The Killing

One of my favorite movies is David Fincher’s Zodiac. The main reason I like it is that it is a two-and-half-hour long murder mystery with multiple detectives, journalists, and citizens trying to solve the identity of the Zodiac killer. There’s not a single chase scene in it (at least not to my memory) and most of the investigation revolves around the more mundane (i.e. less thrilling) aspects of police work – interviews, paperwork, and theorizing on motive. There are a lot of false leads and dead ends along the way, and burnt-out characters drop from the case as the years continue to drag on without a solid suspect in sight. I find this aspect of a police procedural – the boring bits that are usually edited out or sped up (look at Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz for the best example of applying Michael Bay-style jump cuts and pounding soundtrack to make the mundane task of filling out a file into an action-packed sequence) – to be the most fascinating and watchable part about crime films. That makes me the perfect target for the new AMC show “The Killing.”

Unlike “CSI” and its imitators that solve a murder case every hour, “The Killing” looks at the investigation of one over an entire season. What this means is a slower pace – almost glacial – compared to the other crime dramas on television. This is the type of show where the DNA results don’t come through for three episodes. I think the show will be quite divisive among audiences. It’s interesting, the characters are well-developed and drawn (except for the political candidate’s male aide, who says lines like “let’s exploit a dead girl for political gain” and seems to have no understanding as to the absolute repulsiveness of that statement), and there’s a lot of boring police bits for people like myself to enjoy.

In the first two episodes, there’s no running from crime scene to crime scene or the chasing down of suspects. It’s all quite tame, with the two detectives (obviously with wildly different styles of policing) walking quietly around a crime scene with minimal dialogue, contemplating what’s in front of them. There’s a certain weariness they have, especially Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), who makes the unfortunate mistake of choosing to retire that day. I wonder if it happens to all retiring cops that the day they want to leave they’re caught in the middle of an important case. Probably.

Linden has been a police officer for so long, and has presumably seen her fair share of unsolved crimes and anguished families, that she’s surrounded by an aura of crushing inevitability as she begins to put the pieces together in the first episode. She finds a blood-stained sweater with her replacement, Detective Holder (Joel Kinnaman), and she has a tired, knowing look. It’s another case alright. But she just needs to make it through the next six or so hours and she can fly down to California with her son to meet up with her fiancee (Callum Keith Rennie). From the moment she sees the blood-stained sweater, she already knows whats happened – it’s inevitable. Someone’s dead – and she’ll have to put together the pieces.

It starts off with following a lead: Stanley Larsen. The name was found on a credit card left at the scene, so Linden and Holder go to his house to investigate. He’s not home, but his wife is. And she tells them that he was camping with her all weekend – he can’t be the killer. And then Linden sees a pink bicycle in the garage and starts putting the story together. “Do you have a daughter?” she asks. The credit card isn’t leading them to the culprit; it’s led them to the missing girl’s family. But if you look at Linden, you can tell she already knows that this story isn’t going to have a happy ending. It’s not going to be the case of a missing girl. It’s going to a be a murder investigation. It was inevitable from the moment she saw the bloody sweater.

“The Killing” is going to be an interesting and exciting new series (although I question calling it a “series” – I really hope that this doesn’t last much longer than two seasons – there’s only so many dead ends and police procedural work even I can handle before I want answers, damnit).


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