The Killing III – the last weekend

Shooting star – Sarah Lund. Pics: BBC
Reinhardt and Zeuthen

The devotion of British viewers to The Killing will be cut tomorrow night when the third series concludes and we say Hej hej to Sarah Lund and what has been a memorable TV drama. As Lund’s cowboy strut takes her off into the sunset (or, as this is Denmark, into the gloom), will it end happily for Sarah, the obsessed but shrewd detective? Will she be reconciled with her son? Seems unlikely she will end up with Borch, the man she loves, after that visit from his wife last week. But surely writer Søren Sveistrup won’t be cruel and kill her off… Oh, and then there’s the investigation. We now know it was Zeuthen’s right-hand man, Reinhardt, who seemed to have provoked the whole killing spree and kidnapping of his daughter. Will the killer get Reinhardt, or will Lund stop him? Will Kamper win the election, and what has been Karen’s game? This series has had its slow stretches (anyone care if Kamper’s party forms an alliance with the Centre Party?) and its implausibilities (how did the killer vanish after Lund shot him from a few feet away, and then again when he limped away from his pursuers at the government HQ?). The Killing III may not have matched the superb first series, but it has still been a sophisticated, emotionally charged thriller. And in Sofie Gråbøl (Lund), Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Mathias Borch), Morten Suurballe (Lennart Brix) and the rest, the series once again gave us a gripping display of ensemble acting. It’s about time UK broadcasters tried to match The Killing‘s depth and quality. The final two episodes of The Killing are on BBC4 tomorrow night (Saturday, 15 December), starting at 9pm

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The Killing series three starring Sofie Gråbøl PREVIEW

Sarah Lund at the murder scene that launches the third series. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 17 November, 9pm 

Story: Detective Sarah Lund has found some peace in the form of a new home, hopefully a move to a less front-line job, and the impending recognition of her 25 years police service. But homicide again gets in the way of her plans…

Sarah Lund returns in the third and final series of the acclaimed Danish crime drama – but with a difference. She’s let her hair down, has new jumpers, a garden, is cooking proper meals, and half-smiles at one point.

That the uncommunicative, obsessive detective is trying to reclaim her life will catch her many devotees off-guard. This is the woman whose compulsion in series one to solve the Nanna Birk Larsen case led her to lose sight of her boyfriend and her son.

We get reacquainted with lonesome Lund as she is about to be rewarded for 25 years of police service. So eager is she to pursue some happiness in her personal life that she is trying to get a transfer away from the crime scenes to the analysis department, and also tries to duck out of investigating a mangled body found in a junkyard by the port.

Lund is pushed into investigating by Borch (right)

The audience knows the Lund enigma so well
Then comes a painful scene. Lund has invited her teenage son to dinner with his girlfriend, whom Sarah has never met. She has prepared a meal for the couple, got her new home ready – but then the lad calls to blow her out.

It’s sad for Lund, who starts apologising to her boy for having failed occasionally as a mother. But while doing this, she absentmindedly flicks through some crime-scenes photos of a dismembered corpse. A tattoo on a severed arm offers her a clue, and she begins to ignore her son, once again working through the possibilities of this clue.

Sarah Lund is back, her son forgotten again. In a moment, sadness switched to laughter when I saw a preview of this opening episode at the BFI in London on Friday. The audience now knows the Lund enigma so well, they could only laugh when she reverted to her murder-immersed old self.

Sarah Lund’s old flame is on the scene
The global financial meltdown is the backdrop to this 10-part story, and the apparently random death in the scrapyard turns out to have links to the crisis.

Lund with new partner Juncker and Brix

It’s a rich mix of a story, with the strands including Sarah Lund’s old flame, Mathias Borch from the National Security Service, reappearing in her life, while Prime Minister Kamper is facing re-election and trying to avert the disaster of having Denmark’s oil giant Zeeland pulling out of the country and moving operations abroad, costing many local jobs.

Zeeland’s boss Robert Zeuthen is facing a boardroom coup, and there’s a shocking development concerning his family. It’s a tense opening episode, kicking off with chilling murders on board a tanker ship, but one containing a lot of the political machinations of the kind we saw in The Killing 1.

The Killing was the TV drama of 2011
The original series was only shown in the UK last year, a remarkably short time in which Sarah Lund – the awkward, silent, puzzling heroine – has become a much-loved leading character in the crime genre. Having been around since 2007, the subtitled Danish series with no household names in it was a word-of-mouth sensation, clearly catching BBC4 completely unaware.

