Fine. For fuck’s sake, I admit it. I am one of those insufferable people who says “I don’t watch TV. Me?! Oh, I don’t have a television.” I’m also aware that saying something like this to most people is pretty much equivalent to “Me? Oh, I don’t know what day it is,”or “Me? Oh, I don’t breathe air.”
To be honest, I kinda find it hard to see what all the fuss is about. When I visit other people’s houses and walk in on them watching something like Made in XFactoridolshore Teenpregnantbake-off Brother 2012, my brain usually just starts hazing up. All I end up seeing is a fog of ‘lads’in sweaty white vests and strobe lighting, gourmet cuisine spat out by whining judges; flailing, dancing and fidgeting that would annoy even the most medicated of us. And all I end up hearing is bad singing and screaming. What’s the big deal?
In fairness, this is exactly what I see anyway most days, given that (a) I live in London, fuckdork capital of the world and (b) I’m a student. But after a day surrounded by gurning manbabies, the last thing I want to do is come home to more of the same. So when I was introduced to The Killing, known on Danish television as ‘Forbrydelsen’ (literally, “the crime”) I found it a breath of fresh and miserable air. Just what I wanted, and needed.
The Killing is a spirit-crushing piece of television. Dismal. Like a stranger’s sneeze on the back of your neck in a packed train carriage. It’s The Thick of It, if you were to take out the jokes and replace them with depressing conversations about awful crimes. A fusion of political and police drama, it involves a fair bit of concentration; partly because it’s in Danish with subtitles, and partly because it’s somewhat complicated. Rather than put me off, this actually engaged me so much more. It’s really easy to get engrossed in the show – the atmosphere is intense and the arc so well paced that at the end of every episode you come away debating whether you should watch another, despite the fact that each one is almost an hour long, and in an entirely incomprehensible language.
The Killing follows a different murder investigation each season, and the effect they have on all parties involved. Rather than focus on the grotesque nature of the crimes, The Killing involves a more mature hook – people. It’s a show that is very good at presenting people, unlike a lot of British and/or American productions (okay, Breaking Bad is obviously to the contrary, and a few others). It’s set for the most part in urban Copenhagen, so we also get some interesting political drama. The murder of the first season is committed during a hotly contested election, squeezing a little bit more stress into the already intense storyline.
I think part of the reason this series has managed to grip me so effectively comes down to the lead actress Sofie Gråbøl, playing the fairisle-jumper-fetishist DI Sarah Lund. Inattentive mother, grubby obsessive and not exactly the most well liked at the cop shop, Lund is a character that disperses bleakness into every moment she is on screen. Gråbøl is incredibly convincing in her role and she does not overact – when I say she’s bleak I don’t mean she’s some kind of cartoonish anime tsundere. What I mean is that she’s real – something of a marvel in the world of genre writing. Lund compliments the dark and sinister nature of each season’s plot-line like she is married to it.
Gråbøl isn’t the only strong acting presence in the show, either. The entire cast is brilliant. There are some real shady bastards who you immediately pick out as suspects (adding to the suspicion and intensity hanging over the entire show like a noir fart), as well as some surprisingly good performances from children and young adults. To balance out the bleak there are some incredibly sympathetic characters, too. In particular, I think the way the show continues to follow the victim’s family during season one gives The Killing something that so many other crime dramas fail to give focus. Seeing the dramatic effect the death of the first season’s victim has on her family makes you even more desperate to know who the murderer is. And they draw it out over twenty brilliant episodes – making the pay off well worth the journey.
So why am I talking about a series that began airing in 2007? Well, the third season has just begun, which means that for once, one of this website’s reviews is actually current enough to be useful. And since my word is GOSPEL TRUTH for most if not all things, I highly recommend this show. It’s airing every Saturday at 9.00pm on BBC Four, and the first episode is available on iPlayer. If you don’t fancy an eyeful of some dumbfuck twirling about in a ballroom dress, if you don’t feel like watching some ‘masterful chefs’prepare celeriac seven ways, and if you don’t feel like listening to some children flatly serenading a table of ‘celebrity’ judges, maybe The Killing will be up your alley.
Like right up there. Jammed up there. Stuck in it.
Watch The Killing.