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A View to THE KILLING: "Pilot" and "The Cage"

The new show debuts on AMC, and The Outhouse has your review of the first two episodes here!



Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:


AMC has begun production on the network's next original series, "The Killing." From writer, executive producer and series showrunner Veena Sud ("Cold Case"), "The Killing" is based on the wildly successful Danish television series "Forbrydelsen." It tells the story of the murder of a young girl in Seattle and the subsequent police investigation. Season one will consist of thirteen one-hour episodes and will debut with a two-hour premiere on Sunday, April 3 at 9PM | 8C.

"The Killing" ties together three distinct stories around a single murder, including the detectives assigned to the case, the victim's grieving family, and the suspects. Set in Seattle, the story also explores local politics as it follows politicians connected to the case. As the series unfolds, it becomes clear that there are no accidents; everyone has a secret, and while the characters think they've moved on, their past isn't done with them.

"The Killing" stars Mireille Enos ("Big Love") as Sarah Linden, the lead homicide detective that investigates the death of Rosie Larsen; Billy Campbell ("Once and Again") as Darren Richmond, Seattle's City Council President and now running for Mayor; Joel Kinnaman ("Snabba Cash") as Stephen Holder, an ex-narc cop who joins the homicide division in the investigation to find Rosie's killer; Michelle Forbes ("True Blood") as Rosie's mother, Mitch Larsen; and Brent Sexton ("W.", "In the Valley of Elah") as Rosie's father, Stan Larsen. The pilot is directed by Patty Jenkins ("Monster").

Filmed in Vancouver, "The Killing" is produced by Fox Television Studios and executive produced by Mikkel Bondesen ("Burn Notice") for Fuse Entertainment. Fuse's Kristen Campo co-produces. AMC’s Joel Stillerman, senior vice president of original programming, production and digital content, Susie Fitzgerald, senior vice-president of scripted development and current programming, and Jason Fisher, senior vice-president of production oversee production of the series for the network.



Review:


The AMC network has been working to position itself as the go-to destination on basic cable for nuanced, sophisticated character-driven dramas.  After creating three success stories in "Mad Men", "Breaking Bad", and "The Walking Dead", all of which feature male-centric worlds that don't show up much elsewhere on television, AMC has looked to European shores to find its spin on the old television standby: the crime drama. 

Much has been made of the structure of "The Killing" before its premíere.  The mostepisode-1-sarah-linden-stephen-holder-2 common criticism seems to state that the show is a mere rip-off of early 90's ABC drama "Twin Peaks."  Certainly, both shows are about the investigation of a murdered young girl in the Pacific Northwest, but that's about as far as any comparison is going to go.  Frankly, by writing each episode as one day in the investigation, the show synthesizes structural elements from several sources ("Murder One" and "Prime Suspect" come to mind as well).  The fact of the matter is, "The Killing" boils the police procedural down to its most essential components, and spends as much time and space exploring that type of story as it does telling one of its own.  The pace is so deliberate and roomy that it takes until about halfway through the first hour before any of the principal characters find out that a child is even missing. 

Certainly, the investigation storyline is the most meditative.  It's a very grounded portrait of police work.  It consists of a lot of phone calls, interviews, and searching of possible crime scenes, with a lot of leads that go nowhere.  The time spent with the (eventually grieving) Larsen family serves to add a more human dimension to the investigative work, which is the primary factor that separates "The Killing" from the bulk of all cop shows.  The storyline following the campaign of a city councilman running for mayor feels the least connected to the rest of the whole, and therefore is more of a chore to sit through (the casting of the always bland Billy Campbell doesn't help matters much there), but seeds of a tie-in to the Larsen family promise to pay off down the line. 

In fact, the long-form storytelling is where the real promise of the show lies.  AMC seems like the right place for a series that devotes all thirteen episodes of a season to one plot line.  On cable, they can freely take as much time as they need with the mystery without having to pad it out by tossing in a boatload of plot contrivances in order to keep it going.

episode-1-stephen-holder-sarah-lindenThe show does have plenty going for it.  The characters and, for the most part, their actors, are interesting.  Mireille Enos centers the cast by playing Sarah Linden as distant and icy without being completely inaccessible.  She's taciturn, but not opaque.  Linden says nothing more than what's absolutely necessary at any given point.  Her terseness provides a nice contrast to the sense of a starkly open location established by the deep-focused wide angle helicopter and crane shots of the city, and the fields and bodies of water that surround it.  This murder investigation is taking over her life, but it's still merely a component in what makes the city run.  The beautiful cinematography really does a great job of using the relentlessly grey skies and frequent rain to establish an almost oppressively dreary mood.  Taking a Danish show and placing it in Seattle may be the most inspired choice made by the production.  The sense of atmosphere is top-notch.

Joel Kinnaman plays the somewhat unorthodox Stephen Holder with a definite dark streak.  His cynicism, probably molded by his experience working as an undercover narcotics officer, plays out differently from Linden's cold detachment.  While Enos really brings to life Linden's desire to just check out and move with her fiancé to sunny California, Kinnaman's Holder feels like he has nothing but the job, and he has his own way of performing it (without falling into the "loose cannon cop" type).  The Swedish Kinnaman seems to be trying to do something with a regional accent, which renders his speech more akin to a slurred baritone rumble.  It takes some getting used to, but it serves to make his character that much more of a charismatic enigma.  Linden and Holder never quite fit together, but their tension hews closer to subtle friction than complete incompatibility.  You really get the sense that they will smooth out their relationship as they get to know each other.

Again, the material following the politician's story is the only thing really dragging theepisode-1-darren-richmond show down right now.  Full of on-the-nose dialogue ("I will not use a family tragedy for a soundbite!") and bland performances, this is the piece of "The Killing" that needs to pick up soon.  Kristen Lehman is always welcome, but her character is a cliché and she seems to know that.  This side of the story isn't completely without merit, but it isn't as strong as what surrounds it either.  On the other hand, Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton as the grieving parents of the murdered Rosie Larsen are real standouts.  They bring a ton of emotional weight to the show, and stop well short of being overwrought, even in their most demonstrative scenes. 

"The Killing", if its first two episodes are any indication, isn't perfect; but it is engaging, and it's fantastic to look at.   It's beautifully shot, and most of the cast is so easy to hook onto.  It's a quiet show, and it's emotional, but it's a truthful emotion full of great characters.  It's a police procedural that really opens up the genre and gives the viewer a lot to come back for from one episode to the next.

Photos by Chris Large for AMC. 






Review by: Royal Nonesuch
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch


As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
 

 


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