The Killing s3 ep 9; s3 ep 10

Pretty near the start of episode 9, Emilie’s kidnapper is taken down by a combination of Lund and Borch. As it happens, though, the season has been structured so that the identity of the kidnapper long since became the least important of its mysteries; of more significance is whether Emilie is still alive, and where she is. And this, in turn, is something that Poulsen, the kidnapper, is keeping to himself, until the person who abducted and murdered his daughter Louise is identified and brought to justice.

Poulsen has convinced himself that it was Reinhardt, Zeuthens’s aide, and is in the process of throwing him into the sea when stopped by Lund and Borch. Reinhardt denies any involvement, but Lund isn’t convinced, and pursues an investigation. In most other shows this would clearly be misdirection, but The Killing has built up a certain amount of credibility in this area: in season 1 the killer was hiding in plain sight throughout, and in season 2 we were more or less told who it was in episode 7 of 10. So the fact that episode 9 was dominated by Lund and Borch trying to prove the case against Reinhardt didn’t mean that it definitely wasn’t him. Or that it definitely was, since Forbrydelsen 1 burnt through a fair number of suspects itself. It could go either way: and so, when Reinhardt turns out to have an alibi for the night of Emilie’s disappearance, that isn’t entirely surprising.

Elsewhere in episode 9, the fate of Emilie continues to dominate Kamper’s election campaign, for reasons I don’t fully understand. And Mrs Borch is very upset about what’s going on between Lund and her husband. I must admit I don’t quite get this either: as will be evident, I spend a lot of time finding women on TV attractive, and in three seasons I haven’t seen anything in Lund which would mark her out as dream girlfriend material. I mean, she’s barely smiled. Admittedly she’s verged on playful once or twice with Borch, but apart from that? Mind you, we don’t know what happens at home with Mrs B.

Which takes us to the final episode of the season and, if everyone’s to be believed, the last Forbrydelsen ever. And that ending. Exciting as it was, I can’t help but feel a little let down, because in my view it was a long way out of character for Lund to do what she did.

You could, I suppose, find two justifications for Lund going all Dexter on us: firstly, she was confronted by what looked like someone boasting about getting away with a horrible crime, and possibly others like it, and after all her time in the police she’s probably had to deal with that more often than she’d like to. Well, maybe; but she’s a good cop, and how is she to know that there isn’t further evidence out there? (As it happens, there is, of course; that fantastically improbable photo of the killer luring Louise into his car.) So no, I don’t buy it.

The second possible justification is that it was an extreme example of something which we have seen before from Lund: her willingness to sabotage her personal relationships. So just at the point where she’s become a grandmother, and seems to be tentatively edging towards a rapprochement with her son; and, apparently, after agreeing to cohabit with old flame Borch, she does something which ensures that she’s going to be alone again. I don’t buy this either; it will be recalled that in season 1 she managed to avoid moving to Sweden with her partner by just not leaving Denmark. (Not to mention the fact that commitment to married but flighty Borch isn’t a very Lund-y thing to do either.)

The political side of things fizzled out a bit too, with Kamper apparently triumphing as a result of the ultimately successful search for Emilie – see previous remarks on the lack of connection – although there did seem to be a slightly gloomy conclusion, with both Kamper and Zeeland returning to something close to business as usual. Kamper decided he wanted to be prime minister again, with Zeeland still presumably having an unhealthy say in the running of the country.

For all that Sofie Gråbøl and writer Søren Sveistrup have been adamant that there won’t be any more Forbrydelsen, the closing scene and final shot do leave the door just a little ajar. I wonder. As it happens, the scene between Borch and Lund in the car was one of the very best of all three seasons, even if it started from an improbable premise, reminding us of the remarkable power which this show has generated, time after time, over its three seasons, and of what we’ll be missing if we never see it again. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that seasons 2 and 3 didn’t quite match the extraordinary 20 episodes of season 1, but this season was, for my money, better than the second, and if those plane lights were indeed the last we’ll ever see of Sarah, it’s been an unforgettable experience and a remarkable achievement by Danish state broadcaster DK. And more from them shortly, with season 2 of the fantastic Borgen just around the corner.

