The Killing (Danish tv crime on BBC)

While Denmark may not have produced the blockbuster crime novels that Sweden has, crime series written for tv has for years been internationally acclaimed – and extremely popular with a Danish audience.

One of the most widely watched series in recent years is “Forbrydelsen” starring Sophie Gråbøl as the rather maladjusted genious Police investigator Sarah Lund.

This weekend the first two episodes were aired on BBC4 with English subtitles, as The Killing, and it is going to be interesting to see what an English-speaking audience makes of the Lund character and the series. I found it to be somewhere between 24 (w. Kiefer Sutherland) and the Swedish Wallander series, but it is very much its own.

BBC website for the series

If Danes repsond to this post, please don’t give the plot away. Why has Danish tv crime been so popular? How does the Sarah Lund character strike you? What is the difference between crime novels and tv crime series? What seems particularly Danish or Scandinavian about The Killing? Let’s get a discussion going about the series as it aires on BBC – it could be really interesting to learn how non-Scandinavian viewers see this series.



Filed under Danish crime fiction, Scandinavian crime fiction, tv crime

23 responses to “The Killing (Danish tv crime on BBC)

  1. Pingback: The Killing Danish Tv Series « Old TV Series

  2. Pingback: Murder. Whodunit?

  3. Veronica

    A great Danish series; much better than the American version transposed to Seattle.

  4. Patricia Clapp

    Loved the series, acting really impressive, particularly the unspoken emotion. But what has spoiled it, after a long haul of 20 episodes with obligatory red herrings, is the final outcome: body is found in the boot of a car in a river near the forest in which victim is seen running for her life; if the blood-splattered flat deemed to be the ‘scene-of-crime’ plus the basement of the new house revealed a large quantity of the victim’s blood, how on earth would the victim have strength to run in the forest?

    • marylyn Martin

      Patricia, you are absolutely right. There were other anomalies and inconsistencies, but they were easily forgiven because the overall quality in terms of plot, suspense, acting, etc. was so good, and so much better than anything we have seen before. I am just wondering, however, how much we miss, those of us who don’t understand Danish, because we have to rely on subtitles. Not that I would want it dubbed – that would be ghastly! Part of the fascination is hearing, if not understanding, the Danish language. I am really looking forward to the next series. I agree with you about the unspoken emotion, such as the grief of Nanna’s mother that was etched all over her face. I have never seen acting of this quality in any previous police drama. Hats off to the Danes! I felt really close to all of the characters, as if I knew them personally.

  5. B

    The Danish maybe aren’t as known for crime fiction as the Swedes…yet. Jussi Adler-Olsen is about to be published here, finally. He’s a phenomenon in Europe and the English speaking world will now finally get their chance…

    • marylyn Martin

      I bought Jussi Adler-Olsen’s book today, the moment it became available. I’m looking forward to going to bed early tonight, curling up under the duvet and getting lost in this new Danish detective fiction (new, that is, for UK readers).

  6. Nita Sowden

    Every Saturday night at 9pm I am glued to the television, my phone switched off. On Sunday my friends and I email, phone ,text or meet for coffee to discuss whats happened.This is the best TV since The Wire. I am delighted that another series is to be shown in the Autumn.
    The storyline is good, the acting superb- Why speak when a glance will do.I am on the edge of my sofa for two hours…….and it never seems too long.
    Thankyou Danish television and BBC4 for spotting a fantastic programme.

    I enjoyed the Swedish Wallander too and am reading loads of different Scandanavian fiction. It’s so much better than the usual American stuff where the stars have perfect teeth,hair and designer gear!!!!

  7. Thomas

    I think this is a compelling drama series and at the moment is actually my TV highlight. All the initial first 10 espisodes i have watched on iPlayer and i was finally able last night to view for the first time, episodes 11 and 12 on BBC 4. The only downside is the concentration required to keep reading the subtitles. Not sure if dubbing would spoil the enjoyment. Looking forward to the next eight episodes.

  8. marylyn Martin

    To Maxine: all crime fiction plots are standard, it’s how the story unfolds and how the characters develop that’s important, and in The Killing I can’t fault any single facet. The acting, direction and background music are all just about perfect, as is the gripping plot. To Dorte: Sarah Lund’s comfortable sweater and her intense facial expression are what makes her character and this series so believable. Impossibly glamorous UK/US female detectives are unreal. This is the best crime fiction TV series ever – to my mind – and a terrific follow-on from Wallander, though quite different. Well done BBC4. Please bring us more excellent TV from Scandinavia.

