The Killing (Season 2)

When we last left The Killing, America was in an uproar. How dare the season end on a cliffhanger and not reveal the murderer of Rosie Larsen? Disgruntled viewers, it seems, have decided to “punish” the show for daring to do something unexpected, and the ratings for the second season have shown a distinct falloff from the previous year—which is a shame, as The Killing remains one of the most compelling crime dramas on television, with outstanding acting, with an admirable willingness to depart from the by-the-numbers formulaic approach of most tv crime dramas, and, with, for anyone interested in western literature and culture, a beautifully composed mise-en-scene that includes lots of location and exterior shooting that takes full advantage of the unique landscape and seascape of the Pacific northwest.

Season 2 starts where season 1 left off, with detective Sarah Lund realizing that the surveillance photograph placing mayoral candidate Darren Richmond on a bridge near where Rosie’s body was found had been faked. Richmond himself has been shot by Larsen employee Belko—who believes he is avenging Rosie’s murder. Belko himself commits suicide in custody, and Richmond is left paralyzed. So, the consequences of faking the photograph of Richmond are quite significant—especially as Richmond finally reveals his whereabouts on the night of Rosie’s death (and Lund finds a collaborating witness), and it becomes quite clear with the first few episodes of the new season that he is not Rosie’s murderer.

Interestingly, the assassination attempt on Richmond is where The Killing begins to depart sharply from Forbrydelsen, the Danish television series that the American show is based on. The first 12 episodes of The Killing follows its source fairly closely, with some departures occasioned by the change to the American context. The first 8 episodes of The Killing‘s second season are completely different in terms of plot from the original series. The Richmond character is not paralyzed or shot in Forbrydelsen, Mitch Larsen (Rosie’s mother) does not leave the family to go off on her on. And the Belko character in Forbrydelsen becomes a prime suspect, and large sections of the last half of the series focus on investigating his possible involvement. I suppose death does not necessarily rule him out as a suspect (he could, after all, have killed himself as much in remorse for the murder of Rosie), but that would lead to a very different dynamic than following and investigating a living suspect.

It was also good to see Sofie Gråbøl, Forbrydelsen‘s Sarah Lund, in a cameo as Deputy Attorney Christina Niilsen—an appropriate homage to the actress who first put on one of Sarah Lund’s distinctive sweaters. Mireille Enos, who plays The Killing‘s version of Sarah, does a great job in the role, but Sofie Gråbøl’s Lund is one of the great character portrayals in television history. The Killing‘s Sarah is a little more fragile, and is more human and more humane, and those are by no means bad qualities, but Gråbøl’s Lund is another order of being, an uncanny observational and deductive force of nature. Like Sherlock Holmes, she’s not quite a fully functioning (or fully socialized) human being, and it’s that slight sense of separateness and otherness that makes her a compelling (if not always sympathetic) figure.

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