The Killing – the first two seasons

Source: IMDB

Police procedurals don’t usually lure me, but the TV series The Killing reeled me in. In one weekend, I binged the first two seasons on Netflix. The show is tense, suspenseful, and gripping. And really bleak, both visually and emotionally.

In the first two seasons, two homicide detectives – Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) – investigate the murder of a teen girl in Seattle, a city that doesn’t seem to get a single ray of sunshine through all 26 episodes. Almost all scenes are washes of gray, and so are the characters. Family secrets, political intrigue, and personal struggles gnarl the case. And there are plenty of twists and red herrings to keep you guessing.

As complex as its mystery, The Killing isn’t all plot. The two leads are deeply carved and wonderfully played. Linden is hard, aloof, and mostly not very nice, but she betrays tenderness. She cares, perhaps too much. As her own rough past surfaces, you begin to understand the fears that drive Linden’s obsession with the case. Her single-mindedness may be great for solving crimes, but threatens everything else: her relationship with her son, her rapport with her partner, and her own mental cohesion. Ironically, it’s when Linden is at her toughest do you see the most of her vulnerability. I’m not sure if I totally like her, but she is definitely engaging.

Her partner Holder is a likeable dude that brings levity to an otherwise deathly serious show. As a detective new to homicide, Holder is the apprentice to the veteran Linden. But Holder offers more than what you would expect. He may seem silly, even loserish at times, but under the slacker veneer is a man who is thoughtful and caring, with much to contribute to the partnership. It’s no surprise that he may be driven by some of his own dark history as well.

The Killing isn’t for everyone. It is slow, but I didn’t mind the pace because I was absorbedThe show, basically a Seattle noir with a Nordic vibe, reminds me of the Swedish Stieg Larsson movies.  After all, The Killing is a remake of a Danish TV show. Also, if you like the miniseries Top of the Lake*, you will probably like The Killing. Both have the same measured pace, depressing vibe, and intimate focus on a female detective.

The first story arc spans the first two seasons (13 episodes each). Much to my disappointment, the series was canceled after four seasons. Boo.

* Top of the Lake is a beautifully filmed missing-persons mystery set in New Zealand, starring Elisabeth Moss. Those who have seen the TV series Mad Men will recognize her as Peggy Olson. She is equally compelling in both shows.

About the author


Donkeh lives in a tiny barn in the City of Angels. He recently self-pubbed his debut novel, "Morocco, Maybe." He is working on a scifi thriller.


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  • I had a love/hate relationship with The Killing. The characterization of Linden & Holder was fantastic. Linden was a breath of fresh air for female detectives. She wasn’t glammed up or overly aggressive. Her intensity and dedication to the job at all costs is what kept me tuning in. Holder was also different from the usual detective. He was kind of scrawny and not the typical alpha dog leading man. I loved watching them work together and how their relationship grew.

    Unfortunately, the storylines just weren’t there. The bait and switch of Seasons 1 & 2 got real boring after a while. Season 3 pulled some ridiculousness that didn’t even make sense. I haven’t seen Season 4 and probably won’t.

    Thanks for suggesting Top of the Lake. Sounds right up my alley!

    • Thanks for chiming in, Akaria. Not too many people have seen the show, so I don’t really have many folks to talk to (which I’m dying to do). And yeah, the show is more about the characters than the plot, I agree.

      I actually wrote another post about seasons 3 & 4, but I’m still letting my thoughts stew on that so I haven’t put it up on the blog yet. I will say this for now: season 3 is the weakest. If you ever see season 4 (only 6 epis), I’d love to hear your take on the ending, which seems to be polarizing.

  • Man, you’d think it rained all the time in Seattle, but as we all know, that is a vicious LIE. We are, however, full of Nordic folks, so I’ll give you a pass on that, Donkeh. I’m not much of a procedural watcher, either, but since I had a fondness for most of True Detective, I imagine The Killing would appeal as well. Thanks for the rec.

    • Heh. The Seattle in the show actually doesn’t rain much, but it is very gray. I kept waiting for at least one sunny scene, but I don’t think I saw one. The whole time I was watching it I kept thinking to myself that you would probably have something to say about the look of the setting.

      I heard that True Detective is good, but now I’m waist deep in Sons of Anarchy.

      • I loved True Detective, but I couldn’t get into The Killing. I just found it depressing, dull and slow. I think I only watched one or two episodes, so maybe it got better, but it just didn’t hook me. TD, on the other hand, made me sit up and pay attention from the first scene. It wasn’t an easy watch, as I had to have subtitles on for the mumbled, heavily accented dialogue, and the episode synopsis open in wikipedia to keep up with the complicated narrative structure, but the performances were mesmerising, and the mystery itself was gripping. I’m looking forward to season 2, but I will miss the fantastic pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

        Sorry, bit of a TD derail there. But basically… yeah 🙂

        • Ha, another vote for TD. I’m not surprised, as it is widely acclaimed. I will definitely check it out someday. Too many shows in the queue, not enough time. *sighs*

          Sounds to me that someone should guest blog and write a full review about TD. Um, maybe someone cute, fluffy, and likes to hop (hint, hint) …

          I usually have subtitles on everything because I suck at listening, but it’s a mixed blessing – I find myself so focused on reading that I’m missing all the visuals.

          Aren’t you afraid of spoilers if you look at the synopsis?

          • I like spoilers! Seriously, I hate to be surprised. Often I will read a synopsis of something before I watch/read it to make sure it’s not going to upset or annoy me. Then it’s more about enjoying the execution of the story 🙂

            And… didn’t I just give a review of TD? Not sure what’s left to go in a blog post 😉

          • Oh Bun, I only know of one other person who likes spoilers. I can’t relate, but I understand your reasons.

            I prefer that you do a full review of TD (or any other show) and tell me deeper stuff, like how it rocks your soul, answers questions about the universe, why Woody is an underrated actor …

        • I’ve been binging on SOA the last couple weeks, and now I’m on season 4. I like it a lot. It’s the opposite of The Killing because it’s fast-paced. It doesn’t really have any down time. I feel like I should slow down because the show just had its final, 7th season.

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