The Killing: Season 1
For awhile now most of the innovations made in television programming have come from the premium cable channels dominated by HBO, Showtime and with Starz as a fairly recent entrant in the mix. With the more permissive attitude towards content adult language and mature themes pulled a sizable number of viewers away from the traditional broadcasting networks. Initially the attraction was the use of foul language and nudity drew the audiences but that novelty would be short lived if not for the thematic quality and superior production values to back it up. AMC, now part of basic cable, has entered the fray of original programming pulling the focus away from being the ‘American Movie Channel’ to an award winning leader and serious contender come award season. With niche series like ‘Mad Men’, "Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ AMC has risen to the source of some of the most imaginative program available on you cable box. One series that has been added to this ever expanding, illustrious list of achievements is ‘The Killing’. One thing that is in common with all the original AMC programming is their expertise in taking a well recognized genre and turning it on its head. ‘The Killing’ is such a show presenting a murder mystery in a fashion that has not been attempted, well at least here in the United States. ‘The Killing’ is based on a Danish television series where the murderer would remain cloaked in secrecy until the final episode of the season. The traditional TV series the perpetrator would inevitably be disclosed at a significantly earlier time. The point here is not the grand revelation but the journey necessary to get there. The result transcends the mundane mystery achieving the much rarer commodity on television, the taut psychological thriller. All of this intrigue and suspense is generated by the disappearance and murder of a teen age girl in the great American North West. This might sound exceptionally familiar but unlike ‘Twin Peaks’ the emphasis is on the depths of human evil rather than a trip through the surreal machinations of a very unusual filmmaker. Just because ‘The Killing’ is more grounded don’t confuse that with mundane; it is a long way from that.
Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is a respected homicide detective in Seattle who is just about to leave the job. Mother of a pre-teenage son, Jack (Liam James) and engaged to marry Rick Felder, the pressure was beginning to show on Sarah forcing her to reevaluate her life and priorities. Just before her retirement was to officially go into effect she catches an investigation, Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay), a local popular teenage girl has disappeared. Ostensibly the case should go to her replacement, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) but her soon to be ex boss, Lt. Michael Oakes (Garry Chalk), request Sarah remain long enough t get Holder on the right track. By the end of the shift she would be in retirement. The clues to the fate of the girl are meager, a bloody sweatshirt and an ATM field left in a remote field. Now missing for several days the detectives locate her lifeless body in the trunk of s car submerged in lake. Sarah is forced to place her egress on hold until the killer can be found.
It doesn’t take long before all the principle players are introduced and prepared to be thrown into the fray. The scope of the investigation becomes political when the detectives determine the car is a staff vehicle for the politically powerful Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), a local councilman. Evidence mounts as a photograph surfaces that proves he was driving it the night Rosie went missing. Nothing is as it seems since some evidence comes up indicating the photo may have been altered to frame the politician. The web of suspects and motivations grows to encompass a broad selection of people. Among them are Rosie’s parents, Stan (Brent Sexton) and Mitch (Michelle Forbes). Clues and red herrings conflict at every turn keeping the characters and audience in a constant state of suspense. Many of the standard interpersonal dynamics are manifested here providing a sense of familiarity as the show blazes a nee trail in prime time programming. One is the political savvy woman carrying on a clandestine affair with the politician. Gwen Eaton (Kristin Lehman) has the game of politics in her genes. As a daughter of a United States Senator her political acumen was indoctrinated into her from her earliest recollections. Now she serves as Campbell’s advisor and lover to the widower.
This series is outstanding for a plethora of reasons the least of which is the pacing of the story. You can tell the origins of this show were outside our borders. Americans traditionally want immediate gratification preferring not to put off gratification. This series takes it time letting the situations simmer properly to ensue the characters are fully formed complete with the normal assortment of foibles our species is prone to. If here is a single attribute present here that earns the series the high praise it has received its patience. The talented cast and crew carefully enfold the story while demanding this quality from their viewers. In some ways this is a series that is better viewed on disc when you can completely immerse yourself in one episode after another. It was planned as a thirteen episode story arc so there is no mid season cliffhanger or loose ends to lead to the next season (although I did hear season 2 is in the works). This is what a mystery should be; a self contained entity with definite beginning, middle and end. It took a cue from Danish television and the dedication of AMC to create something of this level but thankfully it was achieved. The Blu-ray video brings out the amazing use if subtle detail found in practically every shot while the audio enfolds you with the proper amount of ambience. This series is by far one of the better ones to come surround in a long time.
Orpheus Descending - Extended Season Finale