Saturday, 6 December 2014

TV Shows #6

The Killing U.S. Version (2011 - 2014)
Created By: Søren Sveistrup (original Danish version) Starring: Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Billy Campbell, Liam James, Michelle Forbes, Brent Sexton, Kristin Lehman, Eric Ladin, Brendan Sexton III, Jamie Anne Allman, Elias Koteas, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Julia Sarah Stone, Peter Sarsgaard, Gregg Henry, Tyler Ross

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 45 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "Be Careful What You Uncover"

Despite not having actually watched TV for over ten years now, generally speaking, there are a tonne of shows I still want to watch, either on DVD as I used to, or on Netflix or Amazon Prime as is more likely now. Therefore, when my wife suggested we watch The Killing I really wasn't that keen. I hadn't heard bad things about it, I hadn't heard anything about it in fact, I just had too many other shows I wanted to watch. But I know better than to argue these things so we started watching it. As you probably guessed, it's a serial crime drama but you may not know that it's based on a Danish show called Forbrydelsen, created by Søren Sveistrup. The US doesn't have the best track record of remaking shows or films from overseas so I was a little wary when I discovered this, but I was happy to find... it wasn't half bad.

The series is set in Seattle and stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman as detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder respectively. Linden (as she is almost exclusively known) is an experienced homicide detective who is about to move to California with her fiancé. On her last day on the job she's partnered with Holder, a rookie just transferred from vice and narcotics whose aggressive, confrontational style differs a great deal from her more reserved approach. Nonetheless, they are given a new case which quickly becomes a murder investigation when a car is recovered from a lake... with a dead teenage girl in the boot (or 'trunk' for American readers).

Spoiler Alert: I'll try not to reveal any major plot twists or cliffhangers with these posts but they may contain a few spoilers so if you haven't seen them and don't want to know anything, don't read!

Season One (13 episodes)

The first port of call for Linden and Holder is some local countryside where a bloody shirt and credit card are found. Though initially a missing persons case, it's not long before 17 year old Rosie Larsen's body turns up... in the back of a city council car used by mayoral candidate, Darren Richmond (Campbell). But he has an alibi. As I quickly learned, though, things are rarely as straightforward as they seem here. It's a show that's pretty much split in half too - much of our time is predictably spent with Linden and Holder as they investigate the crime and Rosie's life in general, and for some of that time they're still learning to trust each other (they both have issues - Linden's obsessive nature, Holder is a recovering addict). The rest of the time, however, is spent with Rosie's family (the parents, played by Brant Sexton and Michelle Forbes, as well as two younger boys) as they struggle with their grief and try to continue their lives. Despite the slow pace, though, both aspects of the show are thoroughly absorbing thanks to some great writing and fantastic performances... 9/10

Season Two (13 episodes)

After the twist at the climax of the first season, it seemed clear that the mystery of Rosie's murder had not been solved after all, and that meant Linden was soon on her way back to rainy Seattle, and more distrustful of Holder than ever. The renewed investigation soon points towards a nearby Native American casino and isn't helped by a largely uncooperative owner. Meanwhile, Darren Richmond recovers from the mental as well as physical wounds suffered during the previous season, faces up to a ghost from his past, and gets back on the campaign trail, and the struggles continue in what's left of the Larsen household as Stan does his best to look after his sons as well as keep the money coming in after Mitch, unable to cope, goes walkabout. So it's more of the same, basically, as I suppose it would have to be. After frustrating some by dragging out the mystery of Rosie's murder over two seasons, however, we do finally get the answers we have been crying out for this time around, and the finale was worth the wait, which proves as tragic as it was surprising... 8/10

Season Three (12 episodes)

Taking place around one year after the closure of the Rosie Larsen case, Linden has left 'the job' and Holder has a new partner - Carl Reddick (Gregg Henry). Their latest case, however - that of a missing teenage homeless girl - leads them back to Linden as Holder believes there is a connection to one of her previous cases. Having been drawn back in, Linden soon discovers 17 dead bodies in a remote pond - all young homeless girls reported as missing. Holder is convinced the perp is same person who killed an older woman some time before. The only trouble is, her husband, Ray Seward (Sarsgaard), is now on death row for her murder, put there as a result of Linden's investigation along with her partner at the time, James Skinner (Koteas). If Holder is right, not only do they need to find the real killer before he strikes again, but they need to do it before Seward is executed. So, it's a new case but another superb season of this gripping show, featuring a wonderful stand-out performance by Peter Sarsgaard which, along with the plight of the homeless girls, particularly Bullet (Taylor-Klaus), is profoundly affecting. Things get very personal for Linden, too, even for her standards... 8/10

Season Four (6 episodes)

As great as the last season was, it was also sadly the last... until Netflix brought is back for one final (short) season to wrap things up. It takes place immediately after the third season and sees Linden and Holder undertaking another new case - the murder of a rich family whose remaining member, Kyle (Ross), is a member of an all-boys military academy. This plot though, while pretty well done, is just something to keep our tired detectives working - the most interesting part of the story is Linden attempting to deal with her actions at the end of the previous season and their fallout, as well as Holder's attempts to cover them up and divert the growing suspicions of his old partner, Reddick. As you might imagine, it's this stuff that keeps you on the edge of your seat this time rather than the multiple-murder case, and it really is quite nerve-wracking at times too! I'm pretty sure it was the entire purpose of this season too, and thankfully it does mean we have get a proper conclusion to the show. For most people it will be a satisfactory one too... 7/10

Final Thought:

As much as I enjoyed watching The Killing from beginning to end, in some ways I'm not surprised that it wasn't more popular or well known. It's definitely not an action-based show for one thing. Indeed, it's probably the slowest-paced crime drama I've seen, with information and clues being drip-fed to our detectives as everything else in their lives continue, as everyone else's lives continue around them. Linden is a single mother, for example, and often neglects her teenage son as she obsessively puts in all the hours under the sun on her latest case.

Some viewers may also tire of the dark, sombre mood that permanently hangs over the show too. It's a show about investigating murder, I know - hardly the cheeriest subject at the best of times - but the gloom even extends to the look of the show. Many scenes take place at night or amidst downpours (Seattle really must be the rainiest city in the world!) but even in broad daylight nearly everything is grey or brown or another dark shade. I can't even recall any characters smiling or laughing or acting cheery in any way. Good lord, lighten up Seattle - just once?!

It's also very much a serial drama. It wouldn't be impossible to happen upon a single mid-season episode, having never seen the show before, and enjoy it - the quality of the acting, high production values, and the fantastic tension and atmosphere the production team build up is more than enough for that - but you wouldn't really know what was going on and, assuming you wanted to, you'd definitely need to go back and watch the previous episodes. In the modern era of television, though, that's a good thing rather than bad if you ask me - I do love getting stuck into a serial - but it does still demand a certain level of commitment as well.

None of this seemingly-negative stuff really matters with The Killing though. Not as far as I'm concerned anyway. Yes, each season (except perhaps the last) takes time to get going. Yes, all the characters are flawed and make mistakes. Yes, the world they inhabit is generally rather bleak. These things could make other shows (or films) rather unpleasant and unenjoyable but, aside from making things relatable here, it all just seems to work. I guess that's simply down to a great cast and production team doing their all, but it's still a fine achievement. I can definitely understand if some viewers don't take to this show, but for me, the often-clichéd world of the police procedural looks refreshingly different here.

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