AMC has garnered a lot of attention (rightfully) so with the critically acclaimed Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and the post-apocalyptic zombie show The Walking Dead has just got done wowing people after its second season. Lost in the wave of praise has been some other AMC products, notably The Killing, a show that flew under the radar in its first season by many but managed to garner some 'attaboys' of its own.
Originally based from a Danish television show, the focus of The Killing is on the murder of a promising Seattle high school student. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos, Big Love) is the lead investigator, in her last days before leaving the area for California. She attempts to transition the investigation to the incoming detective, a slightly seedy individual named Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The slow burn in terms of finding out who killed the student, a young girl named Rosie, discovers that she worked on a Mayoral campaign for a city councilman (Billy Campbell, Ghost Town), the latter of whom is in a nip and tuck battle with the incumbent. The girls' parents Stanley (Brent Sexton, W.) and Mitch (Michelle Forbes, In Treatment) are understandably distraught over their loss and begin to see out answers and retribution from the killer, which they believe is their daughters' teacher (Brandon Jay McLaren, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), who also volunteers for an inner-city program the councilman started. The show follows the investigation and the toll of those events on Linden and the victims' family, along with the campaign itself.
Before I get started into the machinations about the show, a word about the performances, particularly those of the female cast. Enos portrays Linden as a woman who is a sly willing accomplice to her own fate as she exhaustively researches every detail of the case, and a relationship to her fiancée clashes with that with raising her son from a previous marriage. The stress of the investigation slowly wears on her as the show goes on, but in an understated way, and her performance is fine in that regard. The star of the season goes to Forbes' performance, which was a dominant force of the show. When she was not on screen, you yearned for her to return. Seeing her go through the stunning nature of loss, followed by the grief and anger, with a touch of morbid curiosity thrown in for good measure, her character endured a lot during the season and her efforts were heartbreaking to see. It was reminiscent to a degree of her brief role on Homicide: Life on the Street where she played the medical examiner. She seemed to channel that pain seeing other parents go through and did so with flying colors. And her interactions with Sexton were just as good, particularly as the roles for each seemed to switch midway through the season and she assumed a stronger role in the household. For lack of a better word I enjoyed watching both of them on screen.
As much as I enjoyed their performances, the thirteen episode run (in this case, spread out over three discs) tends to spin the wheels of Enos and Forbes, along with some of the other characters, which is a minor inconvenience. There is another inconvenience within the show which I won't reveal, but in between that and an ending that looks similar to Jack Ruby taking out Lee Harvey Oswald, one should consider making the leap past the show's hook to the characters that are on the line, so to speak. The show is less about the killing and more about the impact it is on people in varying degrees of proximity to the victim. The sooner that's accepted, the more enjoyment you are likely to gain from the show.
While The Killing may lack the sensationalism of The Walking Dead and the across the board quality of Mad Men, it does have enough in the tank to be considered something that should be part of your television watching routine. Ahead of the show's second season premiere, you can certainly avail some time for yourself and give this one a spin, it may surprise you.
The Blu-ray Discs:
All thirteen episodes (spread over three BD-50s) are displayed in 1.78:1 high-definition widescreen and utilize the AVC codec, with the overall result looking solid. The show gets ample opportunity to fly over Seattle in day and night helicopter shots and they all look solid, with the darkness looking clear and presenting a good contrast throughout. The film grain is noticeable in the tighter shots, and image detail specifically in the background looks strong with textures on metal and woods and beading raindrops easily discernible. In the tighter shots detail on skin and facial shots seems to lack a touch, but otherwise this replicates a high-def production in Cascadia rather accurately.
If nothing else, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack the show sports is one of the better television sound presentations I have heard recently. Dialogue is consistent and well-balanced throughout the season, but the main thing that impressed me is the level of low-end involvement from the soundtrack both in the louder more dynamic sections and in the quieter stuff. The environmental noises sound clear and convincing also. The soundtrack lacks some channeling panning, but it is a minor complaint for this drama.
Over three discs, there is not a lot that keeps the viewer engaged and/or interested. On Disc One, showrunner Veena Sud shares her thoughts on the production, cast and in particular pilot director Patty Jenkins (Monster) as she recalls the ideas for the story and raves on the production or specific sequence. There are some gaps of silence where Sud is watching the episode, but it covers the creation process decently and is worth a listen for fans of the show.
While there are no extras on Disc Two, Disc Three kicks things off with an extended cut of the last episode "Orpheus Descending" which runs about five minutes longer than broadcast, and also includes a commentary from Enos and writer Michelle Yorkin. Each shares their contributions and recollections about the episode and the show, while Enos recalls dealing with the shoot and her pregnancy at the time. The track is a little docile but a decent listen. Next is "An Anatomy of The Killing" (16:53) is a look at the making of the show, how the idea came about and what the producers wanted to keep from the essence of the original show, while the cast discusses their individual attractions to the material and thoughts on the other actors. Nothing real surprising in this piece. 24(!) deleted scenes (13:21) are up next, but most of them are throwaway transitional moments in the season. The inclusion of a gag reel (4:50) is a surprise and a pleasant one at that, as there is a chuckle or two.
The Killing does an able job in balancing the usual cop drama with a look at the specter of death hovering over so many lives. There is a moment or two of complacency, but nothing that would drag down the momentum of the storytelling. Technically it is a solid package though it lacks a little bit in the supplemental department. If you are in the mood for a drama that is not quite what you were expecting, this will do the trick, and you may marvel at the strong performances by the female stars to boot.