get back together. However, the reunion is short-lived; she breaks it off when he asks her to move in, telling him she's getting married. Oops. Looks like Van der Valk will have to be happy about solving crimes and maybe find a new love interest in Season 3.
Speaking of Season 3, the big twist is the casting turnover, with Barnes Worrell and Allen-Gale out and two new recruits coming to the team. Fans will meet Django Chan-Reeves as Sergeant Citra Li and Azan Ahmed as Sergeant Eddie Suleman when the new season begins and learn how they cope with Van der Valk's brusque but effective ways. Season 3 will be changing time air time and format for PBS viewers, with the series now airing an hour later than its regular 9 p.m. ET berth and running six episodes (three two-part stories) instead of its regular trio of feature-length installments. So check your local listings and set your DVRs.
Van der Valk Season 3 debuts at 10 p.m.ET on most PBS stations on Sunday, September 3, 2023. All episodes will also arrive the same day for members to stream on PBS Passport for those who want to watch it as three feature-length episodes as initially intended. Again, check your local listings.