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First (or Sixth, Whatever!) Watch: The Killing 

First (or Sixth, Whatever!) Watch: The Killing

So I am wickedly late to the game, but mama sat down Sunday and watched the firstÂsix hours of The Killing. With the exception of Michelle Forbes (and I’ll explain), I was totally down with the location and idea of the show here before it ever aired and had DVRd all the episodes, but I hadn’t watched them yet. So glad I did, and a marathon was the way to watch, because the show is paced very matter-of-factly and I’m not terribly sure I’d have stuck with it watching them a week apart.

The setup is very procedural–a pretty teenager, full of promise, turns up dead under murky circumstances. Her parents fall apart and her younger brothers try to make them aware they still need parenting. The detective in charge, Sarah Linden, has one foot on a plane to a new life but can’t seem to get out of town. Her lieutenant wants her to stay on because her newly-assigned replacement, now partner/trainee, Stephen Holder, is a bit rough around the edges, so “end of the day” becomes “one more day” becomes “a week,” and you get the idea. Her impeccably patient fiance (Callum Keith Rennie) is hanging in there, but for how long?

What I really like about the show is that it doesn’t actually go where you think it’s going each week–we’ve had red herrings about the mayoral campaign and Rosie’s (the girl’s) killer and possible suitors, and none of them are exactly what they seem. I LOVE having Billy Campbell back on TV, playing the character Jordan Collier so wanted to be on The 4400, and Kristin Lehman as his maybe otherwise-motivated campaign manager/lover, Gwyneth. I was familiar with Mireille Enos from Big Love, but it it wasn’t appointment TV–but I was super-jazzed to find out she’s a Houston girl.

She’s very understated here, but we are allowed glimpses of her life off the job. She mows through gum because she’s quitting smoking, and was previously consumed by another case of a dead girl, but now she’s really working to get herself and her teenage son on to their impending new life. She was also, it seems, raised by a social worker, Regi (the always awesome Annie Corley), who lives on a boat and provides refuge for Sarah and her son when she has to stay in town. What I find so fascinating about the dynamic with her character is that Linden is played by Joel Kinnaman, who is a ringer for Rennie in his younger days, when he played the reckless roles, so it’s funny to see him play the relatively stable fiance instead.

As for Michelle Forbes, I bailed on True Blood the season that Maryann took over, and I found her a little too over-the-top in the second season of Durham County, a show I had really, really liked the first season of. The Killing would seem to be inheriting that show’s mantle but it’s actually extraordinarily less violent than DC was, and a Danish import. When I first heard about the show, I thought it was a reboot of DC, which I had sort of mixed feelings about adapting, and then it turned out to have nothing to do with DC at all.

Here, Forbes is Mitch, warm, funny, and earthy when we first meet her, and then she just switches into an abysmal grief, as if by auto pilot, and stays there. It’s weirdly refreshing to watch her inhabit grief without an ulterior motive. It’s a boon for the actress, who usually plays folks who are duplicitous or slightly off and here she is what she is a grieving mother and wife who can’t find her way back yet.

The scene that will get her the Emmy nomination is the one where she falls apart in her kitchen while her boys look on. Her husband has returned to where Rosie’s sweater and his credit card were found just as the car with her body in the trunk is coming out of the water. He starts to scream at the police to let him through and they deny him, but Sarah comes to talk to him, and she tells him only that he can’t be there.

Mitch hears all of this over the phone and all she can do is scream her husband’s name while he screams their daughter’s. Character actor Brent Sexton is a revelation as Stan, the grieving husband and father with a shady past who is seriously contemplating a return to the dark side to avenge Rosie.

I LOVE the Vancouver location (standing in for Seattle), that women have directed every episode so far, that the producer, Veena Sud, is a woman, and the music by Frans Bak, who did the Danish original, is so reminiscent of Touching Evil (the show Jeffrey Donovan did before Burn Notice for USA). Also love the Canadian-HITG-ness for actors that folks may not know by name (yet), especially Brandon Jay McLaren as Rosie’s teacher, Bennett, who has more of a story to tell about Rosie. I’m so digging this show.

[Updated: The entire series is now streaming on Hulu and for free on IMDb TV.]

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