Why Everyone Should Watch The Killing

The third series of The Killing kicked off on BBC III last night. Sod X Factor and Strictly and get stuck into it...
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The third series of The Killing kicked off on BBC III last night. Sod X Factor and Strictly and get stuck into it...

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This article was originally published ahead of Series 2 last November...

Sticky pastries, Muhammed cartoons, Peter Schmichael, Lego, Carlsberg  and Color Climax. This was pretty much all I knew about Denmark… until “The Killing”. Since BBC Four quietly introduced this mesmerising whodunit way back in January I’ve discovered a new respect for all things Danish.

I’ve become enchanted by wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, the show’s panoramic shots of its terracotta rooftops and dark, cobbled streets - steadfastly refusing to give up its secrets as the haunting soundtrack of this deliciously complex crime drama fades in to signal the end of another episode.

I’ve started to mimic the gurgling, chirpy dialect -  “Tak!!”.

I’ve marvelled at how much coffee they drink. “Kaffe? Tak!”

I’ve logged on to that website to see about getting the missus one of those sweaters.

“280 euros? - No Tak!”

I’ve read countless blogs that debate loose ends, plot holes and knitting patterns. I’ve bitten my lip and fought to hold back unmanly tears as I’ve shared the raw grief of the Birk Larsens. I’ve fallen in love with a wide eyed, nicotine gum chewing cop who never sleeps. I’ve watched with jaws agape at the sheer quality of the acting. I’ve been totally sucked in to an intricate web of deceit by the best Danish writers since Hans Christian Anderson.

Hidden away on BBC Four, it’s amazing that a subtitled foreign crime drama drew a bigger audience than Mad Men, but ultimately, I’d rate The Killing as the greatest crime series to come out of Europe. Ever. I’ve watched all 20 hours of it, and then watched it all over again. I’ve even watched the American remake. In its own right this is a fairly decent piece of television, but after you’ve seen the original it’s like comparing Danish bacon to Linda McCartney’s Veggy rashers. (If you’re searching for it online try using the original Danish title - Forbrydelsen to avoid confusion.)

For those lucky few who haven’t seen it yet it’s difficult to discuss much of the plot without committing the unforgivable crime of dropping spoilers. So I won’t start here. Much.

Basically a young woman (Nanna Birk Larsen) has been murdered and Deputy Superintendent MILF Sarah Lund has been forced to head the investigation – on her last day in the job! New recruit Jan Meyer is her replacement and whilst the case is ongoing they are forced to work together, their opposing personalities slowly being drawn together to form one of the finest cop partnerships since Hill and Renko.

Cool under pressure , intuitive and unafraid to bend the rules she won’t let anything stand in the way of her intuition. She won’t let go.

In their hunt for the killer there’s more twists and turns than a curly wurly, more red herrings than a kipper factory, but what every critic points out it is how dark it all seems. And wet. It reminds me of Carlisle. Yet despite its bleakness - it looks beautiful. Hell, it even sounds great. A piano knocks out a simple three note motif to accompany every poignant moment - and there’s plenty of them, but for all the incessant trauma, “The Killing” is totally rewarding and will satisfy your soul as much as “The Wire” or “The Sopranos” ever did. Like these shows it is driven not so much by its great writing, but the depth of it’s well rounded characters.

Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabol) looks like Jenny Agutter, but (by her own admission), plays it like Clint Eastwood. Cool under pressure , intuitive and unafraid to bend the rules she won’t let anything stand in the way of her intuition. She won’t let go. She’s like a Rottweiler with a postman’s leg - willing to mess up her career and personal life to nail the bad guy (it wasn’t the postman). She makes a few mistakes on the way, but there’s a glorious scene near the end where all her chickens come home to roost.

Pernille Birk Larsen (Ann Eleonara Jorgensen), the mother of Nanna, the murdered girl, is simply incredible. Two harrowing scenes in particular will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – the church and the hotel bedroom. I’ll say no more, but to watch her character visibly disintegrate in every episode is totally heartbreaking.

Then there's Theis Birk Larsen (Bjarne Henriksen) Nanna’s father - a bear of a man with a very shady past. What he lacks in dialogue, he more than makes up for with simple grunts and steely eyed looks that convey more than a hundred words could say as he struggles to keep a lid on his simmering rage. He’s a fearsome fellow, but very likeable. The scene in the toilet of the petrol station is impossible to watch without feeling totally choked at the primal outpouring of his grief. He practically lives in dungarees.

Troells Hartmann (Lars Mikkelsen) is the ambitious and charismatic politician who finds himself drawn in to the case from day one as his car has been used to murder the girl. We see him either battling to keep his party together or trying to keep his face out of the news for all the wrong reasons. There is one moment where I thought he was going to get off with Lund, but the writers probably thought better of it. Mikkelsen is a fine actor who kept us guessing all the way. Decent suits too. No tie.

After the final episode I was relieved to hear a second series of “The Killing” had already aired in Denmark and is due to be shown on BBC Four this Saturday (19 November). Only two characters survived in to this new series (Lund and Brix), but there is the same cocktail of murder and politics to look forward to with a story line that involves the Danish Army in Afghanistan. To be honest I couldn’t wait and downloaded it from a torrent site, but the subtitles were so poorly translated I abandoned it after one episode. I wanted to savour it in its full glory, but I saw enough to realise we are definitely in for a treat - or as they say in Denmark… probably!

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