The Killing Series 2 Episode 1 Review

THE KILLING: Saturday 19th November, BBC4, 9pm

The consuming Nanna Birk Larsen case has left detective Sarah Lund with nothing. Alienated from her mother and son and working as a rural border control officer (or something like that… it’s not really clear), Lund is hesitant to investigate Copenhagen’s most recent murder but in the end she can’t help herself, or else there wouldn’t be a show.

It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that earlier this year The Killing made TV history. With barely any promotion, it became an utter sensation despite its subtitles, the leak atmosphere and the fact that Danish TV drama hadn’t enjoyed an especially good rep in Britain thus far. But it attracted more viewers than Mad Men, won a BAFTA, three Crime Writers’ Association awards and was popular enough to be butchered as a spin-off in America.

The immensely popular Danish series returned for a second outing last night, but not everything is the same. For starters, Lund’s sensational star-pattern jumper has been replaced by a red alternative in this first episode (apparently it had been getting more attention than Sofie Gråbøl at one point) yet we are assured that it will be returning next week. In addition to this wardrobe change, the series has been cut down to 10 episodes, half the length of the previous offering. The wisdom of such a decision will become apparent in due course, but with one of the few complaints being that the first series became slightly repetitive at times and featured too many red herrings, for some this might be an improvement.

Yet the cut in length could negatively impact one of the show’s huge draws. Far from the type of detective shows that solve at least one murder per episode, series one separated itself by being emotionally deep and complicated, something that will be hard to mimic with only half as many episodes. You could e forgiven for thinking that that the Danish creators decided to cut production times and strike while the iron was hot, but this second season was completed in 2009, long before the first hit UK screens. A third series of the Scandinavian whodunnit is currently in production.

Naturally, the show has shed some of the favorite characters from last series (because they died), but if this first episode is any indication DI Ulrik Strange will be a suitable replacement for the beloved Jan Meyer. Sofie Gråbøl continues to deliver as the uncompromising, compulsive, sleep deprived Lund and the series can’t go wrong as long as she remains the focal point. We certainly saw her grow into the new series last night, yet after nervous beginnings, it was enjoyable to see her grow in confidence and eventually point out the crucial photograph clue.

Forbrydelsen II is also a slightly different beast to the trail-blazing first series. More considered and, despite the fact that the first one had a political undercurrent.. more political. We’ve got politicians, the army and the Muslim League in this first double-helping alone. As such the pace and tone might provide a fresh angle in the weeks to come, but the foundations of strong drama seem to have been retained.

The Killing can credit the bulk of its success to head writer Søren Sveistrup, who famously pens the episodes as they are being filmed has introduced an equally compelling storyline for the second series and the format feels familiar but revitalized. The murder is clearly different this time around but the mystery surrounding it is equally compelling and the political subplot will allow for more governmental mischief. Ending the episode with another dead body hints that time will be of the essence for Lund and that we can expect to be kept on the edge of our seats. Prepare to say goodbye to your Saturday nights..