Blogging ‘The Killing’ II – Episodes 3&4
OK, I’m willing to call it – it’s not as good as season 1… but it’s still probably the best thing on TV. Spoilers (and some tough love) below the fold
Well, no one could accuse The Killing II of being a boring show! The complicated plot unfolds at such comparatively breakneck pace compared to the first series that you really have to concentrate to figure out what is going on (not helped by a curious feature of spoken Danish, that – at least to the foreign ear – it is nigh-impossible to figure out what may be significant just by listening to the intonation and tone). We’ve also already had three gruesome murders in four episodes, and I’m willing to bet good money there will be more before the season is out.
I’d really like to write more about what happened in episodes 3&4, but I’ve been left lamenting the differences between the first and second series. I’ve certainly been kept on the edge of my seat far more than I ever was last time round, but there’s nowhere near the depth to all the relationships between the characters that made The Killing I not just a great crime thriller but a truly profound insight into the human condition. Before we were treated to Theis and Pernille, Lund and Meyer, Lund and Bengt, Hartmann and Rie, Hartmann and Lund, Hartmann and Morten, Hartmann and Bremer, Vagn and the Birk Larsens… but I can’t name even one single compelling set of personal interactions between two characters in series II. For example, the fact that Lund was going to forget that her mother’s fiancé was allergic to nuts was so predictable that I think I may have literally sighed the first moment it was mentioned.
Putting the limitations of trying to squeeze just as much (if not more) plot into half as many episodes aside, the story Søren Sveistrup has written almost exclusively features characters who have been cut off from their relationships. The Killing I was all about the secrets people keep from those close to them, who they do or do not turn to in their times of greatest need and how the connections they share weaken or strengthen through those experiences. In contrast, The Killing II is all about being alone. The characters with the majority of the screen time – Lund, Strange, Buch, Raben – one and all have either been sequestered away against their wishes (Lund, Raben) or have been thrown into a completely new situation (Strange and Buch) without anyone they have any pre-existing relationship with able to provide any obvious support. I suppose the one exception to this is Rabens’ wife and her father but in all honesty I’m not finding either of them to be very compelling characters, as opposed to necessary plot devices.
Now, if this were a 20-episode run like the first time round then maybe all that would be fine (especially if you give the characters as much collective screen time as Lund and Meyer got together to build something). But, sadly, it isn’t – and I am frustrated to imagine what could have been done with more episodes. For example, take the revelation of the affair between the previous Justice Minister (Monberg) and his adviser, Karina. While it is now obvious that Monberg was involved in whatever the hell is going on, you just wanted Lund to get a hold of that one bit of information (that Monberg knew Dragsholm) and then have the revealing of Plough’s suspicions and Karina’s indiscretion via police interrogation rather than it-seeming-a-good-idea-to-tell-the-minister. In my mind I can imagine Karina denying any knowledge of the situation in order to save her career, suspicion over the fact that Plough only decided to reveal his worries now (of all times) and then Lund marching over to the hospital where the former Justice Minister is recovering from his heart attack to demand answers. That would have been an utterly compelling 3-4 episode arc in series I, but there just wouldn’t have been time for it with the 10-episode format.
I’m going to withhold judgment on the political aspects of the show for the moment, but that’s mostly because I feel that what we have seen so far is supposed to set-up some kind of political fall-out or indictment when whatever is going on (and what happened in Afghanistan) comes to light further down the line. But suffice to say that so far there is nothing like the intrigue of the Hartmann/Bremer battle of series I.
Of course, I’m only being harsh because series I of The Killing was so unbelievably good. And series II is very, very good as well – but not in the same way. Series I was the television equivalent of literature, whereas Series II is more like a James Patterson page-turner. Which in one sense is fine – I want to watch shows like The Killing I and I want to watch shows like The Killing II. But shows like the former are so much harder to pull off than the latter, and its kind are all the rarer for it.