Monday, April 4, 2011

The Killing - "Pilot" & "The Cage"

Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) at a crime scene in 'The Killing'.
Photo Credit: AMC
Review by Paul Steven Brown

'The Killing'
Season 1 - Episodes 1 & 2
"The Cage"

AMC has yet to disappoint me with the network's crop of television series. 'Mad Men' never disappoints, though we'll have to wait until 2012 for season five. 'The Walking Dead' is off to a great start, despite having a very brief first season. 'Rubicon' had extremely poor ratings, but I found that show deeply engrossing. The only misstep there was its inability to stick the landing. I still haven't gotten around to watching 'Breaking Bad', but I plan on remedying that before the fourth season kicks up in July.

Due to this kind of pedigree coming from AMC, it was without a doubt that I would check out their latest offering, 'The Killing'. Before it even aired, 'The Killing' boasted an interesting origin. It's based on a Danish television series 'Forbrydelsen', though the outcome of that mystery has been altered to save viewers of the 'The Killing' from any potential spoilers. The show is ran by Veena Sud, who helmed 'Cold Case' on CBS for about five seasons. While her former show was all about the done in one hour mystery, 'The Killing' will stick to one case for the entire run of the first season. If you enjoyed the slow boil of 'Rubicon', then 'The Killing' may be your cup of tea.

Where 'Rubicon' dealt with paranoia for suspense, 'The Killing' is very atmospheric and moody. Set in Seattle, it almost feels like 'Twin Peaks' without the supernatural elements and the eccentric characters. The characters and the actors in the 'The Killing' still deliver.

Leading the investigation and the drama is homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mirielle Enos). She gets this case on her last day of work before flying down to California with her son, to be with her fiance (played by Callum Keith Rennie - Leoben from 'Battlestar Galactica', in an unusually low key, normal role). Enos plays Linden with a calm determination. She's very deliberate with her words and never gets outwardly emotional. Still, Enos is able to convey the drive and fire within Linden very effectively.

Linden's replacement, turned partner on the investigation is Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who is new to homicide, but had spent several years in vice. He's apparently done a good deal of undercover work, which comes out in laid back, but occasionally abrasive demeanor. He employs some unconventional methods, such as flirting with a few high school girls to pry out a hiding place the kids go to party. Kinnaman is pretty spectacular and his calm intensity is different to Enos' own variation.

The parents of murdered teenager Rosie Larsen are played by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton. These two are outstanding. While this is material prime for over the top wailing and gnashing of teeth, Forbes and Sexton hit the despair of the Larsen couple just right. It's powerful stuff without delving too deep into pumped up pathos.

Rounding out the primary cast is Seatlle City Councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) and the two people in charge of his campaign, Gwen (Kristin Lehman) and Jamie (Eric Ladin). Rosie's body is found in one of the cars owned by the campaign, which connects the Richmond folks to the case. Making Richmond the murder seems too easy and obvious though. Hopefully there will be some more interesting connections so this side of the show doesn't feel like a feint. Various other characters related to Rosie through school are introduced, but there hasn't been too much development there.

So far, I'm really enjoying 'The Killing'. The acting is really strong, at times very subtle, yet compelling, while at other times intensely emotional without pushing things too far. It's also shot really well. There's an amazing shot from overhead when the Larsens pick up there two young sons from school. Also, the music by the same composer on 'Forbrydelsen' is extremely effective at setting the mood. If AMC keeps putting out series with this level of quality, I'll continue to watch whatever they throw at me.

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