Not since Twin Peaks has a television series dealing with a murder mystery been so effective as AMC’s new crime drama The Killing, based on the Danish series Forbrydelsen. A complete move away from the banality of the normal, phoned-in crime procedurals that clog up the airwaves these days, The Killing, set in Seattle, Washington – a perfect stand in for the original’s Scandinavia – is a series-long arc, with each episode lasting roughly 24-hours. That isn’t all that makes it outstanding, however. The remarkable craft in The Killing is its exposition on the effects of a crime on an entire community, including family, friends, acquaintances and the public at large as the circle of suspects grows ever larger in the gruesome killing that is at the epicenter of the drama, causing a ripple effect that creates hysteria, violence, an atmosphere of racial and religious intolerance, and causes otherwise decent people to do horrendous things.
On the eve of her leaving the police force in order to move herself and her 13-year-old son to San Diego to join her fiancé and settle down, once and for all, to a life of marriage and domesticity, Seattle Police Department Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) stumbles into a murder investigation that will have major repercussions. 17-year-old high school student Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay) turns up dead, and Sarah must stay on to take the lead in the investigation while training her replacement, Detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), a new transfer from the vice division.
The investigation grows ever more complex as the two detectives dig deeper into the crime, with the circle growing to encompass many likely to have committed the murder. It even has ties to the campaign of a Seattle City Councilman (Billy Campbell) running for the Mayor’s office, being that Rosie’s body was found in the trunk of one of his campaign’s cars, which was reported stolen. The investigation moves from focusing on Rosie’s teacher (Brandon Jay McLaren), a black muslim married to one of his former students, to one of her former boyfriends, even to her own father (Brent Sexton), a former Polish mob strong man, and many others.
Across its 13-episode, fortnight arc, the series touches on everything from political intrigue, racial profiling, teen drug use and sexuality and religiosity against the bleak, rain soaked backdrop of Seattle. In perhaps what was the perfect casting (and bit of writing) Mireille Enos plays one of the best detectives on television today. I say detective, rather than “female detective” because, the writers haven’t encumbered her with the usual baggage reserved for women in these roles. She is neither playing a woman trying to overcompensate by being very “macho” or “one of the guys” nor is she a weak sidekick who must take the backseat. She is strictly in control from the beginning here, but allowed a normal sense of vulnerability, a single mom struggling to raise her kid in the absence of his deadbeat dad. This makes her character all the more compelling and relatable. It also helps offer The Killing a sense of realism anchored in the everyday.
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