The Killing is a 13-part series that is both a murder mystery and an examination of the human condition during the hunt for a murderer. Told from the perspective of everyone affected by the murder from the investigators and politicians to the parents, the series is an intensely deliberate take on the popular cop show. Being an adaptation of a Danish program, The Killing has more in common with Girl With The Dragon Tattoo than say NYPD Blue.
The series is formatted so that each episode is a single day in the investigation of a teenage girl’s murder. Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is set to leave Seattle with her fiancé (Callum Keith Rennie, Battlestar Galactica) when she’s asked to transition the case to her replacement, a brash young cop who worked vice before moving to homicide. Enos, with a general every day working woman look about her, gives Linden an air of supreme attentiveness and tenacity.
In the USA series Psych, when the main character notices something in a room that object flashes; here Linden just looks, examines, analyzes, and then acts. You’re never given a “Look Here!” sign as the viewer, and sometimes you’re not entirely certain what the detective has discovered. But nothing is ever deliberately enigmatic; you’re simply following along with the investigation.
This is in stark contrast to Detective Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who jokes and uses sarcasm to keep people off balance. He’s new to the homicide game, and Linden isn’t totally sure what to make of the man, but he is observant and intelligent. You may not see asking high school girls if they want to “party” as a sign of intelligence, but Holder clearly learned a lot on the streets as a vice cop. He knows how the general populace operates, especially when trying to hide information.
The Killing is told in three threads. First is the investigation by the police, which almost feels like a noir film. From the reverent nature of the cinematography to the sodden Seattle landscape, the heart of the show is intense and gripping. Then there are the Larsens, Stan (Brent Sexton, Life) and Mitch (Michelle Forbes, True Blood), who have to frantically look for their daughter Rosie only to discover the worst thing a parent could imagine. The kinetic energy of the grieving family is wrought with emotion that rivals the stoicism employed during the police investigation scenes.
Finally we see things from City Councilman Darren Richmond’s (Billy Campbell) perspective as he prepares for the final leg of the election campaign for Mayor. It turns out that Richmond is somehow connected with the murder, or at least someone in his campaign could be, and we get to witness how the political machinations of a city can put added pressure upon a major homicide investigation.
The acting here is top notch, especially from Enos and Kinnaman as the two detectives. Enos beguiles not with traditional overdone sexiness, but with an earnestness that is backed up by her practical ponytail. Don't mess with a woman who wears her hair in a ponytail, she's probably smarter than you and is certainly more atune to her surroundings. Kinnaman plays off of Enos quite well, and brings a subtle intelligence to the role that isn't initially noticed. While the murder mystery aspect of the series is a little paint by the numbers, the fresh perspective of showcasing how everyone deals with it provides The Killing with a hook that makes the show worth taking a look at. It may be a little cold and calculating for some, but this is a show that builds steadily and intensely. Just a few episodes in and you’ll want more than anything to know what happens next.
The Killing airs Sunday, April 3rd at 9/8c on AMC.