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Blu-ray Review: AMC’s The Killing

Joshua Brunsting

March 20th, 2012

AMC is the best network on television.

Be it their beloved zombie soap opera The Walking Dead or the best show on television since The Wire, a little show you may have heard of entitled Mad Men, the network is a juggernaut in the world of televised dramas.

However, no show on their lineup has drawn as mixed a response as their attempt at doing a little bit of crime noir, The Killing. Based on a Danish television series entitled Forbrydelsen (The Crime), the series follows three separate stories, all revolving around the continual mystery of a missing young girl named Rosie Larsen.  When her body is discovered in the back of a vehicle registered to the campaign of Darren Richmond, the story is put into motion, and a web of scum bags, dropouts, politicians and moles are all put under the light, trying to find out just who took the life of this young woman.

Now, while a cavalcade of people find this to be AMC’s weakest series (at least until Hell On Wheels hit), it’s not only one of their strongest dramas, but is easily one of the very best crime series on the boob tube.

Narratively, the film is structured as if it were the polar opposite of what this generation’s television crime series is.  In a world where Criminal Minds is not only the norm but a gold standard by which all others are judged, most take one crime, solve it over the course of the episode, and either tease an overarching storyline loosely connecting the rest of the franchise, or simply wrap up as a one off, comic book one shot of sorts.

However, not here.  With absolutely little to no resolution coming at the end of each episode, we are instead thrust into each of these characters’ world, and the subsequent plight brought on to each group due to this young woman’s death.  Be it the relationship turmoil brought on by our lead, Sarah Linden, lead homicide detective, and her “one final case” syndrome; the controversy surrounding Richmond’s campaign; or the destructive downfall of the husband and wife, father and mother of the deceased teen, the show is following these characters, not the crime.  And that is both the best way to describe the show, while also being the perfect way to truly describe just how brilliant this series truly is.

It also helps to have a killer cast.

Starring Mireille Enos, the show features top notch performances, top to bottom.  Enos is a bit one note, but as the show goes on its journey you not only begin to fall in love with our lead, but her chemistry with rookie detective Stephen Holder, played by Joel Kinnaman, truly becomes something special.  Her story is admittedly the show’s weakest link, but it’s not due to her performance, as it’s absolutely superb, but it’s simply because it’s a narrative we’ve seen done a million times.

Kinnaman is killer here as Holder, a man that until the very last episode, you are not quite sure of.  As is the great aspect of this series, you begin to learn more and more about his character as each episode goes, making this far more novelistic than many television series of its ilk. Billy Campbell shines here as Richmond, the sleazy politician who is tossed right in the middle of this investigation, but it’s the pair of Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton, Mitch and Stanley Larsen respectively, who shine the most.  They play Rosie’s parents, and they are both more than they seem, while also being so bluntly up front about their emotions, allowing the characters to really breath, playing mostly with their fantastic physicality. Their story arch is so fulfilling and devastatingly emotional, that it’s the apex of the entire series.

Overall, the show, while not being as inventive and in many ways important as something like Mad Men or as in-the-moment-rewarding as the zombie kill-a-thon Walking Dead, it does something very few shows can do.  Showrunner Veena Sud and her team of writers have been able to take a fantastic premise and breath such realism and life into it, making it a distinctly cold and desolate bit of crime television that even David Fincher would be a fan of. Not a perfect show, particularly the series’ lack of any sort of “true” conclusion, whatever that means, the show is arguably the best crime franchise that television has to offer.  And it’s bloody gorgeous on Blu-ray.

AMC has released the first season on Blu-ray, and it’s an absolute winner.  Clocking in at 13 episodes, it is a bit tougher of a watch that the viscerally impossible to turn off Mad Men, but the transfer here is gorgeous, and the great score really pops here.  Commentary is found on both the premiere and the finale, with the finale also finding itself an extended version on this three disc Blu-ray set.  A making of documentary is on this set, as are deleted scenes and a gag reel.  For fans of crime or simply good drama, this is a must own release.

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  • Gilegleat46

    Love AMC.. but “The Wire” on HBO

    • http://twitter.com/joshbrunsting Josh Brunsting

      I know, I think you mis-read what I was saying.  I meant that Mad Men was the best show on TV since The Wire.  Failed miserably I guess, but that’s kinda what I was going for ;)

  • harveyronn

    I just love the TV shows of AMC. “The Wire” is also included in my most favourite TV shows list. “The Killing” is based on real crime, so it would be good to watch on TV for me.
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