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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


 The Killing III


By Soren Sveistrup 
BBC4, BBC iPlayer

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society’s excellent Points blog recently ran a series by Anne Moore on narrative and addiction drawing in examples from crime fiction, soap operas and, of course, The Wire. It seems to me that The Killing, too, is ripe for this approach.

Now four episodes into its third and final series it has certainly proved addictive for millions of viewers, at least in the original, Danish, version. The US version just doesn’t provide the same hit.

For one thing we have the compelling Sofie Grabol as Sarah Lund, herself an addict of sorts. At the beginning of series three we find her in recovery, looking forward to a new desk job that will keep her away from the frontline detective work she’s hooked on.

But, as we’ve seen before, she’s all ready to make a fresh start when a puzzling case is dangled in front of her. She tries to resist but temptation proves too strong. The moment of capitulation is brilliantly caught by Grabol. She seems to freeze in time, shrink into herself as, in one fatal moment she’s dragged into the complexities of the case, submerged under a sea of clues.

Until the crime is solved her attempts to struggle free from her obsession, to gasp for the air of normal life, are futile, pathetic. Over the three series we have watched her sacrifice her marriage, upset her mother and estrange her teenage son, all for the sake of cracking a case.

In becoming pure detective she also neglects herself. And her self. That’s what the famous jumpers are about. Early in series three we see her in a police uniform, her identity sharply defined, her working life plainly set apart from the domestic.

As she falls into the case she puts on the jumper, denying her identity. The knitwear masks an absence. Within, Lund is hollowed out by her addiction. (And if that doesn’t get me into Pseuds Corner I don’t know what will.)

There is nothing original, of course, about the washed-up detective married to his, or her, job. But Grabol’s performance is such that we feel the pain like no other.

The other remarkable thing about The Killing is the politics. The third series is set in a familiar time of deepening austerity. The cuts are biting. A political crisis looms and is somehow tangled up in the kidnapping of an industrialist’s young daughter that triggers Lund’s investigation.

Politicians are compromised and corrupted as they seek the alliances that can keep them in office. Their lives, like Lund’s, are broken by a compulsive pursuit, the pursuit of power.

Borgen, the ‘companion’ Danish serial, views the same problem, the same cracked world, from within the political machine. Lund is mirrored by prime minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) whose personal life and her political principles crumble away as she clings to office.

In both The Killing and Borgen we have an addiction narrative which is itself addictive. The beauty of it is that this is an addiction we can enjoy in relative safety.

November 27, 2012

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