The Killing – AMC (Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

From writer, executive producer and series showrunner Veena Sud (Cold Case), The Killing is based on the wildly successful Danish television series Forbrydelsen and tells the story of the murder of a young girl in Seattle and the subsequent police investigation. 

The Killing ties together three distinct stories around a single murder including the detectives assigned to the case, the victim’s grieving family, and the suspects. Set in Seattle, the story also explores local politics as it follows politicians connected to the case. As the series unfolds, it becomes clear that there are no accidents; everyone has a secret, and while the characters think they’ve moved on, their past isn’t done with them.

The Killing stars Mireille Enos (Big Love) as Sarah Linden, the lead homicide detective that investigates the death of Rosie Larsen; Billy Campbell (Once and Again) as Darren Richmond, Seattle’s City Council President and now running for Mayor; Joel Kinnaman (Snabba Cash) as Stephen Holder, an ex-narc cop who joins the homicide division in the investigation to find Rosie’s killer; Michelle Forbes (True Blood) as Rosie’s mother, Mitch Larsen; and Brent Sexton (W., In the Valley of Elah) as Rosie’s father, Stan Larsen. The pilot was directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster). – AMC

10 out of 10

We were very torn about exactly when to do a review on this show and more importantly what rating to give it because we couldn’t tell if this was one of the most clever and original premises for a police procedural or if its cleverness was overshadowed by how slow and plodding it is.  Truthfully, we thought we had the answer by about the fifth episode but we really didn’t appreciate just how brilliant the show really was until the season finale and that’s why we chose to wait until the end of the first season to do the review.  The show kept switching gears on us and we didn’t know which way to turn.

Without a doubt, The Killing is one of the best shows on television… period. There are several factors that make this show amazing.

  1. Style and Format: In the tradition of such quality police procedurals as the BBC’s Prime Suspect, The Killing presents what is in and of itself a fantastic murder mystery. What’s different however is that it takes a bit of a cue from 24 but instead of each episode being in real-time and representing one hour of the day, each episode of The Killing represents one day of the 13-day investigation.
  2. Locale:  You probably know by now how much we appreciate when a television show uses its city has an integral character of the show. Well, The Killing does this probably more effectively than any other show on television. With a backdrop of Seattle in mid-Fall, there are literally two scenes throughout the first season where there is actual visible sunlight.  Like many shows on basic cable, it is not actually shot in the U.S., but in Canada.  In this case, the dark, dreary, sad and depressing look that the producers are trying to achieve actually works better where they film in Vancouver, British Columbia as the rain during fall and winter is much heavier there than the light rain and drizzle of Seattle.  We truly have never seen a show where the location and climate add so significantly to the events on the screen and the emotional response of the audience.
  3. Perspectives:  One of the things that make most police procedurals just generic, tasteless fare is the fact that there is zero emotional attachment to the victims in these plotlines.  At best, you get a show something like Law & Order where maybe you’ll see the victim alive momentarily in the beginning of the episode, then they’re dead and then you see the grieving relatives briefly and they are usually just trying to keep a stiff upper-lip.  Then, maybe near the end during the trial phase, you’ll see them there silently looking on.  We think this is pretty pathetic and unfortunately what audiences have become used to in regards to detective dramas.  Well, The Killing defies these conventions by having three main perspectives to the story as it unfolds and several much smaller perspectives developed only in as much to progress the plot.  The three main perspectives are those of the police, Councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell – Melrose Place, Eureka) and his mayoral campaign staff (Rosie Larsen’s body was found in the trunk of one of the campaign’s cars) and, perhaps most importantly, the Larsen family themselves, particularly her parents, Stan (Brent Sexton – Justified, Life) and Mitch (Michelle Forbes – True Blood, Battlestar Galactica).  We cannot emphasize how important the victim’s family’s perspective is to the emotional gravity of the story.  It is probably the most important part of this story as one third of every episode is dedicated to the Larsens and their anguish and coping following the loss of their daughter.  As a parent, it is impossible to not be affected by this and it forces you as a viewer to become emotionally invested in not only the Larsens, but the police investigation itself.  It makes the crime personal and you want the white hats to prevail for this family because that could be your daughter.
  4. Clues:  What makes The Killing so damned perfect is the interactive nature of the show.  We intensely paid attention to the little nuances, character behaviors and evidence that has been scattered throughout each episode that if you’re just casually viewing, you’d miss.  There are no mistakes in this show.  Out of character behavior or offhanded remarks are there for a reason.  For the first time, we are actually going to go back and re-watch the entire first season and actually take notes.

Now, as an aside, you may have heard a lot of people complain and your’re going to see a lot of negative reviews about the season one finale, even from critics and fans who enjoyed the show up to that point.  Without giving any spoilers away, the fact is, this show was not meant for those people.  It was meant for the intelligent television viewer and although that may sound condescending, it’s not intended to be.  It’s meant for the viewer who appreciates a good serialized story-arc and mystery.  It is not meant for the typical television viewer with a short-attention span who needs things neatly wrapped up at the end of 60 minutes every week.  The viewers and critics who are complaining about the finale are acting out on their own personal embarrassment over being outsmarted by what they perceived to be a straightforward, linear procedural despite the fact that it hasn’t been since the pilot.

This is only the third “perfect 10” rating we’ve given for a new series since we started this blog back in May of 2010.  We don’t hand them out lightly (and indeed we have another one in the pipe, shortly as well) and despite all of the crap and disappointing new shows that aired in the past year, we are more than happy to put The Killing in the same class as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and F/X’s ill-fated Lights Out.  This show is a keeper and we can’t wait for season two.

Check out AMC’s offical site for the killing, here, for more about the show.

4 comments on “The Killing – AMC (Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

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