Also by The Slacker: mystery novel ‘New Holland’
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One of the most common adjectives describing the successful Danish crime thriller ‘The Killing’ is ‘surprise’. It didn’t have the ready-made following of a Mankell or Larsson screen conversion; it didn’t look particularly pretty either, yet it quickly built up a fanbase. It was understated yet gripping; its characters were, to a tee, convincing. This makes it even more of a pity that after five episodes ‘The Killing 2′ has, for me, failed to ignite.
A quick comparison of the two series suggests where they’ve gone wrong. In the first series a young women is murdered by someone close to her – we feel for her family, and are kept guessing by a series of plausible suspects. This second series starts with a similarly gruesome murder, but this time it’s linked to Islamist terrorism. And guess what – the terrorists aren’t actually to blame, but there’s a dodgy-looking bloke at special branch. It’s difficult to get hooked on yet another story about terrorists – ’24’ and ‘Spooks’ were doing this years ago, and it wasn’t that interesting even then. We don’t feel any compassion.
There’s also a lack of on-screen chemistry in this new series – through to be fair the actors haven’t been given much to work with. In the first series mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann is a bundle of energy, up against a dirty tricks campaign which make him moody, desperate and unable to resist the tempations of his political advisor. In ‘The Killing 2’ the political background is an anti-terrorism bill which – guess what – some politicians don’t agree with, causing new justice minister Thomas Buch to – wait for it – bounce a rubber ball against a wall time and again. He doesn’t feel like a statesman, as Hartmann does – Buch instead looks like a man who’d do a very good job as regional manager for a large chain of department stores.
Sarah Lund’s personal turmoil in the first series gets us interested – one moment we feel sorry for her, the next we want her to get a grip and spend an hour with her son. She’s also cunning, able to outfox and irritate senior police and politicians in equal measure. Now her personal issues aren’t over, but aren’t mentioned either. She skulks from scene to scene like an extra in ‘Wallander’ struggling with the office photocopier, awkwardly slopping food onto her plate at home and making just enough insightful comments to keep the now semi-comatose viewer awake when she’s at work.
Her colleagues aren’t much better – Brix seems to be a man winning a bet with a friend to say as few words as possible in life; Ulrik Strange, the new Jan Meyer, is notable only for his passing resemblance to former Wolves and England striker Steve Bull. It’s the hair. There are also some military characters, all clipped speech and smart walks – and not much else that you wouldn’t put on a list of stereotypes about the army. One of their number has just escaped a psychiatric hospital and keeps on mentioning what happened ‘back in the village’ – he’s the most convincing of all the characters.
I realise that with my limited knowledge of Danish language and culture – I once changed planes in Copenhagen, but that’s it – I’ve probably missed many of the nuances available to a more cultured observer of the country. And there’s still time for things to improve – I hope to be eating humble pie by Christmas. It’s just that right now the first series of ‘The Killing’ feels like it might have been a flash in the pan…