Luxuriating in an honest and leisurely Killing

Last updated 14:43 20/09/2012
The Killing
SLOWLY DOES IT: Good stuff from Joel Kinnaman as Stephen Holder and Mirielle Enos as Sarah Linden in The Killing.

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REVIEW: The Killing, 9.30pm Wednesdays, TV3. Reviewed by Alastair Paulin.

Drizzle and fog shroud the action in the gloomy police procedural The Killing. Set in the rain of Seattle, the show is filmed in Vancouver. But the atmospheric vibe is Scandinavian: the show is a close adaptation of a Danish series and owes much to the brooding noir crime fiction coming out of the chilly north.

Some of the nighttime scenes are so dark that I was actually questioning whether it was the art direction or my ancient television slowly expiring.

A slow expiration would seem fitting. If you like your police dramas snappy and dazzling, with a neat resolution coming after 42 minutes of sun-soaked crime scene investigation, The Killing is not for you.

But if you are a fan of tension-tightening complex narratives, in the tradition of The Wire or Homeland, you are in for a treat.

The killing is of teenager Rosie Larsen. In the opening episode her body was discovered in the boot of a car in a pond. The car turns out to belong to the political campaign of a city councillor in the middle of a tight race for mayor. The duty detective who gets the case is on her last day in the police department, before she moves to sunny San Diego to be with her fiancee.

In that brief set-up, we have the three plot strands that the 13 episodes of season one will follow: the police investigation, the campaign and the grief of Rosie's family as they deal with her death and follow the investigation.

Murder investigations are an ideal format for the screenwriter's art. There is a puzzle to be solved and clues must be doled out judiciously keep the viewer hooked.

The Killing is luxuriating in its leisurely pace, with each episode roughly matching up to one day in the investigation. (And if I may be allowed a semi-spoiler here, don't expect that the killer will necessarily be found by the end of season one.)

The pace does not feel slow: as we learn more about the characters we are drawn into their worlds, with outstanding performances throughout the cast.

As the lead detective Sarah Linden, Mirielle Enos is terrific. You can see her longing to flee for her new life - she has already postponed her flight south - but at the same time she is being drawn into the investigation.

Joel Kinnaman as Stephen Holder, the detective assigned to take over from her, seems like a dick but is revealing some surprises, and Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton as Rosie's parents are utterly compelling.

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The scene where they have to tell Rosie's younger brothers that she is dead was harrowing, so much so that I had to dose myself with a few performances from New Zealand's Got Talent to clear my head afterwards.

The sodden atmosphere and stately pace are already paying off. As series creator Veena Sud has explained: “We're creating our own world. We are using the Danish series as a blueprint, but we are kind of diverging and creating our own world, our world of suspects and, potentially, ultimately who killed Rosie Larsen.”

Sud describes the series as “slow-burn storytelling in a sense that every moment that we don't have to prettify or gloss over or make something necessarily easy to digest, that we're able to go to all sorts of places that are honest, and dark, and beautiful and tragic, in a way that is how a story should be told.”

It does not make for easy viewing but it certainly seems like a more honest way to treat the death of a child than the sizzle of most police procedurals.

- © Fairfax NZ News


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