I just finished watching the final episode of this 4 season series from AMC and Netflix. I'd heard about the Danish version for some time, but decided to check out the American version first because, well, I don't speak Danish and I'd just watched an episode of another Danish cop series with which I didn't think translated very well culturally. (It wasn't "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - which was excellent.)
Plot wise and drama wise one could almost say that this police procedural is a cross between "Twin Peaks", "The Sopranos" and "The Wire", following the mystery of who killed a teenager, diving deeply into family dynamics and taking the time to tell a story in depth. However, "The Killing" has an element of psychological depth that goes beyond any of these shows, or any other police drama I've seen for that matter.
This is a show about people and not about forensics. The characters don't look like they stepped out of ads in GQ or Vogue. As in "The Wire" we see things unfold through the eyes of working people with all of the flaws and damages that actual human beings are heir to. The chemistry between the two principals, played by Mirielle Enos and Joel Kinsman as detectives Linden and Holder is profound and electric and carries through all 44 episodes. The character of Sarah Linden is one of the most complex and believable I've ever seen on American television. Ms. Enos performance makes us love her and hate her and ride with her through every moment of sorrow and triumph and sheer determination. Beyond this, every significant character in the supporting cast is fleshed out with excellent performances by an amazing cast.
This is a show about consequences. Acts of murder are only part of a long chain of repercussions that begin with the choices people make, before and after the crime. Virtually every character is faced with who they are and choices that won't let them escape the truth. There are lies upon lies, those we tell ourselves and each other, little lies and big lies, and every lie exacts a price.
The first two seasons pretty much follow the plot of the original Danish series and as a complete narrative is a riveting introduction to the main characters and the atmospherics of a very rainy Seattle that's an apt climactic substitute for Denmark (where, according to an interview I listened to with the original creator there is one season all year - November). The next two seasons delve much further into the psyche of the main characters. The crimes themselves are more grisly and serve to reflect the shadows that lurk in the background of the personal lives of Linden and Holder. This is a dark journey where the possibility of redemption hovers always just beyond reach. It's a darn good mystery as well.
I may check out the original Danish series one of these days. But, I think I'll let this one settle for a while, just to savor it.