The Three Strike Rule: “The Killing”

Written by Television, The Three Strike Rule

AMC’s “The Killing” is easily one the best shows of the year.

It’s only April and AMC’s new drama series, The Killing, has already shot to the top of my favorite shows of 2011. If the first four episodes are any indication of the quality of drama we should expect each week until its 13 episode season comes to an end, I am positive that this murder mystery will most definitely stay there. Based on a Danish television series, Forbryelsen, the U.S. version was developed by Veena Sud, one of the writers and producers from the CBS procedural series, Cold Case. Sud’s experience writing that show’s strong willed and intelligent Lily Rush (Kathryn Morris) translates superbly to this outstanding new show and its wonderful main character, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos).

The series is broken into three intersecting storylines. Tying them all together is the mystery of who killed the good girl high school student whose death shakes up a small Seattle community. Linden is the heart of the series. Linden is an empathetic, smart detective who has the patience to study a crime scene even while here fellow police officers are packing up and calling it quits. However, she’s done with the job, literally, as in she’s hours away from moving to California with her teenage son and fiance. Just as Linden is introduced to her replacement, a shady looking, former narcotics detective named Holder (Joel Kinnaman, playing skeezy to perfection), a call comes in that a girl’s sweater has been the middle of a field along with a credit card belonging to a Stanley Larsen.

From there, we’re introduced to the Larsen family, in particular Stanley and Mich Larsen (the superb Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes). They’re a middle class couple raising three kids who come across as decent, solid people and good parents. It soon becomes evident (thanks, in apart to the eerie opening sequence) that the missing sweater belongs to the eldest Larsen child, Rosie, and that she’s gone missing. Reality slowly creeps in that Rosie isn’t just missing and when a car is pulled from the bottom of a lake with the girl’s body locked in the truck, her fate is confirmed. The grief Stan and Mitch go through is so palpable, you will need a box of Kleenex to get through the initial episodes. I haven’t openly wept during a TV show in a long time and I had to pause the television twice just to wipe my eyes and check on my own daughter, sleeping soundly in her bedroom.

The final plot deals with Darren Richmond, a politician running for mayor. Richmond is a dark horse candidate trying to convince Seattle that he’s the right man to bring down the corruption of the current administration. A caring and honest man, he isn’t willing to bend the rules to get what he wants. Richmond’s role initially seems to be peripheral, However, when Rosie’s body is pulled from the bottom of a lake, it’s one of the Richmond campaign’s cars she’s found in.  Richmond’s part in this mystery becomes more intriguing as the series unfolds. Who in his campaign could possibly be involved? Could it possibly be Richmond himself? Additionally, there is a leak in the Richmond campaign out to sabotage his efforts. Does this have something to do with Rosie? Only time will tell.

The Killing is equal parts Mystic River (both Dennis Lehane’s novel ad Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award winning film) and Homicide:Life on the Streets, the seminal detective series from the 90’s, with a touch of Twin Peaks Pacific northwest oddness thrown it to give the show a unique flavor. The acting is exemplary. Enos has a quiet strength and intensity that recalls Melissa Leo’s groundbreaking acting on Homicide, Sexton and Forbes convey the heartbreak and decent into depression with such realism, expect them to get strong consuderation come Emmy season. Finally, Campbell excels in portraying the damaged soul of Richmond, bringing to mind his beloved role of Rick on ABC’s Once and Again.

One of the greatest qualities of The Killing is that everyone, save for Linden, comes across as being a possible suspect. Everyone has secrets, secrets that are getting drudged up as the murder investigation continues. The information is slowly coming out as the writers and directors take their sweet old time in revealing clues and facts about the characters. Not only does this lead to satisfying entertainment, but with red herrings being thrown around left and right, it’s also fun, in a disturbing way. The Killing plays out like a great mystery novel and seems destined to be on a number of top ten lists by the end of the year. Like I said, it’s already on mine.

The first four episodes are currently streaming online at the AMC website.