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Series: The Killing (Forbrydelsen)


I don’t know when it happened, but there was once a divide. A gulf which separated the kind of criminal justice television shows that your grandmother watched and those who considered themselves to be on the cutting edge of happening. The Matlock / Miami Vice divergence. The Murder She Wrote / Knight Rider rift, if you will. For the most part that divide has vanished, or at least it has transformed.

Now days it’s like some tectonic plate has shifted in television land, causing a great mountain range — constructed mostly from shitty faux-reality and celebrity cooking shows — to loom up between the two ends of the crime drama spectrum. The result is that it’s not so much uncool verses cool now, as it is boring verses sensational. Nestled in the shadow of this great orogeny belt, the only thing that grows are sausage-factory, clone, cop-shows, which all manage to solve each and every case in a nice, neat, forty three minutes, leaving plenty of time for commercials. Indistinguishable from one another, these predictable serials are about as mentally nourishing as the cardboard box they come in (see what I did there?).

There is some respite though. Out of the shadow, on the top of the television Alps, some gleaming nuggets have been forced from the earth. But at these dizzying heights terms like gritty and cutting edge are really just translations for sensational and violent. Sure, it is television that makes you think, but mostly it makes you think about locking your doors and hiding from the very people who are supposed to be out there protecting us.

Fortunately, Denmark is quite flat. Topographically speaking. That is the only reason that I can give for the quality of the series “Forbrydelsen” — translated here as “The Killing”, although it actually means ‘the crime’. You wont find artificial grit here, no cops forced to cross the line and become more like the people they’re trying to catch, no senseless violence masquerading as hard justice. Just good people, good cops, working hard to solve a crime down at ground level.

Sarah Lund is a capable and driven Detective who will be missed by the Copenhagen Police department when she completes her final day and moves to Sweden with her fiancée. That is if her final day actually arrives. On what she intends to be her last day in Copenhagen, the body of a 19-year-old girl is found and Lund is forced to postpone her departure to work on the case, much to the frustration of her replacement Detective Meyer.

Immediately Lund and Meyer find themselves in an untenable situation. They’ve never worked together, or even met, before and now Meyer finds himself playing second fiddle to the officer he has been bought in to replace. Lund has to juggle her plans, she’s taken her son out of school, she has a plane to catch. Now, her schedule has been thrown into disarray.

Very soon though, both Lund and Meyer being to realise that this case has implications that reach into some very high and powerful places.

Over the course of twenty episodes and two volumes, The Killing explores the impact that the case has on every one it touches: The Birk-Larsen family is devastated by the loss of their daughter. Her father’s anger, her mother’s grief. The frustration at the police’s inability to bring their daughter’s killer to justice. The case itself is complex and convoluted, made even more so when powers well above Lund and Meyer’s pay grade appear to be hampering the investigation, due to the politically sensitive direction things appear to be going in.

With every twist and turn of this series you’ll swear you’re one step ahead of things. But the carpet is constantly being yanked out from under you, just as you’re convinced that it is case closed. And while The Killing is a brilliantly written and executed ‘whodunnit’ the real reason you’ll love this series is because each and every character is wonderfully fleshed out. You will feel the frustration of Lund and Meyer as the case takes its toll on their respective personal lives. You’ll despair with family, you’ll feel their anger and sadness. You’ll despise the accused, and then hate yourself when suspicion moves away.

The Killing is not just a crime drama, it’s an emotional roller coaster. The fact that the series is subtitled means that some may find it hard going, but the pay off is a brilliant crime drama that doesn’t rely on gratuitous imagery or shock tactics to keep you clambering for more. [volume 1] [volume 2]

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