The Killing II, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews
The Killing II, BBC Four
The Killing II, BBC Four
Series two of BAFTA-winning Nordic noir gets off to a flyer
People speak to her. It could be her mother. It could be a colleague. But she doesn’t react, continues what she’s doing. Which, usually, is leaving. It’s welcome back to Sarah Lund, whose watchability is in inverse proportion to her demonstrativeness. As recalcitrant detective Lund, in the second series of Denmark’s The Killing, Sofie Gråbøl is as magnetic as the first time around, whatever she’s wearing. Sweaters be damned, these two opening episodes were up there with the BAFTA-winning first series.
After the lash-ups of the first series – the killing of her detective partner, serial insubordination, time spent on the wrong suspects, pissing off politicians, stalling her partner, alienating her son – Lund’s been banished to Gedser, Denmark’s most southerly town. Town is stretching it a bit, as Gedser is little more than a bunch of houses on an island that fan out from a dock. She checks the documentation of vehicles rolling off the ferry from Germany. Not so much sent to Coventry, more like being despatched for sentry duty in the Hebrides. Nice to see her eating off a plate there, rather than from a saucepan.
Of course, Copenhagen can’t do without her. Lund’s old boss, the even more taciturn Lennart Brix (played with magnificent woodenness by Morten Suurballe) wants her to look over a particularly grisly murder, just to see what she thinks (pictured right: from left, Suurballe, Gråbøl and Mikael Birkkjaer). She thinks loads and is soon convinced it’s not the crime of passion it’s painted as. The top brass haven't much patience, but Brix makes them hear her out.
And of course she’s right and we're pitched into a world where Islamic fundamentalism, politics and a furtive army are soon intertwined. At the first briefing on the crimes that she attends, close to the back of a room, she’s unobtrusive. Yet she’s soon in the field issuing orders and haring off on her own to interview an incarcerated colleague of the series’s second victim, an army man.
Lund's path in the narrative is dogged by that of Thomas Buch, the new justice minister (a rotund, rumpled and unshaven Nicolas Bro). Lund is visited in Gedser and asked back to Copenhagen. She says no. After the incumbent’s taken ill, Buch is asked to be the new minister. He says no. So on. Then – blimey – Buch finds pictures of the murder in his predecessor’s files. The Lund-Buch paths have to meet.
Although the domestic hasn’t yet hoved in, the series is still about the ripples of the crimes and the individual stories of those pitched into view. Buch mentions his wife and it’s a fair bet his personal circumstances will figure as the drama unfolds. In episode two of this double bill, Lund tells her new partner Ulrik Strange (Mikael Birkkjaer, pictured left with Gråbøl) that she doesn’t want to talk about her past. He says he hadn’t listened to the gossip. It’ll be dug into.
When politics comes in, it’s the familiar see-saw of the constant negotiations between the parties that make up Denmark's ruling coalition. Buch is seeking agreement for an anti-terrorism bill. This, though, is yesterday’s political framework. Denmark changed in September 2011 when the right-wing coalition lost the election to a broadly socialist coalition who are still proving themselves. When flyers against Denmark’s military presence in the Islamic world are found at the site of the second victim's murder, their source is traced to Nørrebro, Copenhagen’s most culturally mixed area. Being this specific is deliberate (a wild goose chase in the first series followed a Muslim suspect). Denmark saw the effect of the cartoons published in 2005 by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. The Killing II’s political backdrop isn’t an anachronism as the issues are still live, so these are more than plot devices.
Still, The Killing II is billed as “a thriller by Søren Sveistrup”. The market for Nordic thrillers and crime fiction is hungry – posters in London's underground proclaim that a book by Norway’s Jo Nesbø is bought every 23 seconds. We’ve had three TV Wallander’s so far. The first series of The Killing was remade in America, for America and then seen here on Channel 4. There’s an implication that markets which need feeding require fast food. But like the reverse relationship between the Lund demeanour and the fascination it generates, The Killing II is as solid as a home-cooked roast.
The Killing II is seamless and, extraordinarily for a modern television drama, it’s impossible to work out where ad breaks might be slotted. It differs from the first series by more than being 10 episodes to the first’s 20. There are less shocks and little – so far – on the effects of the crimes on those close to the victims.
The BBC scheduled this opening bill against episodes three and four of this week’s other foreign buy-in, Pan Am. What they’re saying is open to conjecture – and theartsdesk has already wondered what the BBC is up to with Pan Am's scheduling (and with BBC Four) – but there’s no ambiguity about which programme should be watched. Especially as The Killing II is mesmerising.
Watch The Killing II's Sofie Gråbøl being interviewed on the BBC's Culture Show
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