By Caitlin Gardner
It is a bit curious that AMC is advertising The Killing as a show for fans of the network television procedurals CSI and Law & Order. Even the show’s advertising campaign harkened back to Twin Peaks with the meme, “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?,” but there have been no backward-speaking dwarves so far.
The Killing is not your father’s network procedural. Sure, the show’s producers have background in that TV procedurals (Cold Case), but The Killing is a breath of fresh air in bringing a slow-burning mystery back to American television.
The show centers on the murder case into the drowning of a Seattle high school student, Rosie Larsen, and each episode goes into the day-by-day building into the case from multiple angles: the detectives, Rosie Larsen’s family, her classmates, her acquaintances, and the suave Seattle politician Darren Richmond running for Mayor shadowed by his calculating handlers find themselves embroiled in the Rosie Larsen case that may or may not be incidental.
Episode to episode, new suspects and discoveries are introduced to viewers as the detectives find and seek them out. Day by day we see the Larsen family deal with passing of their daughter, mostly insulated in their home as Darren Richmond, the candidate, and his campaign staff only consider the Larsen case in the most cynical ways imaginable as Election Day comes closer.
Based on a Danish series, The Killing is shot in an atmosphere of bleak and dread, in low-key lighting and dark clothing on the characters. All of what you thought about Seattle is present, minus a shot of vente Starbucks, with the rain constantly pouring in the autumn gloom backdrop that you would expect from a David Fincher film.
Aside from that, very little is stylized in The Killing. The loss of life is palpable through the characters, whereas in a network procedural it is just one episode for emotional investment in a case that has probably become redundant amidst the proliferation of crime procedurals on network television.
The shows on American TV that most resembled The Killing are 24, which was a very stylized network show with a unique structure, and Damages, where a single case had layers upon layers of plot twists within a single legal case. The Killing is far more practical within its story and you will not mistake these characters for Jack Bauer or Patty Hewes.
But it is nonetheless engrossing. Michelle Forbes (True Blood) as Mrs. Larsen is heartbreaking to watch episode by episode and Joel Kinnaman steals every scene he is in as the new homicide detective partnered with a veteran detective (played by Mireille Enos) who is stalled from moving to her next life to see through with this case.
The Killing is another feather in the cap of AMC original programming with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead (I am purposely ignoring the cancelled disappointment Rubicon). This was a great surprise.