AMC’s new crime drama The Killing premiered tonight with the first two episodes played back-to-back. That was probably a smart decision considering the pace this series seems set to follow. Adapted from the “Nordic noir” Danish series Forbrydelsen, the show tells the story of the murder of a young girl in Seattle through the eyes of the investigating detectives, the girl’s grieving parents, and the suspects. Season One is slated to run thirteen hour-long episodes, each one covering roughly one day.
There are some pretty obvious parallels to be drawn between the look and atmosphere of this and that of some of its intellectual forefathers, particularly Twin Peaks (one promotional image features the smiling picture of the young victim with “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” scrawled across it in red) and The X-Files (lots of scenes of darkness barely pierced by the beam of a flashlight as the detectives fumble around for clues). But that’s not a bad thing, at least not in my opinion. Both of those shows had intensely passionate fans (I know because I was one of ’em), and if The Killing can manage to distill the essences of them into something fresh, I’m down for that.
I mentioned the pace. This show does something not very many others dare to do: it lets its characters stop and think. Detective Sarah Linden, played by Mireille Enos (Big Love) is a woman of few words and long, middle-distance stares. I’ve heard the word “tedious” thrown out, but I personally think this kind of tense, deliberate slow burn pacing will make for compelling television. And it really shouldn’t come as a surprise given AMC’s history of deliberately paced series. And from my very little exposure to Nordic fiction I think glacial plot movement is fairly common there. That’s why I said I think giving us two eps in a row tonight was probably the right decision. American audiences are impatient, and these two hours at least gave enough of the larger picture, and had a dramatic enough “cliff hanger” of an ending to hold some viewers attentions.
As an expat Pacific Northwesterner I was of course interested to see how the series dealt with it’s Seattle setting. Though it’s filmed in Vancouver, B.C., as are most shows set in the Emerald City nowadays, it’s kind of saturated with establishing shots and clever and convincing background shots. And they do a remarkable job of referencing real geographical locations around Seattle in the proper contexts. As someone that grew up there and has a tendency to notice when some back alley in Vancouver is passed off as Pike Street, there was a lot in these first two episodes to get me to suspend my disbelief. Unfortunately production still succumbs to the cliche that it does nothing but rain 24/7, but you can’t win ’em all. I’ll write that off as atmosphere and move on.
Speaking of atmosphere, another word I’ve heard used to describe the show is “maudlin.” To be fair, for two hours there’s really very little humor or levity of any kind. Between the emotionally devastated family of the victim and Det. Linden staring implacably into the night this isn’t a “feel good” kind of show.
But then it’s called THE KILLING, what did you expect?
The Killing airs Sunday at 9PM/8C on AMC.