The Killing — Killer TV No 7

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DR1 (Danish TV), 2007 series one, 2009 series two, 2012 series three

‘Why do you insist on going to work, now you can have a proper life?’ – Sarah Lund’s mother

Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro, Charlotte Guldberg

Identikit: In Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is about to begin her last shift before moving to Sweden with her fiancé when she becomes entangled in the disappearance of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.


logosFour years after it was shown in its homeland of Denmark, The Killing turned up complete with unknown cast and subtitles on minority channel BBC4 in the UK – and sent a thunderbolt through television drama. Not since Prime Suspect had anyone realised just how engrossing and emotionally deep a crime series could be. The advantages it had were that 20 hour-long episodes were devoted to the story of Sarah Lund and her team investigating the rape and murder of Nanna Birk Larsen; the cast was superb, fronted by an enigmatic performance from Sofie Gråbøl, who single-handedly blew away the cliché of the Nordic blonde dollybird; and the writing (by Søren Sveistrup) focused on character and the impact of a violent crime on the victim’s family, rather than just the whodunit. Moving and engrossing, set in an alien Nordic world, this was a mature, fascinating drama. Series two and three were also a cut above your average TV crime fare, but the first instalment was a true classic. TV execs at the Beeb and ITV hate to hear it, but The Killing was far superior to just about every drama made in the UK in recent years.

Spin-off: The 2011 US copy fiddled with the story and failed to convince viewers, but somehow kept going for another couple of series.

Classic episode: number 18, in which Jan Meyer is murdered at the warehouse. Having spent the entire series trying to get Sarah to clear off and being rude to her, Jan had – without any verbal acknowledgement between them – become a partner with Sarah, a team that had begun to value each other, with Meyer expressing concern for Lund and addressing her ‘as a friend’. His death was a shocking, emotionally affecting twist. Lund almost cracks when she’s told the news.

Music: Soundtrack composed by Frans Bak.

Watercooler fact: Sofie Gråbøl had no formal training as an actor. Encouraged by her mother and having responded to a newspaper ad, she got the role of a young girl in a film about Paul Gauguin and that ‘summer job’ led to others and suddenly she was an actor. She’s done Shakespeare and appeared in a Danish romantic drama, Nikolaj go Julie, before achieving international stardom as Lund.

Sherlock: His Last Vow, BBC1, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Lars Mikkelsen PREVIEW

Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) BBC
Sherlock didn’t hate Moriarty, but he hates Magnussen in His Last Vow. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★★

BBC1: Sunday, 12 January, 8.30pm 

Story: A case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates…

‘THAT’S THE THING with Sherlock,’ says Watson in tonight’s finale. ‘There’s always the unexpected.’

It’s an easy deduction that Watson’s claim is an early entry for the understatement of 2014.

Because tonight’s dazzling climax is chock-full of jaw-dropping surprises, twists and delights. Written by Steven Moffat – Doctor Who head honcho and prime moving force behind this Sherlock update along with Mark Gatiss – it’s one of the absolute top episodes in what is already a tremendous series.

Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN), Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN) Sherlock BBC
Lady Smallwood (LINDSAY DUNCAN) and Magnussen ( LARS MIKKELSEN)

Lars Mikkelsen as the loathsome Magnussen

Like a magician, Moffat diverts and stuns us with a series of revelations and intrigues that make the 90-
minute film fly by.

Lars Mikkelsen, of The Killing and Borgen fame, joins in the fun as one of the nastiest and most disconcerting villains Sherlock has encountered. He is media mogul Charles Augustus Magnussen, a world-class hoarder of personal secrets that he can use to blackmail whomever he chooses.

And Sherlock, not a chap normally ruled by his emotions, loathes Magnussen (he calls him ‘the worst man in London’ in the original story). When the slimeball turns up at Baker Street, he makes himself at home in a particularly offensive way.

Dr John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN) Sherlock BBC
Watson again finds Sherlock anything but elementary

Tension, laughs and tears

Anyway, it is not possible to reveal more of what’s in store. In the first place, it would be mean and sad to spoil things for anyone tuning in, and secondly, the security around the series is now so tight that you almost suspect Mycroft Holmes is organising it.

The Beeb sent me a email outlining what was verboten for this post. Here’s a redacted version:

  •          Anything related to the revelation of XXXXXXX.
  •          The lengths Sherlock goes to to XXXXXXXX
  •          The truth about Magnussen’s XXXXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock’s XXXXXX and the fact that XXXXXXX
  •          Sherlock’s XXXXXXX in the episode
  •          The fact that Sherlock XXXXXXX
  •          The appearance of XXXXXX
  •          The ending

Only someone with the evil impulses of a Moriarty would want to divulge all this anyway. But what can be revealed is that the production values are lavish, the soundtrack is again superb, there’s a wonderful ‘mind palace’ sequence, plus tension, laughs and tears.

