Features / Screening Culture / TV Shows

What The Killing Taught Me About Denmark

The Killing

I spent my first few days of 2013 watching the first season of the original Danish version of The Killing on Netflix. The show shockingly began in 2007, to be precise its birthday broadcast was yesterday (the 7th of January) so I’m around six years late in seeing what all the fuss was about and in my defence it seems to be a common occurrence for me these days to not watch shows in the present, like with The X Files. I still have two series’ to watch with the third having recently finished so at least I will be up-to-date for if they decide on producing a fourth season. My mum had watched the American version of the police drama turned political thriller and we discussed how they incorporated and left out elements, most crucially being that they changed the perpetrator! I could have watched the US version myself, but to me it felt right to see the original first and the gorgeous ways in which Copenhagen was shot got me thinking about what life is like in Denmark.

Our experience of crime dramas like Lewis in the UK and CSI in the US makes us inclined to expect a killing, an investigation and a solving of the mystery per episode or two whereas The Killing forces us out of our comfort zone by offering a twenty episode structure dealing with the same case. At first I was anxious because I thought that the investigation into Nanna’s murder was going to spiral out over three series’ which you would expect to result in an over exaggerated boring show.  This was highlighted to me by the fact that I was already finding it difficult to remain focused when Nanna’s body wasn’t found until the end of the pilot and the only serious action seemed to happen in the last five minutes of each episode, so I doubted my own ability to hold out for a 50 hour trial. This worry disintegrated around the 8th episode though when the plots intensified and the climatic ending of each episode forced me to click on the next episode button, even if it was verging on four in the morning! Also, the added bonus that it was only 20 episodes long spared my 5 day watching relief. The only downfall for me with this structure was knowing that whoever their leading suspect was until the end of the series wouldn’t be the killer because he had been suspected too early in the show and his alibi would check out ok. Thus, it became a matter of who had yet to be interviewed would end up being the one.

The drama has had its perks with a cult following and it has propelled a rise of Danish TV shows currently being released for the mass market which share similar Nordic Noir themes, for example, The Bridge and Borgen. I never knew much about Denmark before this show and I wanted to share with you ten points I found out about Denmark from my viewing of The Killing. As a warning this includes spoilers so if you have not seen and plan to watch the show please click away now!

  1. Female detectives are punished by the police federation to wear the same monotone Faroe jumper until they have solved a murder investigation.
  2. Broken families don’t like to talk much; you either have an emotionless grunting man or an emotional wide-eyed woman who takes out her anger on the furniture.
  3. Your wife won’t get mad at you if you plan to kill a teacher and are nearly successful in beating him to death. On the other hand, if you lie about your daughter having a secret job you will be thrown out of the house. You will also make things worse if you decide it will be a good idea to strip out your dead daughters bedroom a week after her murder.
  4. Never trust removal companies (the symbolically painted red van and matching coloured uniforms should be warning enough!).
  5. When you are hooked by an investigation your family will disappear one by one and you won’t see them even after you solve the case.
  6. Politicians are corrupt. This point doesn’t solely encompass Denmark.
  7. There are two Teletubbies lurking around the streets of Copenhagen.
  8. Don’t hand out plastic green love heart necklaces to all your lovers or victims (whatever you prefer to call them) as this Poundland gift will cost you your life.
  9. Even the dogs look pretty depressed.
  10. Don’t kill your best friend’s daughter inside their new home. On second thought, don’t kill your best friend’s daughter.

Ok, so it’s clear I’m still pretty clueless about Denmark, but, all jokes aside, I really did fall in love with this series and I can’t wait to watch the second (after I’ve finished off Homeland) and the drama has encouraged me to watch more Danish or Scandinavian shows in the future. Hidden under the fog of doom and gloom which seemed to lurk around the city acting as a complementary mood enhancement laid a very beautiful cinematographic Copenhagen with gorgeous architecture (particularly in the City Hall) and possibly a similar lifestyle to Scotland. The Killing has introduced me to a new culture and I hope to research more about Denmark and hopefully one day I’ll go on a Killing tour (not literally, of course).

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