I recently discovered the AMC TV series “The Killing”. There are three seasons of the series available on Netflix. It has proved to be worth watching, especially for the stark, ominous characterizations and the gloomy atmosphere offered by its Seattle, Washington setting. The main characters, detectives investigating a murder, with a mayoral race occurring during their investigation, are dark and introverted, with dreary, rainy Seattle as a somber backdrop.
Mirielle Enos has mastered the brooding, somewhat emotionally damaged persona of the mysterious detective. Her character is a former foster kid with bad memories of a childhood spent bouncing from foster homes to child protective services. She is an example of the silent, gloomy investigator with her nervous idiosyncrasies who can’t stop obsessing over the victims and their killers.
While watching the series, I got a somber Scandinavian vibe from the whole production, which is why I was not surprised, upon further investigation on IMDB (the Internet Movie Database), to learn that the show is an adaptation of the Norwegian series “Forbrydelsen” (The Crime), created by Veena Sud. The series has been cancelled and revived, and cancelled yet again by AMC over three seasons, but Netflix has revived it for a fourth (and probably final) season.
But it’s worth the watching. Although the crimes are solved at the agonizing speed of watching paint dry, the drama is stark and evokes an atmosphere so realistically epitomized by the Swedes in the Wallander series by Henning Mankell, as well as in the female character of Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy. The characters are not the slick, wise-talking cops of the American crime genre, but rather more akin to the disaffected, flawed detectives of the stark, slow-paced Swedish version of film making.
Enos, as Detective Sarah Linden, shows the head-down, forge-ahead dedication of the committed detective, hell-bent on solving the crime at all costs. At times her dedication can be a little annoying, as when she shelves her responsibilities as mother to her sullen adolescent son in favor of sitting through a stake-out with her partner, leaving the boy on his own a little too often and opening her up to accusations of being an inadequate parent. At times her focus can be obsessive and she is often at odds with her superiors over her refusal to operate within department parameters.
Her co-star, the enigmatic Joel Kinnaman (known in his home country of Sweden as Charles Joel Nordström) plays her partner, Stephen Holder, a sort of hipster cop with a drug-addict past and the nervous, fretful persona of the hankering junky. Though Linden bristles at his interference and attempts at protecting her from her headlong immersion in pursuing criminals, he becomes a sort of hovering guardian angel, assisting her in detecting, while fighting his own demons and trying to avoid relapsing into his addiction.
The first season centers around the death of a young girl, discovered bound in the trunk of a car immersed in a lake. A lot of false leads send the detectives tracking a number of suspects. Rumors abound and everyone has a theory (most of which prove unreliable). A lot of lives are ruined as a consequence of the misdirected focus of the investigation, and those involved (both witnesses and suspects) react by striking back at the police and those under suspicion. Following the action is like playing whack-a-mole; as soon one suspect is eliminated, another pops up.
Billy Campbell, as glib mayoral candidate Darren Richmond, and Tom Butler, as incumbent Mayor Lesley Adams, keep the intrigue of a pending mayoral race going full speed, with the usual scandal-mongering coming into play to muddy the waters of the investigation. The campaign assistants in both camps pull strings and manipulate the investigation in attempts to throw any suspicion off their candidates. It leads to blind alleys, mistaken identities and missed opportunities. And just when you think the case is solved, defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory, and the investigation starts all over again. It can be frustrating, but the characters are so engaging, you want to see more of them.
Watching “The Killing” is a little like reading a good crime novel. You’re glad they caught the killer, but sorry when it ends, and you can’t wait for the next one.