Monday, 28 February 2011

The Killing

It seems as if BBC 4's Danish crime-thriller 'The Killing' is about to transition from its current cult-viewing status to attracting a more mainstream following.

After catching up with the first six episodes on iplayer, I too spent the following two Saturday evenings in my current 'unemployable & never-leave-the-house' mode watching the show on a proper television screen, where it really shines.

But it's also hard to know what makes the programme so watchable. Having indulged in The Wire and subsequently developed a critical and cruelly-cynical eye for any sub-standard television, The Killing shouldn't necessarily make the grade. It's solidly produced and displays impressive acting from those involved, but you can't shake the feeling that if it were an English production it would only be middle-of-the-road grade material.

The language barrier gives it a strange exoticism, but there is something darker at the heart of the show that gives it a real appeal. It's dark both literally (you'll be scrabbling for the contrast settings on your set within the first ten minutes) and spiritually. There seems to be little hope for the parents of the murdered teenage girl at the centre of the plot, and little evidence for detectives Sarah Lund and Jan Meyer to work on bringing the case to a successful close.

The plot is also completely unpredictable, which both gives the viewer no chance to work out in advance what will happen next (cheating, but in an entertaining way) and a sense of being lost within some bigger picture. Indeed as the show goes on, more and more significant political figures are somehow dragged into the vortex that the murder case becomes.

The combination of perpetual darkness, chilling musical minimalism and frustration and tension involves the viewer like few other shows I've had the pleasure of watching. I had to resort to watching the latest two episodes again on the internet this weekend after being elsewhere on Saturday night. It says plenty for the programme that leaving the house for a night out when The Killing is on is a tricky decision to make.

If you haven't yet had the privilege, catch up online and treat yourself to a rare Saturday night in this weekend. There's every chance you'll be hooked.

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