The show is based on a popular Danish crime drama by the same (albeit Danish) name. Just because it’s not flashy doesn’t mean it’s not stylish. The cinematography is gorgeous, almost cinematic. The screen is washed in the lush greens and blues and grays of the Pacific Northwest. The soundtrack is equally cinematic – sophisticated, taut, kinda creepy. The pacing is methodical, and could even be considered glacial in this current ADHD one-and-done crime procedural culture. Nothing has been solved in three episodes, the mystery has only deepened. But just because it takes its time does not mean it is boring – in fact the exact opposite. And, kittens kittens, we haven’t even begun to talk about the acting yet.
Lead Mireille Enos, the chief detective investigating the murder of high school student Rosie Larsen, isn’t your standard gorgeous TV police detective. And, trust me, I have no problem with standard gorgeous TV police detectives (hello, Olivia Benson, Jane Rizzoli, Kate Beckett – call me). Her Det. Sarah Linden is gorgeous, but in an entirely unglossy way. She doesn’t wear makeup. She shops at Ross. She keeps her red hair in a loose, practical ponytail. She is utterly unadorned. In fact, it may take you a while to come to the conclusion that Mireille Enos is gorgeous, but you will and possibly not even for what is external.
You see, the thing about “The Killing” is how internal it is. This isn’t a show with great expository speechifying or loud gun battles. As noted by critics much smarter than me, what's so extraordinary is it allows us to see to see the character think. In particular, we get to see Sarah Linden think. She is a woman of few words, not because she is the stoic hero but because she is actually taking the time to turn things over in her head Yet she is so expressive and empathetic. All her actions feel genuine, like someone who knows what she’s doing and has done it all before. Even the simple act this past episode of her wordlessly staring at the ingredients of whatever unhealthy thing she just ate with a split-second flash of self disgust felt real. This is a person, not a character. We’re drawn to her competence and intrigued by her silence. Also, Mireille has the potential to become one of TV’s greatest scowlers. And, given my propensity for sexy, serene scowlers, this is high praise indeed.
Admittedly, this show might be hard for some to watch. There is grief and pain and inexplicable cruelty. But it doesn't wallow in them. This isn't part of the “Saw” franchise. It's about how one horrible act can ripple through so many lives. As Rosie’s parents, Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton made me tear up not once, not twice but three times in the pilot. That may not sound like a good time, and this surely isn’t disposable fluff, but it’s mesmerizing TV. OK, there’s also a political angle that isn’t entirely as mesmerizing. But I still find it intriguingly complex and have to believe that there will be some further payoff other than an examination of political machine.
And, while we’re at it, this series fulfills the Bechdel Rule. It has a female lead. Sarah and Rosie’s mom have already talked several times, and certainly not about a man. And Sarah also has a female best friend, Reggie, who we were introduced to this last episode. p.s. I want to find out more about that dynamic, too. Plus, “The Killing” has a female creator/writer (Veena Sud of “Cold Case”) and women have directed the first three episodes (Patty Jenkins of “Monster” for the two-part pilot and Gwyneth Horder-Payton of “The Shield” for last night’s episode).
Three episodes have aired, but you still have time to catch up. The two-part pilot is available online at AMCTV.com. And the third episode re-airs on AMC at 10:30 p.m. Thursday or just before the next new episode at 9 p.m. Sunday (the series airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on AMC).
Oh, and one more little oh-isn’t-that-interesting. Mireille was four month pregnant when she shot the pilot (hence the big, bulky sweater and windbreaker). Guess who she is married to? Alan Ruck, better known as Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Look, I know we all have too many shows to watch already. I know the prospect of signing on for a slowly paced crime drama that’s unafraid to examine grief might not sound all that appealing. But you really should, because we need more shows where people are given the time to think – and that make us think.