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The Killing (Forbrydelsen) s3 ep 7; s3 ep 8

At the start of episode 7, everyone in Copenhagen is reaching the pretty obvious conclusion that viewers reached a while ago – i.e. that Emilie is still alive. Having said that, we don’t actually see her in either of these episodes; there’s a bit of misdirection to the effect that she’s been shipped out of Denmark, although if she’s still alive presumably she’s going to be much closer to home, in one of the many secret rooms which are by now a staple of Forbrydelsen. And I suppose that leaves open the possibility that she is, in fact, dead after all, which would be a courageous if melancholy note for Forbrydelsen to go out on next week, and would certainly confound expectations. She’s not dead, though, is she?

The involvement of Borch and Special Branch (which I have a feeling is not a precise translation) continues to be intriguing, though, particularly as it was made clear that they saw their primary duty as being to protect the prime minister rather than investigate crime. Forbrydelsen has always been on entertaining ground when it explores the link between politics and crime. That, of course, has been a running theme in all three seasons: I observed last week that quite a few of season 1’s plot devices were being brought back this time round, perhaps as a kind of lap of honour before we say goodbye to Sarah Lund for ever.

And, certainly in episode 7, the callbacks continued to pile up: as well as the secret rooms, we had the political leader facing down an internal challenge then purging his rivals, reconciliatory office sex, endless chases around underlit buildings, and so on. There isn’t a big problem with that, exactly, but I was conscious by the end of that episode that I was noticing it more and more often, which in turn was distancing me from the drama. And that is a bit of a problem.

Fortunately, episode 8 was a cracker. Emilie’s abductor has managed, God knows how, to get away after being shot by Lund. It should be said that he is remarkably good at moving around more or less undetected, despite being the subject of a huge manhunt and the bleeding bullet wound, although when he manages to infiltrate Parliament it looks as if it’s only Lund and Borch who are actually trying to track him down. Jack Bauer would have had a task force, a hard perimeter, and all sorts.

But in this episode the seeds planted earlier in the season start to germinate: Kamper’s son Benjamin, we discover, died at his own hand, and now becomes a major suspect. (As well as having seen Kamper’s aide Karen in top secret conversation with Zeeland representatives.) I might have misunderstood, but this development seems to be on the word of Kamper’s supremely creepy brother Stoffer, who everyone seems quite happy to take at his word.

Meantime the other suspects start to show themselves: Reinhardt, who’s been Robert Zeuthens’s factotum until now, is very clearly linked to Louise Jelby, the girl whose death appears to have started everything off; Stoffer himself; the Ussing/Schultz axis.

And because everyone needs a work/life balance, there’s progress on a few key relationships as well. It looks, rather implausibly, as if Maja and Robert, Emilie’s parents, are reaching some sort of reconciliation. Meantime Kamper decides that enough is enough with Rosa Lebech, but not before hopping on one last time. Dawg. This leaves the door ajar for pushy aide Karen, who behaves as if she always knows what’s best for Kamper, herself included. And Mrs Borch turns up warning Sarah to stay away from her husband. I don’t think she need worry too much; relationships really aren’t Lund’s thing. Great stuff, which is just as well: two more episodes to go, and then we’re done with Sarah Lund for ever.

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) s3 ep 5; s3 ep 6

Episode 5 gets off to what should be a properly shocking start when kidnapped child Emilie is shot in front of her father, Lund, and Borch, followed by the kidnapper apparently leaving Denmark on a ship.  But as anyone can shoot a duffle bag and throw it into the water, those of us who have seen lots of TV need something a bit more persuasive than that, and it very quickly becomes clear, therefore, that this looks more like a fake-out. Clear, that is, to everyone except all of the characters, who are then obliged to spend the rest of the episode searching for the body, dealing with their grief, and so on. In fact, the most genuinely startling thing the show could do now is produce Emilie’s waterlogged corpse; we’re given a teaser at the end of episode 6, when Brix is told that the body has been found, but my money still says there’s no way she’s dead.

