'The Killing' premiere review: A damp good mystery, don't you think?

The Killing, which premiered Sunday night on AMC, was a dream for hardcore murder-mystery fans: An investigation conducted by police detectives with contrasting personalities, its focus fixed as frequently on the family of the victim as on the solving of the case. Filled with  a puzzling death, intriguing characters, and carefully measured performances, I’ll bet many of you could have watched all 13 hours of it in one or two sittings; I certainly could’ve.

The Killing is a close adaptation of a hit Danish production that taps into the current U.S. literary popularity of Scandinavian thriller writers such as Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, and Karen Fossum. There are three aspects to the plot: The murder and its investigation; the grief it brings the dead girl’s family (the mom is played by True Blood’s Michelle Forbes; the dad is Life’s Brent Sexton); and the political career it threatens to jeopardize (her body is found in the trunk of a car belonging to the campaign of a city councilman played by Once & Again’s Billy Campbell).

It’s one of the pleasures of TV to witness an actor you know from a supporting role in one series step out and take command of a different show, and so it is with Mireille Enos, from Big Love. With her pale skin, rust-colored hair, and air of sad cynicism, Enos imbued police detective Sarah Linden with just the right mixture of melancholy and doggedness. You’re drawn in by her situation: a Seattle cop who’s about to take a leave to get married, a bit baffled by the cop assigned to replace her, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). Holder is a disruptive, unpredictable force – sarcastic and jokey, he keeps Sarah, suspects and us, as viewers, off-balance.

AMC’s range of programming continues to be admirable. From Mad Men to The Walking Dead to now The Killing, this is genre programming that’s a cut above the usual examples of genre TV-making. If the channel felt compelled to cancel the low-rated Rubicon, at least they took a risk with The Killing — because, no matter that it was a huge hit overseas (where its title was ForbrydelsenThe Crime), a rainy, downbeat murder investigation is still a dicey commercial proposition here.

That’s because in America, if you make first-rate TV police work downbeat, you may end up with Homicide: Life On The Street or The Wire — exceptional work that finds a smallish audience. Yet I don’t doubt for a second that anyone who prefers sunnier crime-solving — from CSI: Miami to NCIS: Los Angeles — will also be taken in by the storytelling of The Killing. Although The Killing is an adaptation of an overseas series, its American producer Veena Sud worked here on Cold Case, another gray-hued procedural that never quite fit snugly into Les Moonves’ keep-movin’, wrap-it-up CBS storytelling style, despite Case‘s successful run.

If Cold Case never quite lived up to its promise (star Kathryn Morris’ hair, initially a wild tangle signaling her character’s diffuse moods and thoughts, became more tidy, not less, as the series became more conventional), The Killing‘s Sarah Linden suggests what Morris’ Lily Rush might have become: More brooding, more open to personal relationships yet more guarded about revealing her emotions when she’s on the scene in the midst of a case.

It’s that tension between the personal and the professional that resonates throughout The Killing. Whether it’s the police work, the behavior of the murdered girl’s family, or the damage-control attempted by Billy Campbell’s campaign staff, it all builds to a suspenseful intensity.

What did you think of The Killing? Will you keep watching?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (203 total) Add your comment
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  • Dana

    is it gonna be rerun I forgot to watch and wanted to

    • dannie

      There are several viewings throughout the week. Check the website, or maybe tvguide.

      • Lily

        Thanks dannie. The Killing get’s an A+ from me. Thought it rocked. Eerily atmospheric with Seattle’s dark clouds and constant rain, suspenseful, well acted, great soundtrack and I really want to know who killed that beautiful young girl and why? Mireille Enos was amazing. Will be tuning in every week.

    • kaydevo

      I believe it reruns Thursday night and Friday afternoon….

      • Bette

        You can catch up by watching it on AMC’s website. Also, it is filmed in Vancouver, which stands in for Seattle. Great beginning.

    • Michael

      The episode was already available on AMC OD as of this morning.

    • Anne

      You can still watch the pilot online. Episodes one and two ran in one 2 hr chunk. Episode 3 will air Sunday. Ther are likely still viewings this week…in 5 min West Coast time, and tomorrow a 5PM Pacific time zone.

      I’m watching it for the 2nd time (with someone) and it holds up. Intrigued at how it will play out.

  • Stefan

    It was beautifully done. The mood and atmosphere the actors and the location emanated were incredible. I’ll definitely keep tuning in!

