November 20, 2011


The Dane Attraction: The Killing Season Two Previewed (Terry Staunton , November 18th, 2011, Quietus)

If the first two episodes of the new series are any indicator, it's going to be a plain deep red one this season, and unlikely to prove as big a talking point as its predecessor. Sarah Lund's chunky patterned sweater prompted acres of press coverage when UK audiences were introduced to The Killing in January, making it the most iconic crime fighter knitwear since Starsky's cardigan.

Not that the Danish detective's sartorial choices detracted too much from the task at hand; it was merely a sensible and functional item of clothing to ward off the bitterness of a Scandinavian winter while a pensive Lund (Sofie Grabol) unravelled the puzzles surrounding the murder of schoolgirl Nanna Birk Larssen. Job done? Can we move on to the stuff that matters now, please?

The first series of The Killing was a master class in how to make a slowburn whodunit; 20 hours of television littered with clues, curveballs, red herrings, criminal intrigue, police procedural confrontation, political scandal, viable suspects and grieving relatives. Nanna's death was merely the jumping-off point for a lattice weave of utterly human stories, played out against a cold and clinical geographical landscape, what more than one reviewer referred to as "bleak chic".

Forbrydelsen, along with other Scandi whodunits, harks back to a more artful age of crime drama. (Steven Baxter, 11/18/11, New Statesman)

What's so great about this latest piece of Scandi Crime fiction? Are we just interested in our Nordic cousins meandering around because it seems foreign and cerebral to us; a notch up from Midsomer Murders or the standard detective shows on our major channels? As someone once said to me, there are probably Scandinavians sitting down to a subtitled episode of New Tricks, marvelling at Dennis Waterman's subtle characterisation and the psychological pacing of the drama. But I think it goes beyond that: the Scandi shows like Wallander and The Killing hark back to a more exciting, more artful age of crime drama.

Look back at an old episode of Bergerac, for example, and you'll find the pacing is so different. Fires in the Fall, the fabled creepy Christmas special of 1986 is well worth a look (though don't watch it right before going to bed) for several reasons. The plot really takes time to get going, almost as if you're not going to turn it over after 10 seconds if you get bored. As well as that, shows went 30 or 40 minutes before anyone even got killed; it seems John Nettles had a lot less death to deal with in Jersey than he does in Midsomer, where the corpses stack up before every ad break.

What The Killing's first series combined, over 20 hour-long episodes, was a whodunit with a drama about the effect of the crime on those who were left behind, along with a political thriller. It was like 24, but without the torture porn and the need for explosions. No mean feat for a bit of Sunday night telly, but there it was. We had time to learn about the various suspects and characters, to rule them out and then think they might have done it after all. Who knew? No one knew. Even the actors didn't know.

Unusually, The Killing is written as the series is filmed, with the main writers taking account of the actors' interpretations and including them in future episodes.

The Killing: the cream of the crop of European detective drama: As Danish thriller The Killing returns to BBC Four, Neil Midgley asks what it is about the cops of Europe that has gripped the UK (Neil Midgley, 18 Nov 2011, The Telegraph)

"We felt that people were bored - that you could see the recipe behind episodic cop shows," says Piv Bernth, the executive producer of The Killing. "So we decided to break that rhythm of storytelling. It was absolutely conscious to make one killing be followed over 20 episodes, to do it day by day."

That painstakingly slow pace, allowing each new lead in the case to be investigated in compelling detail, felt luxuriant to British viewers who are used to murders being solved in just one or two episodes. They also revelled in the attention that could be lavished on the bereaved family, whose grief was picked out in almost unbearable detail.

Such length and depth simply isn't possible in the crime drama made by the BBC or ITV, with runs of six or at most eight episodes the norm. American crime dramas, such as the CSI and the Law & Order franchises, churn out around 22 episodes a year but contain almost no development at all of the returning characters. Instead - for commercial reasons, because stand-alone episodes can be repeated ad infinitum and attract casual viewers each time - each week brings a new case.

All The Killing's episodes were shot, as only the Danes could, against the brooding backdrop of a dark, drizzly Copenhagen. "We tried to make a sort of 'TV noir', and that Copenhagen should have a big part in the story," says Bernth.

Posted by at November 20, 2011 8:21 AM

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