Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Killing [Forbrydelsen] III; Sometimes, less is less

I posted briefly on the first - and I now realise, best - season of The Killing at the beginning of the year. Last night I watched the grande finale, and it crystallised something which nagged at me all the way through watching the second season and the third one; that seasons only ten episodes long weren't even half as good as the sprawling, character driven mess 20 episodes could give us. And re-reading my own post about the first season, I see that I was almost foretelling what might go wrong in the future. The first season is engrossing, even though the red herrings and indeed the whole final plot don't really hang together very well. What made The Killing work was the way it brought characters to life as they grappled with the aftermath of a single murder that - despite endless hints that it was part of some vast sinister conspiracy - came home to very simple and domestic miseries. The second season was a little disappointing after that; while Sarah Lund remained a hypnotic and charismatic presence at the heart of the action, the surrounding characters for the new murder - and the new murders themselves - never really came into focus in the same way.

For the third season, they tried to bring things back to family, with Lund chasing after the abducted daughter of Denmark's most important family of plutocrats, to discover that the abduction itself was driven by revenge for a father who'd lost his daughter. Meanwhile, Lund's own family relationships were falling apart as she simultaneously wrestled with becoming a granny and the problem of breaking up the marriage of an old flame. Over on the inevitable (and honestly never that interesting) political wing of the story, the Danish prime minister was wondering what more he could have done to stop his son from killing himself and how much he was going to need to do to stop his own brother from becoming a complete moral bankrupt. Could there have been more family to fret about? Probably not. But just by having so many family issues to deal with all at once in so short a time, they wound up not being able to work out any of them well enough to give us the same depth of empathy we had the families in the first season. It might be that this kind of thing is like cooking pasta; you've got to use a bigger pan than you think if you don't want everything sticking together in an indigestible clump of starch.

We live in a world where they brought back Dallas after almost 30 years, so I assume nothing from the insistence of the entire production team that the end of the third season of The Killing is the end, full stop. Mind you, given that the season ends with Lund straight up shooting the bad guy in the head rather than live with idea that he might just go on being the bad guy, it's going to be …. challenging …. to get a fourth season on the road. It will take more than one line of dialogue to get them out of that one. Maybe we can come back in 20 years, when they let her out of jail for murder. Although people have been shocked by Lund snapping, I have to say that there was a moment when a cold certainty crept over me that it was the only way things could go. I looked at Lund sitting there in the back of the car, staring at the man she knew had killed at least one young woman and almost certainly dozens, and I thought to myself, she's going to shoot that guy in the back of the head before very long. I was wrong. She shot him in the side of the head. I'm not sure if it was true to the character we've lived through forty episodes with, but I think that it was true to the character we were with in those moments; otherwise I'd never have seen it coming.

The weird thing is how closely the master plot in the first and third seasons coincided. A couple lose their daughter (to murder/to kidnapping). They struggle to get to grips with it, and to find some kind of justice. All the way through, they're supported by a long time family friend who's a core part of the family business and who they've always trusted, and in the end it turns out that he's the real bad guy. And he gets extra-judicially murdered by someone who's at the end of their tether. 

I have to be clear; if I've got a complaint at all, it's that there just wasn't enough of something I really liked. This was great TV. I just wish that there had been more of it. With more time, the third season at least could have been even more awesome than the first one.

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