Sunday, 1 January 2012

Forbrydelsen; fudging the landing

Forbrydelsen, aka The Killing, was a big deal on the BBC this year, but I never got the chance to see it till I got it as a Christmas present. Whereupon it got watched in big four hour chunks, just like the creators didn't intend at all. Not only did it go out once a week in Denmark back in 2007, but they took a long break in the middle. People actually protested a bit and got the break shortened. They had a point; the show is compulsive. The gimmick is simple in the extreme. Take a single murder, and then spend twenty episodes not so much trying to solve it as trying to show the ways that the effects of a murder ripple out in all directions to ruin lives. The exact opposite of your standard cop show, in other words.

It works brilliantly as a show about people. This is just as well, because the murder mystery winds up not making any sense. There's a huge amount of drama in the way that the victim's family falls apart, and almost as much drama in the way that the lead detective lets the case take over her life and destroy everything in it. There's even a certain amount of traditionally Shakespearean tragedy in the way that the investigation draws in an ambitious politician and ruins him, although it's hard to get anyone in Ireland to care what happens to politicians these days.

Now, to get a murder investigation to last over twenty episodes, you've got to chuck red herrings about like snuff at a wake, and The Killing tosses in so many blind alleys and false leads that one sane response is just to let them wash over you and wait for something to happen to the characters you care about. That was pretty much my reaction. I don't really read or watch crime shows out of any curiosity about the mystery; it's the journey that interests me more than the destination. Still, I'm moved to grumble out the final landing in The Killing, because the ultimate revelation doesn't make sense of all the the blind alleys which have gone before. From quite early on, the killing's been set up as the work of a serial killer, maybe even a serial killer who's being protected by the government. And - sorry if this is a spoiler - in the end, that turns out not to be the case. And I'd be fine with that, if it weren't for the fact that it's really hard to square the final outcome with the stuff in the middle. It doesn't make sense that all those extra complications would have sprung up given the bone simple motive at the heart of the murder. So I was sitting there at the end of the twenty hours thinking, well, that was a great flight, but the pilot's really messed up the landing.

And several days later, I still think that. I'd still recommend The Killing over most of the TV I've watched in 2011, but I'd do it on the basis of the way the whole world is brought to life, and the way the main characters hold your attention no matter what they're doing. Just enjoy the journey, and don't expect the pay off to be the equal of the build up.

No comments: