AMC’s The Killing

AMC is on a real hot-streak right now with their original shows. They’ve got Mad Men, which many peg as the best show on television and I’d have a hard time disagreeing with that opinion. They’ve got Breaking Bad, which I haven’t seen, but it’s on my list. And they have The Walking Dead, which is fantastic. These shows are good because they rely on good acting, great writing and a cinema quality look and feel. Their newest offering, The Killing, is no exception.

The Killing is based on a Danish television show called Forbrydelsen (The Crime). This first season revolves around the murder of a high school girl and the ensuing investigation. The two lead detectives must navigate through a lineup of suspects and many conflicting interests to find out what happened on the night Rosie Larsen was murdered. 

I think there are two main aspects that make this show so compelling. First is the casting. Mireille Enos plays Sarah Linden, the lead investigator on the case. Her character is a woman of quiet determination who silently surveys the scene and offers little insight into her own feelings. She exudes confidence, but is also dealing with personal issues at home that influence the work she does on the case. Enos’ portrayal is phenomenal thus far. Her partner, Stephen Holder, is played by Joel Kinnamen. His approach to the case is completely different. He wants action and movement and is willing to use very unorthodox tactics to get information from people. He comes from narcotics to homicide and brings his old mentalities and methods with him. The interplay between the characters has been great so far. It’s not buddy cop and they are all out enemies, they just work together and criticize each other, which actually makes their partnership work all the better

The supporting cast is good as well, but the roles of Rosie’s parents are the real jewels here. Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton are already in Emmy territory through the first four episodes of the show. Their portrayals of devastated and grieving parents have been difficult to watch because of how raw their emotions are. 

Which brings me to the second aspect of the show that distinguishes it from other crime shows: the gritty realism. Many crime shows, especially the countless CBS-style procedurals currently on the air, seem to gloss over the real repercussions of a murder. The detectives gather up clues and make clever quips as they nail the guy who killed the hooker. In The Killing, the family is painstakingly depicted as additional victims in this senseless act. The horror that they are working through is enough to make any parent pray that they are spared from such things. It puts a real face on the after-effects of murder and shows it for the despicable thing that it is. There’s no glamor here, just pain. 

This pain and darkness is further experienced through the cinematography and the setting. Grey and perpetually rainy Seattle gives us a constant reminder of the fact that this crime is touching everyone and darkening their lives. Grief and suspicion hang heavy in the air.

Some viewers have criticized the glacial pace of the story so far, but the reality is that investigations in the real world take a long time to wrap (longer than the 42 minutes CBS would have you believe). Sure, most murders don’t involve political intrigue, high school angst and organized crime, but they also aren’t solved in the span of a day and half. Patience is something that detectives must possess and the pace of the show forces the viewer to understand the characters like the detectives must understand their suspects and victims. It’s not all car chases and gun fights. 

In short, four episodes in, The Killing is proving to be a very arresting and provocative show. I’d recommend it to discerning viewers and encourage a discussion on the depiction of murder in the media and pop culture. I recently read an article that tackled this topic and pointed out that we don’t have “Rape Mystery Parties”, so why do we have “Murder Mystery Parties”. I’d love to hear your comments.

AMC is currently streaming the first four episodes on their website. Click here to view them. 


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