So, it’s over… until June, when Series Two of the Danish crime thriller ‘The Killing’ returns to BBC 4. In the meantime, sad, desperate little knots of addicted cultists can be observed honing their Danish accents and crying out the names of favourite characters (‘Theis!’ — pronounce it ‘tice!’) or gasping at the price of those sweaters, the ones worn by detective Sarah Lund (mainly one sweater over twenty days – not surprising, given the cost).
It is the first TV series that this reviewer has felt even tempted to follow until the end since the ‘Wire’ and he would happily sit through it again — even though he knows the identity of the killer of Nanna Birk (‘beyerk’) Larsen, daughter of Theis and Pernille. Indeed, knowing who dun it would be an advantage, in that one could focus still more on the intricacies and subtleties of an extraordinarily well-crafted piece of serious drama.
It is not just the endless inventiveness of the scriptwriters in coming up with extremely plausible red herrings, one after another, and the doubts about the identity of the culprit that are stoked virtually until the end, but also the relentless realism of the portrayal of loss and grief, and of the clinical efficiency with which the investigation reveals corners of people’s lives (many of them turning out to have little to do with the actual crime). As Sarah Lund and her team follow up lead after lead, they leave behind them a trail of broken relationships, lost trust and shabby manoeuvring as families, local politicians, schools and communities are forced to face up to or try to evade the uncomfortable truths revealed by the police.
Not that Sarah Lund is an impersonal deus ex machina. Pursuing Nanna’s murderer with an unyielding determination for which the word ‘obsession’ might have been coined, Sarah’s personal life falls apart. At one point, a colleague jokes that Sarah’s mum will be the next to leave her. It’s not giving away too much to report that that is exactly what happens. She hardly notices.
One of the series’ greatest strengths is the acting. By the standards of any drama, it’s outstanding. Bjarne Henriksen, for example, who plays Theis Birk Larsen, touches greatness in his portrayal of a man whose life and sense of self are unravelling under the strain of unbearable grief.
Catch what you can of it on iPlayer and don’t miss it in June. Seeing if Series Two lives up to the standards set by Series One will be full of suspense in itself.