The Killing

August 22nd, 2011

It seems that Denmark is not only the home of bacon, Hamlet, and extremely high quality modernist furniture, the Danes can also craft a pretty damn good piece of crime-based TV.  The Killing is a 20 part series about a murder that sits somewhere between that tradition of sparse Scandinavian psychological thrillers and The Wire.

Comparisons to The Wire abound, in fact, not least on the cover of the boxed set, and it’s a comparison that is apt in many ways and not so much in others.  Both series try and take a broader view of society than you’d get in your common or garden cop show, with the Killing focusing on the family of the victim, the police investigation, and the effect on an ongoing political campaign.  Both series aim at a realistic and cynical look at society and police work.  The Killing less than The Wire, perhaps, but with its suspect politicos, dodgy hair and crap knitwear it’s still admirably unglamorous.  Both series have an impressive knack for presenting a variety of complex, multifaceted and convincing characters from all walks of life, a happy meshing of script and acting with a trick for expressing relationships through manner and movement without anything even needing to be said.  The developing relationship between obsessive chief investigator Lund and her hammer-headed partner/replacement Meyer, largely communicated in occasional glances and the way they stomp around after each other, is a particular delight.  The most minor characters here exude personality, which is particularly impressive given I have to watch in subtitles.

The Killing is excellent for twists and misdirection.  Some revelation will have you suspecting one character before a sideways glance or throwaway line will suddenly have you looking elsewhere.  The touch is deft, but some of the secrets people choose to keep from the police therefore allowing themselves to continue as suspects – in a brutal murder, after all – sometimes stretch credibility.  And despite its occasional forays into the nature of people and politics, the Killing remains essentially a whodunnit.  A clever one, no doubt, but where the Wire transcends its genre – the question there is never who did the crime, but why – The Killing remains bound by it, and the plot twists and turns so much that by the end you cannot but have suspected pretty much everyone with a credit.  As a result the resolution is maybe a tad anticlimactic.

So The Killing isn’t quite the masterpiece the Wire was but, hey, what is?  It’s still excellent telly.

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on August 22nd, 2011.

14 comments so far

  • Chad says:

    Do yourself a favor and never compare it against the US version on AMC. Horrible (AMC’s version, that is.)

  • Khaldun says:

    Anything that can even be compared to The Wire is worth watching. Will check it out. Assuming you’re talking about the Danish version and not the US version?

  • AO says:

    The U.S. version was a crime against humanity and an abomination in the eyes of God(s) and man.

    Okay, there may be a *tad* bit of hyperbole in the above sentence, but not much. To add insult to injury, the U.S. Exec Producer does not seem to understand any of the criticism against her, and was happy to end the show without revealing the killer’s identity (if it had not been granted a 2nd Season, which was a toss up as the show’s ratings were on the bubble between cancelation and renewal).

    I wish that I had skipped the U.S. version and watched the original instead, but that’s hindsight. I may go back to watch the Danish version, but the problem with that is that American critics and discussions have spoiled some key elements, such as who the killer is.

  • Jens says:

    My wife and me were totally addicted to this great series when it was aired in Germany two years ago. The second season is almost as great as the first one.

  • SwindonNick says:

    “high quality modernist furniture”???????? Or MFI as we once called it?

  • Jens,
    Glad to hear quality stays high – they’re broadcasitng that here later this year.

    Swindon Nick,
    Put ‘Hans Wegner’ or ‘Finn Juhl’ into Google images, you bloody heathen.

  • SwindonNick says:

    “Put ‘Hans Wegner’ or ‘Finn Juhl’ into Google images, you bloody heathen” – are these characters that will be appearing in “Country of Red”/”A Red Country”?

  • chris upton says:

    Now if you really want hard boiled,bleak,Mike Leighesque kitchen sink realism then may I recommend ‘Castle’ staring Nathan Fillion. A struggle of one man and his mullet against political corruption and public indifference.
    Makes TJ Hooker look like Starskey and Hutch.

  • chris upton says:

    Swindon Nick.
    I was down in swindon a few days ago. Its still a hive of scum and villainy.

  • Khaldun says:

    @Chris Upton
    Love Castle. Nathan Fillion can make the crappiest lines just work somehow. Writing ‘has’ been getting better though.

  • SwindonNick says:

    Chris Upton,
    Indeed it is and best avoided, so what on Earth were you doing here…..?

  • chris upton says:

    Swindon Nick-An all male production of 12th Night. I was a very rotund Viola.
    Khaldun-Fillion is a decent actor and makes Castle a guilty pleasure.

  • SwindonNick says:

    Did the Scum and villans come to your performance?

  • chris upton says:

    No. It was in Bristol. Doing it again at the New College Swindon on 14-15th sept though. Seeing me in drag is a life changer I can assure you.

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