Thursday, December 01, 2011

'The Killing (Forbrydelsen)' by Søren Sveistrup

1 December 2011

She's back! How wonderful to be back in Copenhagen with Sarah Lund for the second series of the Danish TV series 'The Killing' (Forbrydelsen). If you missed the amazing first series and are still wondering what all the fuss was about I would recommend leaping straight into 'The Killing II'. The new series is a completely separate story with an almost entirely new cast of characters and you really don't have to have watched the original to enjoy it. 'The Killing' is a police procedural thriller serial set in Copenhagen. What makes it special is the quality of the plot (written by Søren Sveistrup), the acting and the length of the story. The first series consisted of 20 hour-long episodes, each representing one day in the investigation of a single crime. The luxury of having 20 hours to explore the characters of the various suspects and their investigators allowed a depth you rarely see in TV detective dramas. (If 20 episodes seems a bit daunting, the second series is only 10 hours long!) And don't be put off by the fact that 'The Killing' is in Danish with English subtitles: like all the best foreign dramas it's so good that, afterwards, you will struggle to remember that it was subtitled. Although 'The Killing' shows us events from the viewpoints of all the main protagonists, it is always careful never to reveal anything to the viewer that the police don't know - so you have the same opportunity to work out what happened as those investigating. To make the plot last for so many episodes there are, inevitably, a series of red herrings. But each innocent suspect, for whom there appears to be compelling evidence of guilt, turns out to have an extremely plausible explanation for their suspicious behaviour. This is a very sobering lesson in how easy it is to convince yourself that someone must be the murderer on purely circumstantial evidence. Both series feature a strong political subplot and the power games between the politicians, the media and the police form a fascinating backdrop. But the heart of 'The Killing' is police officer Sarah Lund played by Sofie Gråbøl as a very believable human being. Lund's very gradual descent into instability, driven by her obsession with solving the murder of Nana Birk Larsen was so carefully portrayed that the disastrous consequences of her actions took us as much by surprise as they did her. Sarah Lund is a very cleverly drawn character: her colleagues (and us viewers) feel she is able to spot things that the other police miss - she seems to have an extra level of intuition. But she is a real, believable character, not an infallible Sherlock Holmes: she doesn't have special powers and her hunches often prove to be misguided. This creates a peculiar fascination in the viewer: you are rooting for Sarah and urging her colleagues to listen to her while simultaneously worrying that she might be going down completely the wrong path. It's brilliantly done. 'The Killing II' is on BBC4 on Saturday evenings but don't worry if you've missed the first few episodes: the whole series will also be available on BBC iPlayer until 24 December. (And I haven't even mentioned the jumpers!)

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At 5:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're exactly right about how the audience know exactly as much as the police. What kills crime dramas is when the perpetrator's face is shown to the viewer early on in the case.


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