I wrote this over six months ago. The first place I sent it turned it down. The second said it’d do it. The editor just needed the right time. I forgot about it until the other day. Since he’s been sitting on another piece of mine for over a year without finding the time for it, I figured what the hell. He won’t mind and I better do something before I forget about it all over again.
a review by Bob and Adele Levin
CAUTION: SPOILERS LURK AHEAD
Forbrydelsen, the Danish television series, on which the American The Killing was based, began January 7, 2007, and ended December 17, 2011. The first season ran 20 one-hour episodes; the second and third ran 10 episodes each. In these three season,, each time with a different partner, a homicide detective, Sarah Lund, played brilliantly by Sofie Grabol, solves three brutal cases.
The Killing, on AMC, began April 3, 2011, and ended August 4, 2013. It broke Forbrydelsen’s first season into two 13-episode ones, and then added a third 12-episode season. In these three seasons, a homicide detective, Sarah Linden, played brilliantly by Mireille Enos, solves two brutal cases. Throughout her partner is Stephen Holder, played brilliantly by Joel Kinnaman. Their failure to answer the question “Who-killed-Rosie-Larsen?” (Nanna Larsen, in the original) in season one, however, outraged viewers and critics alike.
The Killings ratings never recovered, and AMC cancelled it. Enos, with World War Z in her future, and Kinnaman, with Robo Cop, seemed headed for careers in second rate films. Then Netflix announced its acquisition of the rights to a six-episode conclusion.
We had been great fans of The Killing – and greater fans of Forbrydelsen, which seemed deeper, darker, and more psychologically complex. (We had seen it on DVD, via BBC, which had shown it with English subtitles, a perfectly enjoyable experience, despite being occasionally jarred by Danish law enforcement personnel speaking of “perps” and “blokes.”)We had only recently seen the final Forbrydelsen when Netflix’s season began, so we eagerly signed up.
Though the murderers differed – and Forbrydelsen was short on native Americans – the first cases were similar and played out alongside similar tales of political corruptness. Thereafter, the crimes differed, and AMC abandoned the corruption, which the Danes maintained.[Another difference was that Lund seemed to have surveillance cameras everywhere to assist her investigations and no Miranda warnings or search warrants to slow her down. If she wanted to inspect someone’s storage locker, she just snapped the bolt.] But both series maintained a striking similarity in their central characters.
Both Lund and Linden were single mothers of a son. Both broke off an engagement and had a history of walking out on significant others. Neither had a single, sustained close friendship. Lund had a strained relationship with her mother, but Linden’s had abandoned her and she had been raised in institutions and foster homes. (Holder’s upbringing, while unclear, had primed him to become a drug addict.)
The Danish and AMC series ended similarly. Linden, over Holder’s frantic objection, kills an unresistant rapist/killer of teenage girls. Lund, over the frantic objections of her latest partner, kills an unresistant rapist/killer of teenage girls. But while the screen simply faded to black on Linden, Lund must flee Denamrk, severing all connections with her past. With that in mind, The Killing’s revival raised questions about the over-looked consequences of Linden’s act.
Linden and Holder must solve the murder of a family of four, while pitted against an ex-army officer (Joan Allen), who, frankly, seemed better suited as an adversary for Colombo. They are weighted down – indeed almost crushed – by Linden’s homicide and Holder’s participation in the earlier cover-up. Throughout, they are pursued in Javert-like fashion by Holder’s suspicious ex-partner, Reddick (Gregg Henry), and further burdened by developments in their personal lives. Holder’s girlfriend is pregnant, and Linden’s son has located her mother, interlacing the season with issues of responsibility, commitment and flight.
By episode five’s end, Reddick has put the pieces together. He has the evidence. He has set Linden and Holder against each other. In their desperation, their eyes burn holes into their faces; their flesh dies. We approached the finale expecting doom – not even Lund’s plane to Iceland hovering as an escape. But having noted one seemingly casual bit of procedural dialogue and cognizant of Forbrydelsen’s world view – though missing a supportive clue in episode six’s opening credits – we spied a narrow exit.
It took several teasing, lingering “Is-this-it?” shots – and a few year elipsis – but things resolved even better than expected. The width of our smiles set us reflecting upon endings. We do not feed upon the sugar-coated. We resent the maudlin’s manipulations. We have had it with the latest “feel good’ whatever – and the redemptive makes us retch. We have enjoyed the varieties of blackness sprung from the conclusions to “adult” cable fare, like Huff and The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire, Boss and Nurse Jackie. So Forbrydelsen’s end, in which a wonderful-but-damaged woman, trying to do good, is cast into isolation, while powers-that-be conspire to conceal evil, fit a familiar world. The Killing, by establishing and maintaining its wonderful-but-damaged duo and de-emphasizing their surround, had shifted this dynamic. Now we had two people, thwarted in their development as human beings, to concern us – their external be damned!.
To reach its sugar-coated, heart warming, even – yes! – redemptive ending, via those missing years, during which Linden and Holder unexplainedly filled the holes which had previously kept them apart, The Killing tumbled ass-over-teakettle into the improbable. But we had wanted it so much – both for this couple, with whom we literally had spent more time than any flesh-and-blood other, and for ourselves – that we happily overlooked this assault upon credulity. The newspapers of the week which saw Holder and Linden embrace, had brought us Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Yazidis, and Ebola. The phone had added a hospitalization and an outpatient course of chemo, and the mail two M.I.s, one fatal. So we felt entitled – and absolved.
Sometimes, in fiction as in life, people grow up and find love. It doesn’t erase any brutalities and machinations, but it is nice when it happens.