The consequences of the “death” stretch into episode 6 as well, when the bereaved parents meet the minister who will be officiating at Emilie’s funeral, in a scene more than a little reminiscent of season 1. I’m possibly being a little harsh to the writers here, but given that one of the acknowledged strengths of Forbrydelsen I was the focus on the grief-stricken family, introducing this as a theme looked to me like an attempt to recreate the circumstances of the stellar first season. In season 1, of course, we knew the victim was dead, which gave the traumas of her parents and friends a genuine weight; it didn’t work as well for me this time round, because I’m expecting Emilie to pop up at any moment.

This isn’t the only callback: the political themes are familiar ones as well. There’s a leader negotiating with a centrist party, being brought low by perfidious colleagues, with an aide more than a little in love with him, and who might – just possibly? – have been driving the Big Black Car which Borch and Lund are arguing over, and therefore perhaps connected in some way to the murder of a teenager. As might opposition leader Ussing, of course. I know I keep saying this, with slight variations, but if you want a politician involved with the death of a schoolgirl beware of imitations: Troels is your man. (The way in which the politicians all wander in and out of each others’ meetings also brings back happy memories, although I was startled and amused to note that Karen, the prime minister’s aide, addresses the leader of the opposition as “Ussing”. Another cultural thing?)

As episode 6 went on, though, it became clear that, even if the girl is still alive, her captor is making considerable progress in trying to find out what happened to the supposed suicide victim from three years ago. In fact, as he seems to be permanently half an hour in front of Lund and Borch, perhaps they should just bow out and leave him to it. They do, after all, have other things to worry about; after a bit of playful bickering in front of Juncker, and some arguing, the Jumper finally comes off – as does everything else, of course – and Lund gets laid. How this will affect her remains to be seen, although it certainly didn’t lead to her cracking a smile. Meantime, in one of those delightful Scandinavian drama cross-pollinations, Brix is being investigated by Michael Laugesen from Borgen.

Allowing for the repetition of some well-worn Forbry themes, and the central problem which I had with believing the victim to actually be dead, these were two well-constructed and highly watchable episodes. Does that sound like faint praise? If it does, it’s because this show, excellent though it is, has now become just a superior procedural. (There was even the equivalent of a local cops vs Feds scene this week.) There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – in fact, well-made procedurals are among my very favourite TV things – but I can’t help but feel that the peculiar Forbrydelsen magic has dissipated just a little. Still, I’m enjoying this season a lot, and rather more than I enjoyed season 2.

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) s3 ep 3; s3 ep 4

It’s all settling down a bit now. It looks as if Emilie has been kidnapped by someone who has a long-running grudge against Zeeland and Robert Zeuthens, arising out of the death of a 13-year-old girl years ago, ruled as a suicide at the time but probably a murder involving Zeeland employees, covered up by as-yet-unspecified people in high places. It also seems that the kidnapper knows Emilie, or knows quite a lot about her anyway. My list of suspects for the kidnapping, at the moment, is (a) Zeuthens’s factotum, that bald dude; (b) Maj’s new man; (c) Rose Lebech’s ex. And for the earlier murder, I’ll add  (d) Stoffer, Kamper’s brother/aide, really for now on the basis that he looks sinister; and (e) some sort of combination of Mogens Rank, the justice minister, and Peter Schultz, the now-dead deputy public prosecutor.

It probably isn’t Rose’s former husband, in fairness, although he will no doubt be bristling after being arrested for allegedly leaking details of the cover-up. He wants to meet Rose’s current squeeze, who also happens to be the prime minister, of course. Time to compare notes?

