To my mind there is no better show to while away the hours, gripped by the addictive twists and turns of a particularly dizzying plot – than The Killing, aka Forbrydelsen.
This Copenhagen-set crime drama has been viewed all around the world and even inspired fans to track down protagonist Sarah Lund’s brand of jumper. The recent American remake failed to recapture the appeal of the original, but Danish broadcasters DR1 have been riding the crest of this newfound love of ‘nordic noir’ ever since, also boasting quality shows like Borgen and Unit One.
The Killing’s first season is a marvel, powerfully emotive, with touches of lugubrious comedy and an excellent cast. Sofie Gråbøl’s intense portrayal as Lund is the centre-piece, introduced to the viewer as a woman who seemingly has it all – a loving partner, an affectionate son and the prospect of a transfer to a more sedate rural detective posting in countryside Sweden. Gråbøl plays her character’s reluctance to endanger all this by becoming involved in ‘one last case’ – the murder of teenager Nanna Birk Larsen – which is eventually replaced with an all-consuming obsession , to pitch perfection. Her would-be successor Meyer (Søren Malling – somehow manages to be eating in almost every scene like Brad Pitt in the Oceans series) is increasingly aggrieved by her continued presence at the station, undermining his authority. As the series progresses a touching bond grows between them despite their repeated butting of heads – just watch out for when Lund begins smoking. When the case begins to touch on the mayoral campaign for the city, charismatic politician Troels Hartmann (Lars Mikkelsen) finds himself caught in its web, placing his political future at risk as he has a few skeletons in the closet. Mikkelsen and Gråbøl work well together on screen, but a particular scene of note is when Hartmann visits a school and the actor manages not to break character when a child skids and falls on the floor. It is a surprisingly sweet moment.
What also distinguishes the show is the endless series of red herrings and foreshadowing, which thankfully never becomes tiresome. Suspects are presented to the viewer, who becomes convinced as much as Lund does, that they are the culprit, only for the truth to remain doggedly out of reach. Suspicious glances, a tell-tale plaster, or mistaken guilt, repeatedly germinate new theories and even more elaborate conspiracies as to why Nanna was killed. The addictive writing and excellent performances from a talented cast ensure that the real identity of the murderer is left unclear until the very last episodes of the season. Even then, confirmed fans might feel a little gunshy, as doubt is a constant companion in this show.
There has not been a murder mystery this compelling since Lynch’s Twin Peaks. While there are comparisons to be made between the shows – Nanna wrote a seemingly tell-all short story that hints at the truth much like Laura Palmer’s diary did – thankfully no spirits or fantasy is at play here. This is coolly humane and emotionally fraught storytelling.