Watching The Killing makes me appreciate how good 24 was. Admittedly, 24 has not aged very well and even at its very pomp you could find plot holes big enough to fly Air Force One into and scenarios that were so silly they probably belonged in surreal comedy sketches.
I am a great defender of 24, I think it is classic television and although the show did a lot of things wrong, I think it did even more things right. Not many television programs can give you more than twenty solid episodes in one season – shit, not many shows can give you 10 – but 24 pulled off this trick over and over and over and over and over again (see how I have you five ‘overs’?).
And then we have The Killing – there is great television buried somewhere deep inside this show. I get why people are so enthused about this Scandinavian police drama, but I’ll be damned if I am supposed to believe this is the best show from that part of the world, let alone one of the best procedural police dramas made like critics will have you believe.
Everything is there to make season one of The Killing special – you have very strong compelling characters, chief of which is police investigator and all round bad mother Sarah Lund, played by Sofie Grabol and the politician Troels Hartmann, played by Lars Mikkelsen (it took me ages to realise that he was the big bad in season three of Sherlock). The relationships between all of the characters are great, everyone seems to have a great chemistry with each other.
The problem comes when the plot is spread too thin. The show follows the investigation of the Danish police into the murder of a young girl, Nanna Birk Larsen. The crime seems to be connected and in-turn complicated by the Copenhagen Mayoral election. The case is taken on by outgoing Detective Chief Inspector, Sarah Lund who is pretty much the Danish female version of Jack Bauer.
The problem is that the show adopts a ‘Guess Who?’ mentality, moving from suspect to suspect with disposable abandonment and accusing or arresting people based on sometimes laughable evidence. At one point, the police are presented with evidence that a suspect they have jailed for a couple of days and whose reputation they’ve ruined didn’t commit the murder, but instead of releasing him immediately they send him back to his cell. This is a long winded way of me saying that this show is bloody stupid – maybe years of watching The Wire has spoiled me – but this show and its characters are perpetually dumb.
And it’s a shame because the foundation for a great show with unique characters is all there. The story line with the grieving Birk Larsen family is very well done, touching and worth the investment alone. I haven’t seen a show that pays as much attention to the grieving process of a family effected by murder as this one – but the good is always buried by the stupidity of everything else around it.
I will give season 2 a go simply because it has less episodes – exactly the prescription this season needed.