Prime Minister Kamper himself continues to be more involved than I would expect, although this might simply be one of these cultural differences things, and after Forbrydelsens 1 and 2 I suppose I should be used to the way in which politics and crime investigation can become intertwined. He does, however, seem to be particularly exercised by the Emilie case, perhaps because he’s just such a caring politician, perhaps because of the Zeeland connection, or perhaps because of his own Secret Pain, hinted at in the fourth episode: a missing son/brother? What I don’t understand, though, is why the leader of the main opposition party thinks he has a right to know everything that’s going on, although once again that might be a Danish thing.

Meantime Kamper’s relationship with Rose seems to be going off the rails; fortunately for him, though, his aide Karen is very clearly in love with him, so he won’t have to go without for very long if the worst should happen. Although Stoffer is circling Kamper like a guard-dog, so Karen might have a fight on her hands to get there.

For Sarah Lund, it’s a busy couple of hours, of course. There are the usual dark buildings to be negotiated – clearly Danish building design doesn’t mandate readily accessible light-switches – while juggling her unresolved feelings for Borch. Years ago, they were about to move in together. Ooh! We know from I and II that relationships aren’t really in Lund’s skill set, so it might be as well for Borch that he got away. More annoyingly, she’s also obliged to deal with her idiot son, and his up-the-stick girlfriend. This is perhaps just one plot strand too many: I can see that the writers, as ever, want to give us the balancing work and private life thing, but when she’s in the middle of trying to find the kidnapped daughter of Denmark’s leading industrialist?

By the end, though, the kidnapper has made his final offer clear. A life for a life; Zeuthens for his daughter. Zeuthens seems to be prepared to make the trade, and Juncker has found where the girl is being held, which suggests that this plot arc at least might be accelerating towards a conclusion; frankly, unless the girl is killed, it’s difficult to see another six episodes of mileage in it. If I’m right this would mean that, rather like in Homeland recently, Forbrydelsen is burning up plot a little faster than it needs to, which is both commendable and risky. My feeling at the moment is that this season is somewhat better than season 2, but still not quite up to the standard of season 1.

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) s3 ep 1; s3 ep 2

Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) has, improbably, done 25 years in the Danish police force. As well having to attend a party for her and fellow long-servers, she’s got her eye on the sort of desk job that, in my experience, is treated with disdain by everyone. Until, of course, you manage to land one, at which point you would apparently sooner give up eating and breathing than your desk job. She’s so demob happy that the news of the discovery of a corpse – in at least seven pieces! – at the dock doesn’t really engage her; the extent of her guidance to Asbjørn Juncker (Sigurd Holmen le Dous), the keen new guy on the team, is essentially “yeah, whatevs, look for the killer, good luck”. But then Special Branch officer Mathias Borch (Nikolaj Lie Kass, who looks like a more weathered Chris Morris) turns up, and Lund is obliged to treat the whole thing a bit more seriously. There are hints – confirmed in episode 2 – that Lund and Borch were, a long time ago, a thing. Lurch FTW?

This being Forbrydelsen, there needs to be a political strand; and this being Scandinavia, it seemingly has to involve negotiations with possible coalition partners. I can’t say that I’ve got this entirely nailed down, but as far as I can see there’s an election coming, and the sort-of right-wing prime minister Kristian Kamper is trying to broker a deal with the centre party, whose leader Rosa Lebech he happens to be giving a seeing-to on a regular basis. Meantime the sort-of left-wing party is also trying to muscle in on the coalition action.

Tying into this is the third plot arc, in which shipping company Zeeland is threatening to move its business overseas, which would be disastrous for the Danish economy, and therefore for the PM. It would, however, be politically difficult for him to offer Zeeland incentives to stay. The chairman of Zeeland, Robert Zeuthen, is divorced from his wife; they share custody of their two children. I was interested to see that even in a Scandinavian country, so often held up as models of equal childcare, it still raises eyebrows if the company chairman has to skip a meeting to sort out an issue with the kids.