Is there a link between the sordid murder and corporate powers?

We’ve watched Lund’s decline into loneliness, particularly in series two, where she found herself in uniform on border duty. This second outing lacked the emotional power of the first, which was a heartrending portrayal of the impact of the kidnap and murder of teenager Nanna on her family.

Will series three be a fitting send-off? Some of the novelty has inevitably worn off what was initially an exotic drama for Brits, but the opener is packed with intrigue and Sofie Gråbøl is again very strong and sympathetic as Lund.

Sofie Gråbøl: ‘I cried all the way home’
It should also keep us guessing. The actress was at the BFI last week and said that for the third she had guessed wrong who the writer Søren Sveistrup had made responsible for the crimes.

She also acknowledged that finishing her role as Lund had been emotional. ‘It hit me like a hammer,’ she told the audience. ‘I had three big emotional scenes on the last day and it was stressful.’ Having been given a bottle of champagne, she said, ‘I just ran off because it would be pathetic to cry at work. I cried all the way home.’

Sofie Gråbøl at the BFI. Pic: Robin Jarossi

Sveistrup was also at the BFI and emphasised that series three is definitely the final one. ‘It’s been great,’ he said. ‘We agreed from the start that it would not be a neverending story. I’d hate it to become just another mass-produced show.

‘So much television stinks. It’s important to reinvent yourself. Do something, be proud of it and finish it.’

He’s surely right. But Sarah Lund will be much missed.

Cast: Sofie Gråbøl Sarah Lund, Nikolaj Lie Kaas Mathias Borch, Morten Suurballe Lennart Brix, Sigurd Holmen le Dous Asbjørn Juncker, Anders W. Berthelsen Robert Zeuthen, Helle Fagralid Maja Zeuthen, Stig Hoffmayer Niels Reinhardt, Olaf Johannessen Kristian Kamper, Jonatan Spang Kristoffer Kamper, Trine Pallesen Karen Nebel, Tammi Øst Birgit Eggert, Peter Mygind Tage Steiner

Read on:
Why The Killing is the best thing on TV – 10 reasons (CrimeTimePreview)
The Killing BBC4
The Killing (Forbrydelsen) Wikipedia
Sarah Lund’s Jumper
Crash course in Danish for Killing fans

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The Killing was a killer show

Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl). Pic: BBC

Since posting about Why The Killing Is the Best Thing on TV, crimetimepreview has been inundated with comments and thousands of hits from the growing army of fans for this superb Danish thriller.

Around 80 people so far have commented on that post, from a Doctor Who scriptwriter to viewers who cancelled their eagle-spotting holiday in Scotland to avoid missing BBC4’s Saturday night double-bill. Posts compared the 20-parter to The Wire, Prime Suspect, and, further back, to largely forgotten classics such as Out, starring Tom Bell, and The Sandbaggers, with Roy Marsden. Some said it was without equal.

What comes through strongly in the comments is that many viewers are bored with the unambitious dramas churned out by the Beeb and ITV so often these days.

‘To think I used to watch Casualty on Saturday night…’ was one comment, while another said, ‘I wish we could see this kind of quality produced in the UK.’

Vagn was the man and Troels sold out
Rather than costume cops (Inspector George Gently and Marple etc) and extending Midsomer and Morse into eternity, perhaps now is the time for the big guns of ITV, BBC, C4 and BSkyB to raise their game (though BSkyB’s soon-to-be seen Martina Cole drama, The Take, is spunkier than most terrestrial shows around right now). After all, the brilliance of The Killing is nothing to do with big budgets or armies of American scriptwriters – it’s about cliche-free storytelling and sharply drawn characters.

As for the finale – my personal theory that Rie and Brix were involved in some cover-up was revealed to be total poppycock. Vagn (Nicolaj Kopernikus) was the man, and Troels (Lars Mikkelsen), who melted many female hearts, was shown to be a typical politician in the end – two-faced and unburdened by integrity, selling out Rie and his principles just as his arch-rival Bremer predicted.

While there was no explanation for Vagn’s sexual abuse of Nanna, this aspect of his revolting crime still made sense. He had creepily immersed himself into the Birk Larsen family (Jan Meyer was right about him!) and he was clearly bent on destroying what he seemed to love but couldn’t have.

Sarah Lund pays the price
And such a bittersweet end for Sarah Lund. A brilliant moment when she realised what ‘Sara 84’ – Meyer’s deathbed utterance – meant. But what a price to pay to being proved correct – family and lovelife wrecked, work partner murdered… And what a total tragedy for the innocent Birk Larsens.

