When True Detective eased onto our screens after a series of curious and enticing trailers narrated by the drawl of Mathew McConaughey, few could have imagined that the eight part mini-series led by two of Hollywood’s most underrated, most typecast and most gifted actors, would illustrate for us just how good TV storytelling could be.
McConaughey, with fellow Texan Woody Harrelson, led the crime drama written by Nic Pizzolatta which used multiple timelines to trace the exploits of two Louisiana State Police Homicide Detectives hunting for a serial killer across seventeen years. The shiver-inducing plotlines knitted together with rich, colourful and provocative dialogue, left audiences screaming ‘bloody murder’ for more. And with confirmation that our own Colin Farrell is set to lead season two alongside Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams, The Killing is just what the coroner ordered to stave off the need for obsessive television antics until then.
Set in Seattle, Washington, The Killing, like True Detective, follows two Homicide Investigators as they attempt to resolve shocking acts that have darkened their wet and dreary city. The series is led by and launched the careers of Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, and despite being cancelled twice was resuscitated both times based on fan outcry. What I’m going to say may wrinkle some brows, but hear me out. If The Killing were created with two already established cult icons, such as McConaughey and Harrelson, it would without a doubt be held in similar esteem as True Detective.
The four-season murder mystery is based upon the Danish television series Forbrydelsen (The Crime) and is reminiscent of David Lynch’s, Twin Peaks, holding a cold, tragic undertone, lightened by the eccentricities of its leading cast members. In each series a single case is explored rather than a case-per-episode basis. During its life span it was praised by critics for being absorbing and addictive, and where it outwits most other productions operating within the genre is through the level of misdirection and suspense the stories are portrayed with. Leaving us, the audience, to trip over our own guesses and hold our breaths through even the subtlest of plot twists.
Enos’s relentless and fragile Sarah Linden meshes beautifully with Kinnaman’s laidback vegetarian Steven Holder, who hilariously orders cheeseburgers ‘without the patty” in fast food establishments. The actors are solid in their ‘yin and yang’ performances, one matching the others street-smart with deductive intelligence, and since The Killing first aired both have seen their careers blossom. Enos can now be seen in such productions as World War Z alongside Brad Pitt, while Kinnaman was recently unveiled as the latest incarnation of Robocop. However despite so many of the right boxes being ticked, The Killing suffered with two unknowns operating in lead roles. It didn’t draw the masses the way True Detective or other series with established actors (C.S.I and 24) did.
Though despite suffering an initial cancellation after the second season, the niche fan base it had cultivated spoke several octaves up and a return was brought about. With it again scheduled to be dropped after the third season, Netflix stepped in to produce a fourth and took the option to hold the entire set on their widely followed online presence. They acknowledged the popular demand for The Killing but also the need for an orchestrated end to the adventures of these individuals and not simply a cancellation to their tales. And so the commissioned fourth season would be the final act, allowing the series to come full circle and the fans to have a ‘whole’ collection.
Ultimately The Killing doesn’t explore the seediest depths of human nature to the same extent as True Detective, and without a seventeen-year timeline to work with, the characters are not as layered nor the story lines quite as shocking. Nevertheless this is a show that employs all the right elements to be considered a cult classic and for fans of True Detective I believe it will not disappoint. For excellent storytelling that keeps you glued to the couch for at least three episodes an evening (ah sure we’ll just watch one more), The Killing can be classed among the elite.
Words by Ronán Brennan.