The Killing

The new Danish crime drama on BBC4 was really very, erm, Danish. Nothing wrong or surprising about that, but it’s amusing how Danish you can get. The Killing (Forbrydelsen) is from 2007, and it appears to be a direct descendant of Unit 1 (Rejseholdet) in style and feel. I found the two female detectives even speak the same way. There is something very Danish about the unhesitant tone; they know exactly what they are about and what’s right.

Meyer and Lund in Forbrydelsen

Hardly surprising that Sarah Lund’s new colleague asks in a resigned voice if she has an opinion on what underwear he should use. He can’t smoke, he mustn’t drive too fast, and he should be much politer.

And they do not like Swedes. That much is clear. But we know this already, which is why I so often speak English in Denmark. Like Ingrid Dahl in Rejseholdet Sarah has a Swedish boyfriend. Ingrid’s didn’t last long, and this one doesn’t look too promising either. The scriptwriter (Søren Sveistrup) got in a Norwegian insult, too, by suggesting it’s impossible to tell Norwegians and Swedes apart.

Sarah Lund in Forbrydelsen

The first two episodes on Saturday made for compelling viewing. I’m glad we get two episodes at a time, or we’d be at it for far too long. It’s still going to take us a while getting through all twenty episodes.

Sarah Lund is leaving the Copenhagen police force to move to Sweden to be with the dreadful boyfriend, although her son is not keen at all. A teenage girl is missing and then found dead, and Sarah is coerced into staying and taking the case, having to cooperate with her successor, Meyer.

The politicians in Forbrydelsen

It’s clearly going to be a complicated tale between the police, the (crooked?) politicians in the upcoming election, and the poor girls parents.

Scary at times, and so very Danish. But not too dark. The crime is dark, but I didn’t feel the characters were leading dull or dismal lives. Unless poor Meyer will feel hemmed in by his bossy predecessor with her wonderful wooly jumpers.

20 responses to “The Killing

  1. Sounds good, but what’s with all the Swedish/Danish hate? As you probably can guess, we Americans get all those Northern European countries a bit mixed up with each other, at least the mainland ones. Heaven knows we take all of their crime fiction as more or less ‘Swedish’, which the Danes really shouldn’t mind, if it leads to sales. Although come to think of it, there hasn’t really been a Dane to break out here since Smilla.

  2. We are unpleasantly smug and superior and for some reason the Danes don’t appreciate that. We ‘know’ we are better than they are, and funnily enough they don’t agree.

  3. The Killing is like Unit One (and in more ways than the obvious – a colleague told me with some surprise “Lars Mikkelsen looks like his brother!”), but I would have preferred just a smidge more humour – Sarah is unremittingly grim at times, and series two (just shown here) is not any more cheerful and actually more depressing, though she still wears the (same!) woolly jumpers. Unit One at least had some funny moments, even if I thought the way the series ended was grim. I still occasionally wonder if Jonny recovered, and if Fischer avoided having a nervous breakdown…

    Oh, and Anna Pihl (also a Danish crime show but far tackier) also had an objectional Swedish boyfriend!

    I just watched a Norwegian series on late-night TV here, Codename Hunter, and apart from a cop doing an observation on roller blades, it was also incredibly depressing. Has the welfare state really declined that far? Or have I just got used to cosier German crime, where everything is always solved in 90 minutes, and if you’re lucky the detectives will have a joke or five together? Mind you, the Munchausen’s-by-proxy repeat I’ve just watched here – and that was set just down the road – wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs…

    Any Scandinavian *comedies* to recommend?

  4. I watched Codename Hunter season two in Sweden, summer before last. I quite liked it, but hadn’t understood until the end that it was season two. Would have been helpful to know.
    Suspect we are so very noir these days that humour has disappeared. And wit.

  5. I didn’t know they’d made Hunter series two. Will probably watch it, as I did quite enjoy the first series, but it was rather depressing.

    I like noir, but not at the expense of humour! Perhaps I’ll have to haul out my collection of Thin Man DVDs…

  6. I have two questions.
    1) When do you find the time to watch all this?
    2) Where do you store all your DVDs?
    3) Can I come round and watch the Thin Man with you?

  7. The book, “The Thin Man,” which I read recently is very good. It isn’t exactly like the movies, but the dialogue is smart and witty.

  8. 1) German television has many (dubbed) failings, but they’re fairly reliable at showing crime series – and there’s a lot of free-to-air channels. I’m slightly afraid to confess that I go through the TV guide each fortnight and mark potentially interesting offerings…(actually cuts down on overall viewing and wasted channel-surfing, but my friends do find it rather amusing) Having had access to SBS in Australia also gave me the chance to see a lot of shows years before they aired elsewhere outside their home country.

    Plus I have a few friends with similar viewing habits, and we’ll do fortnightly or monthly get-togethers. Lots of fun on a wet Wednesday in January!

    Or the more honest answer, perhaps: single person in a stressful job a long way from home, so a certain number of very long evenings to fill. And I read at bat-out-of-hell speed, so I have a bit of extra time to spare there. (An example: I finished the last Harry Potter book in two hours. Not as much fun as it sounds, really. It’s an expensive problem.)

    2) A very Swedish solution: Ikea Expedit! (However, Codename Hunter isn’t on DVD. GSI Göteborg is, if you want something new…)

    3) If you’re ever in the very flat part of Germany where half the people sound like they’re Dutch, then you’re welcome to drop in!

  9. 1) Ah. And slow down.
    2) Expedit. OK.
    3) The very flat Dutch sounding part…

  10. Lauren:

    Not quite crime, and not a tv series, but you might like to see Skenbart ( – it certainly elicited a few chuckles from me.

  11. Re: 3) I’m just about in Ostfriesland – as many bicycles as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but minus all the glamour and fashion sense. (Miss 80s denim? Come and visit!)

    Thanks Ian – sounds like something for the work film club!

  12. Riddle of the Sands-land? Spies and fog.

  13. Well, yes, although technically I’m in the neighbouring Weser-Ems region. Haven’t noticed any spies, but there’s lots of fog! And it’s not far to the nearest island…

  14. I am enjoying the killing so far but must admit I was a bit depressed to find out that there are twenty episodes ! I am already starting to get bored with the whole mayoral campaign and I have only sat through 4 of the twenty hours.

    Can anyone tell me why Lund is always chewing gum? Did I miss some nicotine withdrawal subplot?

  15. Short attention span? I’m wondering how they can fill the twenty episodes, but am not bored. I’m guessing the truth will be very different from what it looks like now.
    The chewing looks very Danish. Besides, she rarely has time to eat.

  16. Found the post! Yes, it was you who recommended this, and I am glad and not bored, though the pace isn’t action pace, is it? And all the better for it. Again, thank you!

  17. It’s not action, as you say, Penny. It’s just got something happening all the time. And it’s ‘only’ 20 episodes, spread over ‘only’ ten weeks. It’s actually the first time for ages that I have something regular to watch on a Saturday night.

  18. interplanetaryromeo

    I’m glad I’ve found your blog 🙂

    Have been enjoying The Killing very much. It seems to be of the same calibre as the French series, Spiral (Engrenages), far superior to British crime dramas which seem obliged to squash everything into one hour.

    Doesn’t Lund initially reach for the gum every time Jan Meyer lights a cigarette? So, I’d say it’s a nicotine gum.

  19. Oops. Looking back now, hindsight shows me that the top photo is from season two…

  20. Pingback: Unit 1 | CultureWitch

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