    • katie

      Okay, I’m really surprised that everyone loved it so much. Stefan, you compliment the mood and atmosphere, but didn’t the over-the-top musical score make you CRAZY? I kept wishing I could turn it down so I could focus on the show itself.

      To me, the corny score reminded me of a late 90s/early 80s TV thriller. All that was missing was the scrunchies and mall hair.

      Plus, I felt like it was trying to forcibly elicit emotions out of us, similar to a sitcom with a laugh track.

      I wish the show had taken a lesson from “Mad Men” and let the acting, plot, and setting set the mood. If the story’s there, we’ll feel the right emotions without the cheesy keyboard and rock guitar.

      • katie

        (ha, check that, “late 80s/early 90s”… you know what I’m getting at)

      • Irishgirl

        I liked the show alot….even though the character of Holder just annoyed the crap out of me. But I have to agree, the score was distracting and invasive. I hate when the music in a show drowns out the dialogue, and that’s what was happening here. It wasn’t the best score, but I was bothered more by the interruption than the inappropriateness of the score.

        On a side note, it took me awhile before I realized where I’d seen the actress who portrays Sterling, Kacey Rohl. She was just in the Fringe ep ‘The Plateau’ which was rerun this past Friday.

      • Bobby’s Robot

        Agree about the score being obtrusive. Also found all the rain distracting. I realize it’s supposed to set the mood, but it also breaks the mood if the viewer is contantly thinking, “They’re getting soaked – why don’t they use an umbrella?!” for half the show.

      • David

        I kept expecting to hear music from Twin Peaks.

      • Whitney

        I completely agree that the score was distracting and overwrought. Definitely got a sense of the Twin Peaks music; however, where that enriched a scene, this detracted from it. As for Holder though, he was amazing! One minute I was laughing and the next I was terrified. I think he’s a great character and a wonderful foil to Enos’ Linden.

      • Bradey

        At a few points the score reminded me a bit of The X-Files, which goes to your 90′s theme. I actually liked it though!

      • jj6

        the rain is as much for mood as for they filmed in Vancouver in what looks like the fall/winter…. It rains pretty much all the time here through those seasons particularly october/november, so… yeah. lol

    • KwadGuy

      Really really good. The emotional stuff with the parents was extremely well done and heartbreaking. The dialog was intelligent. The lead actress is perfect. There was a lot of space in the narrative, which is unusual for TV.

      I could have watched the whole series in one sitting.

      The one thing that continually bothered me were the AMC promos, which simply reminded me of the late, lamented Rubicon…RIP.

      • ba’al

        I was thinking Rubicon too

      • Ryne

        That’s not just the best anwsre. It’s the bestest answer!

    • Hearts

      Rubicon’s nicely made, stnrog cast, but in terms of tradecraft, they’d better do a better job explaining the purpose of the crossword puzzles. To keep this spoiler free, the more usual technique to do what the crosswords were supposed to do, is to place personal ads with pre-arranged codes. Personal ads can be phoned in anonymously and be published within 24 hours. Crossword puzzles, like comic strips, are prepared weeks ahead of publication. The creators of the crosswords that run in the papers mentioned in Rubicon are created by known puzzle authors, they’re submitted to editors, syndication fees are paid to subvert that process on the orders of hours, as it was mentioned happened in the past, would involve the cooperation or coercion of dozens of civilians, each of whom would then be a security risk. Personal ads = vastly reduced risk.Writers of this genre, it’s not enough to come up with an idea for something that’s cool, you have to have an idea that’s cool AND makes real-world sense. It’s one thing to play fast and loose with logic in a two-hour summer movie that moves so quickly the audience doesn’t start discovering the plot holes until they’ve left the theatre. But Rubicon feels like a show that should be a puzzle in itself, inviting the audience to think carefully about how the pieces fit together each week.I’m rooting for the series, but I really hope the purpose of the crosswords is not what was revealed in episode 2. 10101100011011111000

  • dannie

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, and could easily view all the episodes in one sitting. I was surprised that even though the mood and tone was fairly slow, the 2 hours went by fast.
    All the cast did a great job, but Mirielle was outstanding.
    Loved the constant raining. lol
    Great show!

  • Gloria

    I thought it was awesome and can hardly wait till next Sunday. I’m hooked.