Anyway, Lund and Borch start to unpick the murder of the multi-part corpse, which leads them to a ship anchored off the coast. Of course they have to go there at night – the Danish police budget is, evidently, big enough to cope with an almost limitless spend on torch batteries – where they find two other corpses,  and some suspicious pictures on the wall. Although unremarked, I’m pretty sure that these included Red Army Faction posters of the kidnapped Aldo Moro and Hanns-Martin Schleyer, and as soon as I saw them I had a fair idea what was coming – I don’t know much, but I know my Baader-Meinhof. Sure enough, Zeuthen’s daughter Emilie is kidnapped.

Pretty much all of that was in the first episode, which was something of a masterclass in how to set up a number of storylines and unfamiliar characters in less than an hour, and reminiscent of Forbrydelsen at its powerhouse, season 1 best. Episode 2, on the other hand, was fine but nothing special. Much of it was taken up with the attempts to get the kidnap victim back, and we’ve seen a lot of this before: the calls from the untraceable phone; the instructions to get on train A, then train B; the warning to come alone or something dreadful will happen. There was a neat twist when the Zeuthens were invited to open the ransom bidding, rather than the kidnapper naming the price, but that apart (and the shock ending) it was well-crafted TV abduction-by-numbers. As with season 1, though, it looks as if we’re going to be given an example of how a crime can start to bleed into national politics, with Kamper’s opponent making political capital out of it.

And hanging over all of this is the state of the economy, which barely registered in seasons 1 and 2. Zeeland’s vacillation over its future is presented as crucial to the country’s wellbeing, and much of the action in both episodes takes place in places touched by the downturn: docklands, colonised by the homeless, where building plans have been abandoned; deserted factory buildings; and, of course, the ship where the dead bodies are found, which is destined to be scrapped.

It doesn’t surprise me at all, given what I’ve read about the Danish national broadcaster, that Forbrydelsen is intent on going out with an state-of-the-Danish-nation address, and I’m entirely on board with that. The problem Forbrydelsen III has, of course, is that it can’t escape comparisons with season 1: Kamper, for example, is no Troels Hartmann, and his hot aide is no Rie. Putting that to one side, though, this was a very strong start, episode 1 in particular reminding us just how good Søren Sveistrup and his team are at juggling characters and storylines.

Public Service Announcement 52 of 2012: The Hour, Southland, The Killing (Forbrydelsen) III, The Big Bang Theory

Some very heavy hitters back on British TV this week.

The second season of BBC drama The Hour, that watchable but slightly strange 50s set drama about a TV newsroom, starts tonight. Although it undoubtedly had its merits season 1 never quite decided what it wanted to be, but on balance I’m pleased that everyone’s back to have another try. All concerned are talking season 2 up, so let’s hope that the occasionally clunky dialogue and plotting have settled down. In the event that they haven’t, of course, there’s plenty to look at as well: on top of the immaculately-observed period trappings, Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai return, as do Dominic West and Anna Chancellor (who was grievously under-used first time out). And Peter Capaldi joins the cast as the new Head of News, in what now looks like a timely nod to the BBC’s present troubles. Week-by-week reviews as soon as we can (tonight, BBC2, 9pm).

From America, Southland returns for its fourth season. Much to my shame I gave up on this show round about season 2, but CJ’s still a fan, as I’m sure I would be if I’d stuck around. Lucy Liu’s in for this season, which seemed like an odd casting decision but was, apparently, vindicated by some excellent work on her part. I doubt I’ll be going back – I never quite managed to work out who everyone was first time around – but it’s undoubtedly an excellent show, for those with more staying power than me (Thursday 15 November, More4, 10pm).

