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.