(Note: This review also covers episode 1.2: “The Cage”.)
AMC has developed a reputation as one of the producers of the highest quality drama on television as a whole, and “The Killing” appears to be a stellar entry that should only enhance that reputation. Based on a Danish television series titled Forbrydelsen, “The Killing” tells the season-long story of the murder investigation of teenager Rosie Larsen. With its focus on atmosphere, a strong cast of characters, and a focused plot, “The Killing” opened with a strong two hours of television that set the stage for a strong season.
It has always mystified me that networks have not considered a similar concept; perhaps not a season-long mystery, but at least multiple-episode-long investigations. Crime procedurals have become extremely stale in recent years, and despite the huge numbers drawn by shows such as NCIS and the CSI franchises, it has been creatively stale for what seems like forever. That this concept was given the green light, and by such a creatively strong network gave me much confidence in the series and for its potential.
One of the first things I noticed about the series was the very deliberate pacing of the two episodes. The general end-state was revealed by the very premise of the show: Rosie Larsen is dead, and the attempts to find the body will be ultimately successful. As a result, it frees the episode to focus on the introduction of the specifics of the case and more importantly the characters and their personal tensions. The slow pace of the two episodes gave the characters time to grow on me.
Unlike some of the other reviews and comments I’ve read, I really enjoyed Joel Kinnamen’s undercover narcotics cop. Despite his clearly questionable methods honed during his years undercover, he appears to retain that moral edge that is necessary to do good police work. I hope his character gets more exploration. The slow pace really pays off in one of the most emotional scenes I have seen put on television, where the Larsen parents have to tell their sons that their sister is dead.
I could go on and on about the cast, which is all uniformly excellent, but the other significant element of the series was the atmosphere. Much like the realistic characters, the photography, makeup and direction is unadorned, and focusing on a realistic portrayal of the city of Seattle through its Vancouver stand-in. The little touches really stood out to me in contrast to the typical crime drama, the use of an actual outside filming on the vehicles, the dreary but manic weather, the constant dampness, even the types of extras who inhabit the world all speak to an excellent attention to detail in the production that can’t help but impress me.
Everything about this show: the acting, the script, the photography, the setting, all of it is aimed at the realistic and personal portrayal of the impact of a murder on the victims, the detectives, and the city around it. In contrast to most procedurals were murders are wrapped up in forty minutes or less, the commitment to realism, both visual and psychological, is heartening.
It seems odd to leave the discussion of the actual murder till the very end, but the actual circumstances of the case take second billing to the establishment of the characters and environment. Not to say that there is no movement in the case; but simply that it is not the focus of the two episodes. Somehow the murder is linked to the campaign for mayor, but it’s entirely unclear how or even if the link is even important to the discovery of the murder; but clearly there are going to be consequences for Jordan Collier (I mean, Darren Richmond!) in his race for mayor of Seattle.
“The Killing” has set itself a high bar. With a remarkable commitment to realism throughout the show, the amazing acting and characters, the show looks like it will be an amazing addition the AMC’s stellar lineup of drama.