What They Say:
In the opener, Det. Sarah Linden’s last day in homicide finds her investigating the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl who was supposed to be spending the weekend with a friend from school. When the teen’s parents learn she didn’t show up for class on Monday, they launch their own search, and when word gets out about the missing girl, a mayoral candidate cancels a forum planned at the high school.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the last couple of years, when AMC kicks off a new original program, it’s definitely worth taking time to check it out and see what it brings. The channel has worked with some diverse programs, from Rubicon to Mad Men to Walking Dead, each of them bringing a serious drama with the right layers of humor to give you something that’s unlike most other shows out there. Something engaging. Something where you find yourself drawn in because of the pacing of it, the writing and the atmosphere it sets. With the two hour premiere of The Killing, AMC has managed to do just that again with its new detective drama.
Based on the Danish series that used the same name in English alongside the non-translated title “The Crime,” The Killing shifts events to Seattle and makes the promise that even if you’ve seen the original, you’ll get something similar but different here as the events won’t unfold in the same way and there’s no guarantee who has committed the crime itself. The crime itself feels like we’ve getting a more straightforward version of Twin Peaks as a seventeen year old girl named Rosie Larsen is suspected to be dead or caught up in something as her sweater is found, bloodied, as well as her fathers credit card in the woods. Through a flashback sequence, we see her running scared through the woods in the middle of the night as someone is chasing her, but we don’t see her fate for some time in the two part episode.
Where the series wants to focus is on the discovery and the investigation itself, which doesn’t get fully underway until towards the end here. We’re introduced to Sarah Linden, a solid Seattle detective who is finishing out her run there to go with her fiance to California along with her son. It’s her last day and she gets assigned to the initial case of figuring out what’s going on with the sweater, but every new wrinkle introduces something else that draws her further in, but also has her boss pushing her further into it as well because of some of the sensitivities to it that develop. Her main challenge initially is that of her replacement, a rough and unkempt looking man named Stephen Holder. His arrival is a bit early and they end up working the case together. The pairing of the two showcases the differences in approach and methods and that’s a significant draw to the show.
Like any good detective show, a growing and intriguing cast where you can’t be sure who all is involved in Rosie’s death is key. The discovery process of what happened to Rosie fills the show here as it delves into the timeline a bit as Sarah and Stephen work the case and realize that it’s not just a sex crime or a missing person but rather a murder. Politics becomes involved when a councilman that’s running for mayor becomes involved through his campaign, a former boyfriend of Rosie’s is drawn in and he has a very powerful father and then the parents and young brothers of Rosie herself. Their loss is so painful to watch on the screen as there’s such a rawness to it that it’s palpable. While I thoroughly liked the police side of it, watching them dealing with everything was the most intense aspect of the show. There are a lot of mysteries to be had here, and everyone will have a secret of some sort that will be revealed, and the opening salvo here really nails it wonderfully.
While the story and its complexities are solid with a whole lot of potential, it’s the characters and the actors portraying them that really have to sell it. There’s an intriguing feel to it as Mireille Enos takes on the role of Sarah as she’s a somewhat non traditional look and also in her delivery. She spends more of her time watching and observing, with proper commentary when appropriate, as she takes in the crime scenes as well as the residences and locations she visits as she gains more and more information. She has the feel of a very strong detective, but the kind that doesn’t speak unless they’re really sure about what they’re going to say. She’s in definite contrast to how Joel Kinnaman handles his role as Stephen as he’s more outgoing, rather coarse and has a direct approach in trying to ferret out information. He’s certainly the more personable of the two, but neither are exactly the kind of people you’d easily hang out at a bar with without some reservations.
The main and supporting cast have a whole lot of great material to work with. Michelle Forbes positively shines as Rosie’s mother, as she copes with what she starts to understand may be going on and the eventual reality. There’s more going on here than meets the eye with her and her daughter, but she’s so focused on the shock and pain of the loss, and how it’s affecting her two young sons, that she really nails the performance. The same can be said of Brent Sexton as Rosie’s father Stephen. He does his best to keep it all together as he eventually gets drawn into it, as he was out of the loop for a bit, and he does what he can to be the strong father until the reality of it really hits him. He’s instantly someone you can connect with and seems the most innocent, but there are always threads that can be drawn into it.
The biggest character is the locale, which is beautifully filmed here as we move about quite a few locations, inside and out, that draws you in. The overcast nature of Seattle is certainly a big part of it since it has an oppressive nature about it at times, especially as the rain falls heavily and it weighs down the actors, and that really helps to define the mood. There’s a lot of lengthy exterior shots from on high as the camera moves across the woods or the outskirts of the city and it’s very engaging. When it shifts to the streets and the interiors, there’s a lot of very good camera work here as it moves into their lives. There’s a preference for the lingering shots instead of quick cuts and rapid movements and there’s a big draw for that. .
I went into The Killing with no real knowledge of it other than it was a new series on AMC. There’s a lot to be said about going into a show blind and The Killing is the perfect one to do it with. Over the two hour run time, which has very few commercials overall and the first one didn’t even hit for thirty minutes, it has a lot going on that’s very layered and rich. It doesn’t hit you over the head with quirks and the like, but rather plays it straight and draws you in with each new scene by introducing new elements. Just about everything with this is pitch perfect that makes you want to come back for more right away. When a week between episodes seems like it’ll be an eternity, you know you have something that is becoming must see TV. The Killing has grabbed me pretty hard and I didn’t even realize it. Hopefully it’ll manage to carry that feeling throughout its entire run with some interesting twists and turns.