For the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been obsessed with the murder of a young Washington schoolgirl and the captivating search for her killer. There’s been almost constant rain, lots of shady dudes creeping around, and more than one psychotic breakdown among those involved. To put it simply, the past year and a half of following this case has been a dramatic, engrossing hell of a ride. But what sounds like the newest episode of Audioccult or me being about twenty-two years too late is, as a matter of fact, a heap of praise for the Danish TV show Forbrydelsen, and its US remake.
In recent years, a lot of dark shit has come out of northern Europe, gotten picked up by Hollywood, and essentially neutered for American audiences. Take Stieg Larsson for example: even though David Fincher gave his best when it came to the Millennium Trilogy (though only the first part of the series, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, has come so far), it didn’t turn out as well as it could have. Luckily for us, they haven’t even tried adapting Henning Mankell for a Northern American audience yet. And if you take a closer look at the creepy ghost movies boom of the mid ‘00s, you will see that thanks to Sarah Michelle Gellar and greedy producers without a single original idea, Asian cinema is now worse off in so many ways. So it seems that when it comes to remakes, it would be safe to follow a fairly simple rule: don’t waste your time. But as always, there is the exception that proves the rule. Welcome to The Killing.
Creator Veena Sud, who has been a writer on a few episodes of Cold Case, has done an excellent job when it comes to the show, which first aired on April 3rd 2011 on AMC and ended just last Sunday. Instead of the original’s setting of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, Sud moved the action to Seattle, which seems to be the perfect place for this murder story – or really any murder story. Young Rosie Larsen has been the victim of a heinous crime, locked into the trunk of a car while still alive and dumped in a lake. And all of this happened on lead homicide detective Sarah Linden’s last day on the job. Her successor, Stephen Holder, is already in the game, ready to take over. But there are too many open questions. The car Rosie Larson died in belongs to campaign team of Darren Richmond, a candidate for mayor, Rosie’s father has connections to the mob, and perhaps most importantly: can Linden trust her partner, who doesn’t seem all that well-suited for the job?
What sounds like just another crime show is actually an exceptionally well-written and well-casted crime story that leaves you more and more frustrated every time the end-credits of another episode begin to roll. One key to The Killing’s success is that it never gives off the awkward sense of being copied and pasted from it’s original setting to a boring, sterile, Hollywood backdrop – something essential for the success of any remake. The other thing is time: It takes two seasons to work a single case, a luxury other TV detectives are rarely, if ever, afforded. During these twenty-six episodes, you get to know the Larsen family better, you’re given a glimpse into the dark sides of detective Linden and her so-called partner, and of course, the writers are unapologetic about setting you repeatedly on the wrong track. But in the end, you can see the complete picture and all the pieces come together. It just makes sense, and that, my friends, is not something many TV shows can claim nowadays.
Published June 27, 2012.