  • GimplyGump ☺

    I liked it quite a bit. Now to see how a single story goes the season w/o dragging it out and becomeing boring. Here’s hoping they can do it.
    .
    One little nit-pick, and I can only comment on the captioning since I’m 100% deaf, but the censoring would put even the most puritinical network to shame. They even blocked out “H3ll” & “Jesus” – among other words the even OTA let fly. (Yes, the irony. But the bot-moderator might not like it.) This is NOT a family show and kids would be bored to death!
    .
    The show itself, however, I give an “A”.

    • GimplyGump ☺

      “Becoming” not “Becomeing”! ☺☻☺

    • Dave

      “Now to see how a single story goes the season w/o dragging it out and becoming boring. Here’s hoping they can do it.”
      Certainly a justified concern, but I think they can do it. You should check out Damages. They do a season-long legal case/mystery every season, and they have done it amazingly well. Check out the 1st season on DVD if you’ve never seen it before.

      • n

        Damages is a helluva show. Great recommendation.

      • JLAJRC

        That’s my fear here, too. In fact, that is what made me lose interest in Rubicon. They took the plot that would have made a good two hour movie, and put in so many boring filler episodes I just quit. Hopefully, they don’t do the same here.

    • K2

      My dad is deaf so we have on the closed captioning but the interesting thing is that they say the “bad” words but censor them through closed captioning. Weird!

      • GimplyGump ☺

        To add more weirdness to the mix, they don’t sendor on the DVD release. At least not with _Walking Dead_. I can guess a reason. Like most production companies, the “outsource” (FLOBT) their captioning and forget to tell them, “You don’t need to censor. This is for cable, not OTA.’

      • GimplyGump ☺

        Sorry. Not feeling well and didn’t catch some of those typos (multiple disabilities – hence the name.)

    • J.A.

      I am fully able to hear, but I have watched all TV with close captioning since my very sensitive to noise daughter was born (I liked to watch while I fed her). And I TOTALLY agree with you that the censoring of CC is outrageous. I always wonder if they think people who are deaf also have the maturity level of a child. (Oh and I am sure I will have a lot of typos here with no excuse whatsoever!)..

  • Page 48

    I’ll check it out, but I’m still mightily ticked off at AMC’s cancellation of “Rubicon”.

    • GimplyGump ☺

      I liked Rubicon as well. IMHO, if you liked that show you’d be well intended on giving this a shot.

  • Stephanie

    I loved it and will definitely keep watching. I was glad to hear they changed the killer from the original so no spoilers!!!

    • AB

      I hadn’t heard that, but I’m glad they did! The show is off to a great start, I was hooked, the score did NOT bother me (kind of a nitpicky thing to single out IMO), loved the look of the show, the acting was stellar, the writing excellent, and I was actually bummed when the 2 hours were over and I have to wait til Sunday for more. Always a mark of a good show! Great job AMC!

  • Tvaddict

    Started off slow but I definitely will be sticking around at least for the first season. I’m interested in how they will do future seasons in terms of season long cases and why the main character won’t move from Seattle assuming she stays on the show after this season.

    • Zo

      My guess is that her fiance gets fed up with her priorities and calls it quits. She then stays in Seattle for her son. No other reason to move…

  • Michael

    I loved it. Me and my whole family are hooked.

  • Alex

    DVR’d it and planning to watch tomorrow. AMC rarely disappoints, so looking forward to watching it tomorrow.

  • greg

    Enjoyed the premiere. But, after “The 4400,” it’s funny to see Billy Campbell playing another morally ambiguous Seattle politician! :)

  • Larry

    Intriguing and well acted. Got hooked right away. Another smart AMC show.

    • Nodin

      IMHO you’ve got the right aswenr!

  • Mad Man

    Great stuff! I’m in!

  • frank

    I ditched MILDRED PIERCE for THE KILLING. It’s the best show on TV. Could have watched many more episodes tonight.

  • kaydevo

    I liked it very much. Great atmosphere and acting, and I got sucked into the mystery. Well done. Michelle Forbes was terrific as the mom. She portrayed the fear, and then the grief, perfectly. Very emotional scenes with Rosie’s family.

    • ba’al

      Michelle Forbes is so underrated, she was the best part of the show for me

    • Johnification

      Coming from a family that lost a child, I can personally vouch for how dead-on awesome all the performers in that family are, especially Michelle Forbes. Also, the way that her son struggled to get out of that hug and then collapsed into it was absolutely perfect.

      • Cat

        Johnification – I can only imagine what you went through and it had to be hard to watch this. I was crying just imagining what I would be going through if I had lost a child.

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