The brutal murder of a young girl launches an extended police investigation. Detective Sarah Lund is supposed to leave for a new life in Sweden, but can't bring herself to leave the case behind. The girl's parents and friends struggle to cope with their loss. Troels Hartmann is campaigning to be mayor of Copenhagen, but struggles when links are revealed between city hall and the murder. Over a time span of twenty days, suspect upon suspect is sought out as violence and political pressures cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer. Two more seasons follow about a series of killings of soldiers and the abduction of an industrial magnate's daughter.Written by
Peter Brandt Nielsen
Where the murder of a teenage girl uncovers the worst kind of dirt.
I don't watch a lot of TV, but I'm quite partial to Danish thriller productions which I generally rate more highly than British, and even others well known for quality work – for example, Swedish, German and French.
This multilayered narrative, with three interwoven stories: the investigation of a grisly murder; a tough female police detective in the midst of marital problems; and the shenanigans of a local mayoral election – all merge, in different ways, in the process of discovering the identity of the murderer.
It's a long process, however, covering twenty episodes (which I saw on SBS TV). Viewer's interest is captured from the outset with the circumstances surrounding the murder crime scene which opens up the mystery. From my perspective, though, one of the most interesting aspects of the entire series is the slow, plodding work so well portrayed by the script, actors and director. To some extent, it reminded me of the excellent work the British did do with the series from mid-1960s to mid-1970s, called Softly, Softly, still one of the best TV cop shows ever made.
It's the unrelenting search for the killer by Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabol) – despite internal police politics – that kept this viewer hooked, initially. That alone, in a lesser quality production, is often not sufficient, however. In The Killing, though, that initial hook just dug deeper into my psyche – with an imaginative and believable script that managed to shift suspicion from one character to another, week by week: a local school teacher, a mayoral candidate, a local political lobbyist, a small time criminal, among others – but all the while keeping the viewer guessing. Additional murders occur as the story unfolds, further muddying the waters.
If you are familiar with Danish productions, then you'll know that you won't be disappointed in the production standards, the acting, directing and photography; and the sound track, particularly, is appropriately haunting. My only criticism is that the good detective's marital problems, although a necessary plot device, are just a mite intrusive for my liking. However, without those complications, Sarah would not have stayed on the case. And, just as well...
As all good narratives should, the beginning foreshadows the ending, with sufficient – although oblique and ephemeral – clues along the way to point the viewer in the right direction. So, when watching this series, you really can't afford to miss one frame if you want to play detective – and get it right. While I vacillated between suspects, my choice for "the bad guy" (which I should not reveal, of course) ultimately proved correct. Overall, the story is an engaging, intelligent and all-too-believable mystery that will not disappoint.
And, to that extent, The Killing is equal to my personal favorite in TV whodunits: The Singing Detective (1986) which, although somewhat spoofy, is nevertheless a fascinating personal mystery and the most imaginative use of music in drama I've yet seen.
As a final note, I read recently that The Killing has been redone for American TV. One can only hope that the production is equal to the Danish.
(Update March, 2018: Recently, I re-watched this first series and found an interesting connection. In Episode 12 of The Killing, there appears Lars Simonsen - as Peter Larsen, a briefly potential suspect in the killing, but cleared. In Episode 18, Kim Bodnia - as Bulow, Internal Affairs Investigator -
enters the scene, hounding Sarah Lund. Both men appear as major characters in The Bridge, Series 1.)
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