Quibbles? Well, what was that business with the sabotaged lighting outside Sarah’s apartment? Had there been someone watching her? And it was a bit of a stretch, surely, for Vagn to get out to the ship, murder Frevert and not be spotted by anyone onboard. Had Frevert known all along about Vagn’s crime? More importantly, can someone explain to me how Vagn ended up at the party’s apartment with Nanna, before taking her to Theis’s new house to kill her? I might have to watch it all again.

Livvagterne, anyone?

One viewer posted a comment saying that The Killing was not the only excellent Danish thriller around. He hoped LivvagterneThe Bodyguards would also get a showing here.

So, perhaps while the BBC or ITV starts to commission its own original and gripping new crime series, it could check out purchasing Livvagterne.

In the meantime, Spiral will be back on BBC4 before The Killing II returns in the autumn. The trailer for that looked pretty good, too.

Why The Killing is the best thing on television – 10 reasons

Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl), non-confrontational but very strong. Pics: BBC

 

The Killing is tucked away on BBC4 (Saturdays 9pm), but don’t underestimate this Danish cult hit – it’s the best series currently on TV.

1 Sarah Lund
Actress Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund (above), a deputy superintendent with Copenhagen police, has become something of an icon across Europe – and it’s not just because of her jumper, which is now a fashion must-have. She is the antithesis of most female cops on TV – no suit, no ball-busting bust-ups with male colleagues, and she’s not a dolly or glam in the mould of Anna Travis (Above Suspicion) or Marg Helgenberger (CSI). She is low-key and shrewd, and while non-confrontational she remains a very strong personality. When her colleague, the un-subtle Meyer (Søren Malling), says to her, ‘You owe me an explanation,’ she just walks away. So, that will be a no then, Meyer. The camera often simply focuses on her eyes, and we sense her mind moving way ahead of her colleagues’.

2 Better than most Brit/US shows
For depth of character and storytelling honesty, The Killing is up there with the best US shows, such as The Wire and The Sopranos. When it comes to the procedural stuff – CSI, Law & Order, Silent Witness – or the pretty postcard mysteries made in the UK – Marple, Midsomer Murders, Inspector George Gently – oh, please, let’s draw a veil over such non-comparisons.

3 Good whodunnit
Liable to spark lengthy debates on the front-room sofa – was Nanna’s killer a psychopath, her teacher, boyfriend, or part of a political conspiracy? When the series was originally shown in Denmark in 2007, large bets were placed on the perpetrator’s identity.

4 Better than a whodunnit
But it’s so much more than a whodunnit. The power of the series is the brilliantly drawn, complex characters, who can make bad choices or lie but never lose our empathy.

5 Focus on relationships

The ever-watchful Sarah Lund

Most crime dramas lack any emotional pull because the victim is treated indifferently, as a device to kick-off the plot. How often do such shows start with grumpy detectives turning up a murder scene, where the victim is showcased in all their gore, and then virtually forgotten. In The Killing the murder of student Nanna Birk Larsen reverberates through the whole series, it’s impact on her family being portrayed with respect and painful honesty. And the relationships shift – Lund and Meyer, with all the pace of a glacial thaw, gradually form an unlikely partnership.

6 No ludicrous plot shifts
No, it’s not likely that Lund’s colleague Meyer will turn out to be a bent cop turned nutty killer who frames her, or that Lund will form an alliance with a serial killer (why does the BBC’s Luther come to mind here?).

7 Multi-strand storylines brilliantly juggled 
Where most British series focus solely on the investigation and the cops, The Killing superbly interweaves Lund’s tangled relationship with her mother, son and lover, a political election and all its dirty tricks, police department power games, and the ongoing, heartbreaking trauma for Nanna’s family.

8 Atmospheric
Forest, rainy nights and sombre interiors.

9 Beautifully paced 
We’ve all seen those series that are desperate to stop us turning over, with three murders and/or several dismembered corpses before the first ad break. The Killing savours every scene, devoting one episode to each day of the 20-day investigation.

Bjarne Henriksen as Theis

10 Tremendous performances
If any actor can convey more anguish with the blink of an eye than Bjarne Henriksen as Nanna’s rough-diamond dad, Theis, then please fill out the comment box below. Theis and his wife, Pernille (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), are the soul of the series. Lars Mikkelsen as the mayoral candidate under suspicion, Troels Hartmann, is moving. Any actor who can make us feel for a politician has to be a marvel.

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