  9. Hi have been watching The Killing now up to episode 8 and I am well and truely hooked. I especially like the way in which the investigators in particular sarah Lund, interview people , the lck of bullying is very refreshing. Only bugbear is that there is no explaination of why some seemingly important leads are not being followed up. i am thinking about the expensive boots sen in episode 5 or 6 and not mentioned again. Shades of Agatha Christi ? but I will keep watching well done BBC4

  10. Thanks to a UK-based friend, I’ve had the rare treat of following ‘The Killing’. I can’t remember when a telly series was quite so compelling – years? Decades, even?! Anyway, it’s wonderful.
    Can understand a fair bit of the dialogue, as lived in DK for a while; but the scripting is so spare and taut that this doesn’t really matter. Of course the plot’s one of the basic whodunnit formulae; but the way it is handled is in a league of its own. The dialogue puts a huge onus on the actors, and they all rise to the challenge: the performances are superbly naturalistic.
    In fact, ‘realistic’ seems to be the keyword here. And I love the way that one murder is portrayed as affecting so many people and in so many different ways; it allows for a very sophisticated storyline, which treats the audience as intelligent adults (such a welcome change!). The ‘real time’ format also enables the viewer to establish a relationship with the protagonists, sympathies and doubts are therefore deepened by this engagement.
    ‘The Killing’ takes something apparently simple and shows how very complex – and threatening – it really is. Reminds me a little of ‘Miss Smilla’s feeling for Snow’ in that respect. ‘The Killing’ may be a fairy story – like all crime fiction – in the sense that the matter gets resolved (in less than 3 weeks!), and (I assume) justice is done; but it is from the school of Andersen rather than Disney: life is, and can be, inordinately cruel and yet we really are in this together (or ought to be).

  11. Joy milligan

    I am enthralled by this series. I admire Lund and feel that the relationship between her and Meyer compliments what is for me a worthy series.I particularly admire the focus on the grieving parents.In many UK cop series the grieving parents would be shouting and smashing windows but The Killer shows their supressed grief very well . This is high quality television which accepts that the viewer has intelligence and does not need fast action to appreciate a story

  12. Miriam Kinsella

    Hi, I taped all the episodes on my digital TV, the taping ended before the end of the very last episode! Help! I really want to know what happened at the end. I cant get BBC real player in Dublin, how can I find out what happened to Nana?

  13. Anne

    I love ‘The Killing.’ From the threatening menace of Soren Malling, the suppresssed anger of Troells the politician, the wonderful portrayal of the bereaved parents, to the charming acting of the two small boys, it has so much more than any similar US series. It even has humor, which is needed in a story with such a violent theme. I won’t be missing any of the following episodes.

  14. jakobstougaard

    Excellent comments – I was wondering if there was more to the difference than just the cliff hangers – I do think that most crime novels also have cliff hangers at the end of some if not most chapters. Maybe there is something about Scandinavian crime tv series that is significantly different from other crime tv trasitions, but still not too strange to be interesting. Also, as mentioned in past comment, subtitles tv programming in English speaking countries are onyl possible on the “arts” channels, where they appeal to an (unnaturally) limited audience. I also enjoyed the second version of “Rejseholdet” (slow and less techy CSI: Denmark with lots of personal intrique etc) , but my favorite recent Danish crime tv series is Ørnen (The Eagle). I don’t think it has been shown here in Britain.

    • marylyn Martin

      Could you please persuade someone to show us The Eagle in Britain? If subtitles are a problem, could you kindly do it? In yesterday’s Evening Standard a broadcasting company was advertising for translators in Scandinavian languages to do subtitles (I sorely regret I don’t possess this talent). Does that mean we can look forward to lots more Nordic Noir over here?

  15. No spoilers which mean I can´t tell you about many of my reactions. But it is interesting that Sofie Gråbøl herself thought she was unsuited for the role – and she does come across somewhat drab in her ancient sweater and dejected face.

    One of the main differences between a TV series and a crime novel (and a film, for that matter), is obviously the need to end each episode with a cliffhanger so the audience will be back. Now I am not fond of having cliffhangers thrown in my face all the time which is one of the reasons why I loved the series “Rejseholdet” much more. Brilliant TV, and the female protagonist was quite a strong personality.

  16. I don’t watch “the American stuff” but I did watch the first episode of The Killing (apparently the literal translation is The Crime). I thought it well made technically, and the main policewoman interesting, but so far it is totally standard plot – young woman killed in woods, shady politicians, etc. I hope it will become a bit more original and distinctive over the next 20 episodes (if not, I shan’t be watching them).

  17. One thing I always notice about European crime TV in general (versus the American stuff we are bombarded with) is that police can go through entire episodes (even entire series) without drawing their weapons on anyone whereas most American TV cops have to draw their gun at least every other episode.

    As for The Killing it aired here in Oz last year and seemed to go down well with that percentage of the population who occasionally watch non-commercial TV (it went to air on a partly government funded network that some people refuse to ever watch). I liked the fact that it drew things out – it took a long time to solve the crime – which is I imagine a lot closer to reality than solving several cases every week (in between drawing one’s gun on a plethora of unsuspecting bystanders)

    • Tim Dans

      I totally agreed with you on your statement “One thing I always notice about European crime TV in general (versus the American stuff we are bombarded with) is that police can go through entire episodes (even entire series) without drawing their weapons on anyone whereas most American TV cops have to draw their gun at least every other episode.”

      After watching “The Killing” and it made me more “not” interested in American tv shows….

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