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TV Review: The Killing

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Watching The Killing is like immersing yourself in one of those books you can’t put down, each chapter offering an unexpected twist. You need to savor the nuances and details of each clue you’re given. Each one is a treasure, like pearls on a string. Eventually, if you’re patient, the ends will join together to complete the story.

But the key to your viewing enjoyment is not wondering how the story will end but what you will discover along the way. The premise of The Killing is deceptively simple. It begins with a murder case in Seattle. The victim is a teenage girl named Rosie Larsen. Two Seattle detectives, Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder have been assigned to the case.

Linden is a good cop, driven by the desire to find the person responsible for killing Rosie. But responsibilities unrelated to the case pull at her: a son who misses his mother and a fiance who doesn’t seem to want to understand Linden’s devotion to the case. Marriage and a move to Sonoma are in Linden’s immediate future but the case is holding her back from preparing for them.

Holder is a cool, street-wise ex-narcotics cop who joined the investigation to help find Rosie’s killer, and is set to take Linden’s job when she leaves. At first, these two don’t seem like they’ll mesh, but it soon becomes apparent they are more alike than you might think.

The stories in The Killing overlap, and each one is as compelling as the next. Darren Richmond, the city council member running for mayor, finds that his campaign grinds to a halt when Rosie’s body is found in the trunk one of his campaign cars. Rosie’s parents’ grief seems painfully real; their story is tragic and their attempts to cope are moving and sad.

Like the Danish TV series that inspired it, each episode of The Killing constitutes one day of investigation. And though the story takes slow steps to get where it’s going, the end of the episodes seem to come too soon, leaving you wanting more. This story is atmospheric, gritty and undeniably addictive. Think Twin Peaks meets The X-Files. Its musical soundtrack is a tremor of long, low tones; a gray/black pall hangs over everything. Occasionally the footage is brutal, bloody and harrowing but the gore is never gratuitous.

Mireille Enos plays Sarah Linden in what could be the breakout performance of the year. Her character maintains a tenuous balance between professional duty and family responsibilities. Most of the time she’s teetering on the brink of exhaustion; her efforts to make things right leave her harried and frustrated. She tries to please those close to her but ends up failing because of her unwavering devotion to the Larsen case. Enos is masterful in her portrayal of this driven, troubled detective.

Also impressive is Joel Kinnaman, who plays Stephen Holder. He is not a cop who always plays by the book, occasionally reverting to his narc ways to ply information from Rosie’s friends. He offers them a toke so they’ll show him where they party. It is a creepy but effective strategy. Kinnaman gives Holder the right amount of sinister edge to make this rebellious yet devoted cop believable.

If you enjoy intense drama with an edge, tune in to The Killing. You can catch up on what you’ve missed at the AMC website.

The Killing airs Sunday nights at 10PM ET on AMC.

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