Amanda Abbington as Mary

Moffat and co-writer/star Mark Gatiss have pushed the characters hard in this latest series. Where so

Mary Morstan (AMANDA ABBINGTON) Sherlock BBC
Mary has been a brilliant addition to the series

many TV dramas are about preserving characters in aspic, Moffat and Gatiss are so in the groove with the Sherlockian world that they’ve shown new angles and depths to Holmes and Watson throughout the series.

Any caveats? Sherlock acts in what seems an out-of-character fashion at the final confrontation, though that could have ramifications in the next series.

But bringing Amanda Abbington in as Mary has been a masterstroke. Her performance is hugely enjoyable and the character has helped to bring out Holmes in all his ridiculousness and brilliance.

Now the poor chaps have set the bar extremely high for series four. Apparently, a fourth and fifth series are planned, and will follow ‘quickly’.

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman John Watson, Mark Gatiss Mycroft, Rupert Graves Inspector Lestrade, Una Stubbs Mrs Hudson, Amanda Abbington Mary Morstan, Louise Brealey Molly Hooper, Lars Mikkelsen Charles Augustus Magnussen, Lindsay Duncan Lady Smallwood

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Sherlock – preview of series 3

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in Sherlock series 3
Sherlock looks almost ghostly as he hovers over Watson in this scene from series 3. Pic: BBC

Here’s a glimpse from the third series of Sherlock, which should hit BBC1 screens in January (some time before the US broadcast on 19 January). At last we’ll find out how the sleuth cheated death in that rooftop plunge – and get to see Watson’s response to having been duped by his chum. And what will Holmes say when Watson falls for a certain Mary Morstan? New arrivals will include The Killing‘s Lars Mikkelsen, who is apparently ‘terrifying’ as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s king of blackmailers Charles Augustus Milverton. The first episode will be The Empty House, written by Mark Gatiss. There are more production pics here.

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Those Who Kill, Laura Bach PREVIEW

Laura Bach as Katrine Ries Jensen and Jakob Cedergren as Thomas Schaeffer. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV3, starts Thursday, 23 February, 10pm

Story: Deputy superintendent Katrine Ries Jensen is put in charge of her first big case – the discovery of the body of a Polish prostitute in the woods. She recruits forensic psychiatrist Thomas Schaeffer to assist her, and together they soon discover another four bodies buried nearby…

Comparisons between Those Who Kill and The Killing are inevitable.

They’re both Danish, both are dark crime series, and both have a female protagonist. They also both feature actors Lars Mikkelsen (Troels in Killing I) and Carsten Bjørnlund (creepy Major Søgaard in Killing II).

Facing some grisly cases – Katrine and Thomas

But comparisons end there. Those Who Kill consists of six standalone 90-minute mysteries based on a special Copenhagen police unit that targets serial killers. While it doesn’t have the depth of The Killing it does have quality, with interesting characters, tension and a pretty decent story.

Inner logic of dissocial individuals
Katrine Ries Jensen is given her first major case by Bisgaard (Mikkelsen), her boss. A corpse, buried six years previously, has been discovered in woods outside of the city. It is the remains of a Polish-born prostitute.

Thomas Schaeffer is a forensic psychiatrist who specialises in discerning the ‘inner logic’ of ‘dissocial individuals’. Katrine disregards Bisgaard’s fierce opposition to Schaeffer and brings him in to help  her investigation.

They immediately uncover four more female bodies buried in the woods. Schaeffer believes that the killer takes his time, has a fetish for controlling his victims, all of whom are blonde and single – like Katrine.

Katrine v Sarah Lund
Katrine is not as compellingly enigmatic The Killing‘s Sarah Lund, and like most TV cops she is a lonely maverick, obsessed with old cases (she keeps mugshots of murderers who eluded her on the wall of her flat). She has no social life, just a messy apartment with a dead plant in it.

Lars Mikkelsen

But Laura Bach, who plays Katrine, still wins us over with a strong performance – her character really gets put through the wringer in what is a fairly grisly opening story at times.

Those Who Kill is based on the novels of Elsebeth Egholm, and it has the wider theme of a country where social welfare is under attack and borders have opened up, allowing killers without the traditional motives of love or money to slip through the net.

Captivating and atmospheric
Danish network TV2 decided not to make any more series of Those Who Kill after this first one, the show apparently not doing well in its 8pm slot (it’s a bit strong for that early in the evening), though it has done well overseas.

Despite that, viewers who are not bored by the frightening ‘inner logic’ of serial killers should find it  a captivating and atmospheric series with a strong heroine.

Cast: Laura Bach Katrine Ries Jensen, Jakob Cedergren Thomas Schaeffer, Lars Mikkelsen Magnus Bisgaard, Carsten Bjørnlund Adam Krogh, Laerke Winther Mia Vogelbang, Frederik Meldal Nørgaard Stig Molbeck

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