Rounding out our series of shows about female law enforcement is The Killing, bringing the final count of countries covered to four. Northern Ireland ( The Fall ), England ( Happy Valley ), and New Zealand ( Top of the Lake ). This one is set in the States–Seattle, Washington. Female police aren’t interested in your nonsense no matter the geographic location.
The US version is based on the popular Danish show Forbrydelsen (The Crime), which ran for three series. Unlike the original, the remake follows one case through the first two series, then one case each for the third and fourth series. Like the original, each episode is one day of investigation of the current case.
The first two series are about the kidnapping and murder of Rosie Larsen, a 17 year-old girl who goes missing the weekend her parents are on a camping trip. Everyone within fifty feet of the Larsen family seems to have motive and means. It’s more about the way a violent, tragic crime reverberates out like ripples in a pond and how pain turns us into people we may not recognise. The strongest of the three cases, this one keeps the viewer guessing until the end. Of particular note is Michelle Forbes, who plays Rosie’s mother.
The start of the first series also introduces the viewer to detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). Linden is told to show Holder around, as it’s her last few days as a detective in Seattle–she’s moving away to get married. But as always happens when detectives try to leave their jobs, they catch one last case, so she and Holder wind up working together.
While Linden is the obsessive type of cop–a previous case nearly destroyed her–Holder has his own problems. Chiefly with drugs, which he got into working with Narcotics. Now he’s newly clean and moved into Homicide, where he works cases his own way. He’s a vegetarian, go-with-the-flow, Buddhist/Christian, laid-back sort of person. Linden is the focused on the case before her to the exclusion of life itself.
The third series concerns the lives of several street kids–one of whom goes missing. In Holder’s search for her, the bodies of several other murdered kids are uncovered. Linden, retired after the previous case, begins to suspect the man she put away several years ago (and who is about to be put to death) has been wrongly convicted. Her investigation reveals chilling information that brings her back into the police department and reinstates her as Holder’s partner, as it becomes obvious their cases are connected.
Stand out performances this series are given by Peter Sarsgaard, as the possibly wrongly-convicted murderer and Bex Taylor-Klaus as Bullit, one of the street kids playing at being tough who befriends Holder whilst trying to find her friend. Sarsgaard’s performance of a man on Death Row is almost difficult to watch it’s so immediate. It’s truly spectacular.
The fourth and final series, which was released in its entirety in August 2014 on Netflix, is about the massacre of a seemingly perfect family, the only survivor being the seventeen year old son who was shot in the head and has no memory of that evening. In the will, the boy, Kyle Stansbury (Tyler Ross), is sent to St George’s Military Academy where his guardian will be Colonel Margaret Rayne (Joan Allen). Stansbury’s classmates–one specifically–doesn’t make his life easy and is the one Kyle suspects killed his family.
Allen’s performance as the only woman in charge of a school full of male cadets, a woman with her own cache of secrets, going head-to-head with strong-willed Linden is compelling to watch. And Ross’ depiction of a boy who lost what little bit he had is impressive. The two main cadets (played by Sterling Beaumon and Levi Meaden) were convincing, if disturbing.
Throughout the fourth series Linden and Holder deal with the consequences of their actions at the end of the third series, and their respective responses are fascinating. Watching that situation play out was anything but boring.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the very end, which dealt not with the case, but with Linden and Holder. That will be the sort of thing that each person will feel differently about. It depends if you need everything to be wrapped up neatly or not.
The Vancouver landscape (where they film the show) stands in beautifully for Denmark (and Seattle) and the cinematography–all blue-greys–sets a chilly, serious tone. It reminds me of Henning Mankell novels, which is definitely a good thing.
There really aren’t any likable characters. Relatable, yes. It’s easy to understand why characters react the way they do to certain situations, but I can’t say I want to befriend any of the people on the show. So if you’re looking for that, go elsewhere, but if you’re looking for character-studies set in a morally (and visually) grey universe, then stop looking and watch The Killing.
Some episodes are hit-or-miss, but overall 5/5.