Weekend’s TV: The Killing II
Serena Davies reviews the first two episode of the second series of The Killing, starring Sofie Gråbøl.
It may be too early to call. In fact, I hope it’s too early to call. But I’m going to do so anyway: The Killing II is not as good as The Killing I.
The first Killing (Forbrydelsen in its Danish mother tongue, which means The Crime – much more subtle, but never mind) was possibly the single most gripping detective drama series the 21st century has yet produced. Yes it had one of Denmark’s greatest actresses, the inscrutable, sad-eyed Sofie Gråbøl, as the surly detective, Sarah Lund. Yes it was filmed from clever camera angles, all torchlit vistas and crane’s eye views of the horrid. But it was the fact that it left you gasping for breath by the end of each episode due to the head-wrenching level of excitement it had built up that was the true signifier of its dazzling – despite all the gloom – brilliance.
Let’s not get this wrong: the opening double bill of The Killing II (BBC Four, Saturday) was still excellent. It had understated performances, it had a sophisticated script. Again we were to follow the investigation into a single murder for the whole of the series. This time a woman had been found, knifed to death, propped up in Copenhagen’s Memorial Park. The police thought it was a crime of passion, but Lund worked out the victim had been filmed by finding the plastic wrapper from a tape case at the crime scene. Passion killings don’t tend to involve the murderers filming their victims… By the end of episode two the finger was pointing instead at Islamic fundamentalists.
And there, in a way, lay the problem. The Killing II has got too big for its boots. The last Killing brought in politics but nothing as big as the War on Terror. At the weekend, as well as following the progress of the murder investigation, we were plunged straight into high-level political chat about anti-terror bills and party coalitions – as well as a third story strand about a volatile soldier being kept in a secure psychiatric unit.
The scriptwriters may well prove they can handle their new complex set-up once it beds in, but right now it’s confusing and lacking any obviously empathetic characters. And we have to include Lund in that. She began series one as a regular woman with a boyfriend and a son who, movingly if not quite tragically, became so obsessed with her murder investigation that by the end both boyfriend and son had left her.
But the result of this was that she began the second series as an eccentric loner with no emotional “journey” left to make: are we going to care as much about her as we will about the murder this time around? I’m not sure.
The most crucial shift from the first series, however, is pace. The first series was all about incredibly taut but often painstakingly slow scenes. At the weekend the pace was frenetic instead of tense, an important distinction. The Bourne films are frenetic, but it takes rare psychological insight to make something tense. Perhaps, with only 10 episodes instead of 20 to play with this time, the makers feel they haven’t the luxury to let us get to know the characters – but the worry is there that Forbrydelsen may have sacrificed its uniqueness for fast thrills.