In the vein of Born to Kill (Laurie Palmer) and Twin Peaks (Laura Palmer), a girl – Nanna Birk Larsen- has been murdered and the duration of this series focuses on unravelling the hugely complex case of Nana’s murder.
Nanna Birk Larsen, according to friends and family, is an average and happy 19 year old who attends college. One morning she fails to turn up after having stayed the weekend at her friend Lisa’s house. An item of clothing and Theis Birk Larsen’s (Nanna’s father) video store card are found in the woods. There’s no body, no sign of a kill site and no one seems to know anything about her disappearance. Detective Sarah Lund – head of investigations at the Copenhagen homicide department – is leaving Denmark with her son to go and live with her partner in Sweden. On her very last day a call comes in about a missing student and Sarah and her replacement, Jan Meyer, look into the case. The duo constantly come up against lies and inaccurate information and as soon as they think they have the culprit new evidence surfaces and they are back to square one.
Spread over 20 episodes running at an hour each (each episode chronicles one day in the investigation),The Killing is a sprawling and well crafted murder mystery thriller full of red herrings. I think I counted about 15 suspects all up. I wouldn’t advise watching them all in a row as I did – they are very addictive – but the constant change in suspects becomes a bit of a tease ala Prison Break. I simply had to watch them all in a row because I can’t focus on anything once I have a taste of a good show, I simply have to watch it all at once.
Although the circumstances around Nanna’s death are very extraordinary such as political ties (the show has a very strong political commentary akin to HBO’s The Wire), The Killing is very rooted in realism. Not only is detective Lund realistic in her portrayal of an over dedicated cop, she’s very understated. From characters and the visual atmosphere of the show to the lack of gun fights and car chases, The Killing has a realistic, brooding and very European feel to it that is consistent throughout. Many characters also get the chance to develop and this is what sets The Killing apart. We see Nanna’s mother and father suffer through the media implications, the constant to-and-fro of murder suspects and also suffering the loss of a child.
I prefer stories like The Killing that are played out over time rather than the typical US crime dramas that lean towards being purely episodic. There’s something more appealing with this format as the character development has more verisimilitude, perhaps because it demands more of your time and attention and the character develops fluidly; also having character live more than one episode is another plus.
An intense and unpredictable thriller that holds you right to the end, you can never be one step ahead. If you are one who likes everything to be wrapped up and explained then the ending might frustrate you as not everything is wrapped up 100%.
The Killing runs for 1080 minutes and is a six-disc box set.
The Killing is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.