Socialist Worker

The Killing is riveting and essential viewing

It’s no surprise that the series The Killing took television audiences by storm, writes Kevin Orr

Issue No. 2248

Police detective Sarah Lund—unflinchingly determined to track down the killer, at all costs

Police detective Sarah Lund—unflinchingly determined to track down the killer, at all costs

Those of us who were consumed by the first series of Danish television thriller The Killing will have to wait until the autumn for series two.

But the DVD of the first series is out now, and it is a must buy.

The show, which went out late on Saturday nights on BBC4, sees quietly strong-willed police detective Sarah Lund on a single-minded pursuit of justice.

The Killing is highly recommended viewing. Subtitled in English, it was regularly watched by half a million people and caused a sensation.

Set in modern-day Copenhagen, each of The Killing’s 20 episodes follows a day in the police investigation of the brutal rape and murder of young student Nanna Birk Larsen.

The series opens with Nanna, bloody and terrified, as she flees in vain from her attacker.

The viewer then follows the police investigation through many setbacks, blind alleys and unexpected connections.

The investigation exposes plenty of suspects—but maintains the suspense, and conceals the identity of the attacker until the end.

However, the Killing is far from action-packed.


What makes it gripping television is its meticulous and utterly convincing portrayal of those affected by Nanna’s appalling murder—not only the police officers tasked with finding her killer.

The investigation impinges on the murky local politics of Copenhagen.

Troels Hartmann is an ambitious politician apparently determined to be a reformer. But he is never sure whether or not his close advisers rate loyalty over morality.

His own political direction hangs in the balance throughout the series.

Similarly, central to the series are the victim’s parents.

Their efforts to cope with bereavement are as painful to watch as they are futile.

Rarely has a thriller so consistently and unflinchingly revealed the rawness of grief and loss.

Plot lines evolve slowly with a detail sometimes only picked up several episodes after its first appearance.

Each of the main characters develops by allowing the viewer to watch them tackle professional and personal dilemmas.


But it is the flawed and uncompromising character of Sarah Lund that makes this series so compelling.

Her dogged commitment to solving the case tips over into obsession, and may mean her personal life collapses.

We watch as her son becomes increasingly alienated from her, and her relationship lies in near tatters.

But she will not let politicians, her superiors, career or personal life prevent her from finding Nanna’s killer.

The Killing has been called an example of “Scandinavian noir”, alongside Wallander and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The series is certainly visually striking—although it makes Copenhagen appear anything but wonderful.

A feeling of foreboding saturates the whole story. As dark as its subject matter, many of the scenes are shot at night, in the rain or in poorly-lit interiors.

This adds to the impression of insecurity and suspicion throughout the series.

The gritty and realistic approach taken in the production of the series has seen it, justifiably, compared to the groundbreaking US police series The Wire.

This is intelligent, character-led television that never patronises the viewer.

Get the DVD if you haven’t seen The Killing. If you have, roll on series two.

The first series of The Killing is out now to buy on DVD

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Tue 19 Apr 2011, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2248
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