And from Denmark, it’s the third and, apparently, final outing for Sarah Lund, with the return of The Killing (Forbrydelsen) to British screens. We don’t need to say more about Unpopcult’s devotion to season 1; season 2, meantime, in common with others, I regarded as falling a little short of the standards of its predecessor. Which means that the Forbrydelsen team, perhaps, has something to prove. The advance word from Alison Graham of the Radio Times, who did so much to popularise season 1 in the UK, is that season 3 is “exhaustingly exciting”, which sounds like my sort of thing. Brix is back, and Lund’s sidekick the time will be played by Nikolaj Lie Kass, described by Sofie Grabøl herself as “the best actor of our generation in Denmark”. Yeah, well, whatevs: I’m sure he’s no Troels Hartmann.

The Killing is, of course, being shown in those effing double-bills again, but for once I’m not going there, except to recall that the BBC’s quoted justification for this idiocy is that “foreign dramas tend to have more episodes” and “the gripping nature of the storylines also lend themselves to playing more than one episode, with fans eager to find out how the plots will develop”, and to remind you that the latter excuse seems to carry with it an admission about home-grown drama. So block off two hours, folks, and settle in (Saturday 17 November, BBC 4, 9pm).

Meantime, on the comedy side, The Big Bang Theory is back for season 6. The last couple of seasons have shown signs of creative fatigue, not entirely alleviated by the way in which the writers have developed a female ensemble to match and, in some cases, surpass the men; it feels to me as if the writers are reaching for the easy gag rather than looking for the better one, and the character developments aren’t always helpful either.  For all that, though, it’s still arguably the best multi-camera sitcom on TV, with standout performances from Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Mayim Bialik (Thursday 15 November, E4, 8pm). And season 2 of 2 Broke Girls starts immediately afterwards.

The Killing (Forbrydelsen) s2 ep 9; s2 ep 10

Spoilers, very probably.

As with Forbrydelsen the First, the identity of the killer didn’t come as a huge surprise; perhaps even less so this time around, as Raben told us who it was a few episodes ago. We still had to navigate a shoal of red herrings though, with Bilal involving himself, some highly unconvincing alibis for Strange, and that odd business with the doctor and the crossed-out heads on the photo.

After all that, though, we were left with our man Strange, and this time not only does Lund lose a partner, she loses a potential love interest as well. The tropes of crime drama still had to be followed, though: rather than provide Brix with detailed reasons for her certainty that it was Strange (and, in any event, Brix had his hands full accepting a glass of wine from Ruth’s husband) she drove off into the night with Strange and Raben, trusting that a bullet-proof vest would protect her from an ex-Special Forces man who’d executed a family in Afghanistan by shooting them neatly in the head. The good news for those of us fond of a little ambiguity with our denouements is that Strange was still prepared – plausibly – to accuse Raben of complicity in the atrocity.

Meantime, Buch spent a couple more episodes knowing that something was up, but unable quite to put his finger on it until the end. I remained firmly of the view throughout this season that the political story didn’t match up to last time’s, but in fairness it should be said that Buch was a satisfyingly unsatisfactory hero – blundering around Copenhagen’s political salons being outmaneuvered by just about everyone, pausing only to give his teeth an occasional scrub, until he finally caught up with both the bad guys and the leaker.

I’m bound to say that I didn’t buy the idea of an unsanctioned special mission as the sort of thing which could bring a government down; perhaps it’s a Danish thing. The political arm of the story ended strongly, though, with the psychotically anti-corruption Buch being beckoned into Hades by the other members of the Cabinet, everything forgiven and forgotten, and no need for an early election, eh? This was cleverly and powerfully done, and by the end it looked as if Buch had been tempted to hang onto office in the face of a reproachful Karina.

And that’s season 2 which, in my view, just didn’t exert the weird and exceptional hold over the imagination that season 1 did. The acting was good again, but I didn’t find myself quite as involved with any of the characters this time round. More crucially, the absence of a grieving family left the show without its heart, and the political intrigue – although not without its charms – wasn’t as intriguing or as Troels-y. Good, but not as good.  For those of you who want something  to remember Forbrydelsen by, here are the official ringtones; and for those of you who like your political drama Danish, we and BBC 4 will be back on January 7 with Borgen, which features both Strange and our old friend Meyer.