There’s no high-tech forensic equipment, no glamorization, very little violence and no sex. Against what would normally disqualify to the majority of television’s audience, AMC’s new show, The Killing, manages to combine engaging characters with a plot that builds on their momentum.
This show is not for the unfocused and addled. Slow-moving and relying heavily on suspense and subtlety, it is premised around the murder of a teenage girl, Rosie Larsen, and follows the two detectives as they travel around Seattle searching for the killer. Each episode takes place over the course of one day in the detectives’ investigation, giving the entire series a claustrophobic and tightly paced feel.
The main character, Detective Linden, is about to leave for her wedding when the murder happens. As a result, she is forced back into her job, working alongside her replacement, Detective Holder.
Unlike other popular crime-drama shows, there is very little use of scientific forensics equipment. Also, since the murderer has yet to be caught, there is very little mention of the court system. The detective’s methods primarily consist of interviewing various witnesses and interrogating suspects, giving the show a more psychological look at crime and its aftermath than other shows.
What sets this show apart from others in terms of content is the emphasis on fallout. There’s just as much time devoted to what the suspects, victims and third persons undergo as there is to investigating the murder. An entire subplot is fixated on the political backlash that follows a campaigning councilman after his stolen car is discovered at the scene of the crime. There is as much psychological and social analysis in this show as there is scientific and forensic.
One particular scene that blends slow build-up with exceptional acting is the discovery of the body. Rosie’s father discovers her body just as he’s talking to her mother about her on the phone. Failing to realize the phone is still on, he cries and screams as the cops take her away. All the mother can do during this is listen to the screaming and fill in the blanks herself.
To make up for the slower pacing, the characters are written to be more than capable of packing an emotional punch. Rosie’s family’s attempts to cope with her death can be moving to the point of being hard to watch. The unfortunate councilman is presented as a sympathetic and complex figure who is forced to deal with the shallow and unpredictable political world while solving and confronting his own personal problems.
The acting on all ends of the story is consistently solid. The councilman’s political battles are always intriguing, and the campaigners he surrounds himself with provide a good contrast between his unfortunate idealism and their calculating cynicism. Particularly tragic is watching Rosie’s parents struggle to make sense of her death to her brothers only to realize they cannot understand it themselves.
The two detectives provide a classic, mismatched dichotomy. Detective Linden is well organized and relies on traditional methods. The other detective, Holder, prefers to go undercover and use trickery to get any needed information. This includes offering teenage girls marijuana to get inside information.
The time commitment to watching this show is unlikely to be big. The original Danish series it was based on revealed the murder at the end of the first season. While the crime and characters are different in this version, the pacing and length of the series will be roughly the same.
The music in this show is unfortunately a bit too melodramatic. Emotionally well-crafted scenes like the discovery of the body are a bit soured by blaring, unnecessary trumpets. The score is the only part of this show that prefers bluntness to subtlety.
Unlike any other crime show on T.V, this series is all social and no science. The vast majority of its content is driven towards psychology as opposed to chemistry or biology. In doing this, it may lack the technical precision that viewers might enjoy, but it makes up for it in terms of the portraits it creates for each character.
This is a show whose rewards lie buried beneath its somber surface. Despite a lack of hard-hitting action and glamour, it still entertains with its affinity for examining the minds affected by a crime scene as opposed to the bodies. Anyone looking for a classic murder mystery or a character study will not be disappointed.