Midway Review: The Killing

The Killing, the acclaimed murder misery mystery from US network AMC, has reached the rough midpoint of its first season on the UK’s Channel Four, which seemed a good time to check on the progress of the investigation. As everyone must know by now, it is based on the acclaimed Danish show Forbrydelsen, which everyone used to call The Killing.

Anyway, after a pilot rightly acclaimed for atmosphere and suspense, as well as quickly building characters, the series began to slowly unfold the mystery of who killed teenager Rosie Larsen, as well as the effect of her death upon family, community and, especially, politicians.

To be honest, it ended up spinning its wheels. Building a whole 13-part season obsessively around a single murder mystery was always risky - other popular crime shows, like Dexter or The Wire also unfold each season around a central plot, but they have a jumble of other events in each episode, so you don’t grow bored with the glacial progression of the main saga.

The Killing doesn’t work like that. The Killing expects you to be riveted by one story, even though it never really progresses, most episodes have no identity of their own and plot developments are often completely telegraphed by moody scenes beforehand.

All of which leaves the viewer growing impatient. In the first episode, I enjoyed the no-holds-barred bleakness of its attitude to homicide. Fifty percent later, that seems to be all there is to it. A recent episode cliffhangered with one character kidnapping another, and I was psyched up for some drama, only for it to taper off within minutes of the next instalment starting. Soon, everyone returned to just staring, either at each other or out of rain-spattered windows.

Obviously, atmosphere is important, and after all this build-up I badly want to know whodunnit, but the characters, dialogue and central plot just aren't exciting and original enough to entertain us through such sluggish plot movement. I live in hope that the second half of the season will give us a bit of momentum as we move towards a climax.

Oh, and if anyone is curious, the original Danish Forbrydelsen will be airing on BBC4 nightly, starting Sunday 21st August. I’ll be checking it out, both for comparison purposes with this adaptation and because I hear it’s somewhat of a masterpiece.

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