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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Un­der­belly: Squizzy,

Paddy Rear­don, who gives us a darker look than he did for Ra­zor, what he calls a ‘‘ tall build­ings and a nar­row al­ley kind of feel’’, even more op­pres­sive than Syd­ney’s 30s in­ner city. It’s a for­mi­da­ble achieve­ment as most of Melbourne’s lanes th­ese days are filled with graf­fiti or cafes and wine bars.

Like Ra­zor, the new se­ries is stylised, full of vi­su­als that zing up and across the screen, freeze-frame stills and slow-mo­tion se­quences that high­light­ing dra­matic mo­ments. And there are those al­most graphic novel-style fram­ings. Also like Ra­zor, the new se­ries pro­ceeds in of­ten witty set pieces with min­i­mal dia­logue to Burkhard Dall­witz’s stun­ning mu­si­cal score.

The nar­ra­tor’s voice is still that of Caro­line Craig, who played se­nior de­tec­tive Jac­qui James in the first se­ries and voiced most that fol­lowed, join­ing scenes and in­tro­duc­ing char­ac­ters, and com­ment­ing wryly on the may­hem. We now know the woman be­hind the voice, the way she rep­re­sents the world of gen­er­a­tions of cop­per-in­sid­ers and the way they turn sto­ries into ur­ban mythol­ogy; hardly ob­jec­tive but full of a know­ing sad­ness.

And again the con­ven­tion of nar­ra­tor em­pha­sises this is real sto­ry­telling based on ac­tu­al­ity, yet sug­gests there is some­thing ar­che­typal about the sto­ries pre­sented by the se­ries.

Aside from a few mis­giv­ings about cast­ing here and there, and an oc­ca­sional di­ver­sity of act­ing styles, this is still slick, as­tutely en­gi­neered com­mer­cial drama with the con­sis­tently am­bigu­ous Un­der­belly mix of hor­ror and fas­ci­na­tion, at­trac­tion and re­pul­sion. As al­ways, it’s easy to ad­mire the over­all craft, be se­duced by the cin­e­matic glam­our, and fall in with the ex­cite­ment. GET ready to hun­ker down, all you fans of Sarah Lund, the tac­i­turn pro­tag­o­nist of cult Dan­ish TV se­ries The Killing (aka For­bry­delsen), when the third se­ries starts this week. Played by the mag­netic Sofie Grabol, Sarah’s back in those faded jeans, flat black boots and the now fa­mous snowflake-pat­terned jumpers in an­other tense, do-your-head-in mys­tery that again jux­ta­poses sev­eral ul­ti­mately con­nected story arcs and dif­fer­ent generic forms.

Last time we saw her, at the end of sea­son two, she had just shot her sec­ond part­ner in as many in­ves­ti­ga­tions, walk­ing away as that omi­nous cut-to-end-cred­its mu­sic came up, re­mov­ing the bul­let-proof vest she had been wear­ing. When sea­son three be­gins, we find her still in the ser­vice, dis­graces be­hind her, with a new-found sense of peace, a qui­eter of­fice job in the reck­on­ing, a new home — she even buys a tree to plant — and of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion for her 25 years of ser­vice.

She’s also de­ter­mined fi­nally to suc­ceed in her re­la­tion­ships with her mother, her part­ner (her track record is a shocker) and, es­pe­cially, her son Mark, who she keeps fail­ing mis­er­ably. But even as a dull com­pla­cency dims her fea­tures at the start, we be­gin to won­der just what will dis­turb it and whether she will even sur­vive this sea­son. Surely Lund even­tu­ally must run out of sec­ond chances.

Then a young girl is kid­napped, the daugh­ter of a ship­ping in­dus­tri­al­ist — an act of as yet un­ex­plained reprisal maybe — and corpses be­gin pil­ing up in a grisly mur­der spree that be­gins with a seem­ing ran­dom mur­der at a scrap­yard in the Scan­di­na­vian docks.

When Mathias Borch (Niko­laj Lie Kaas) — once Lund’s lover when they were at the po­lice acad­emy, now a se­nior mem­ber of spe­cial branch, national se­cu­rity sec­tion — turns up, the story turns po­lit­i­cal. There are fears the docks killing is the be­gin­ning of an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt against the prime min­is­ter. He’s in the mid­dle of an elec­tion made more than usu­ally dif­fi­cult by the pres­sures of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and needs the back­ing of the ship­ping and oil gi­ant who owns the dock- yards. Lund and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­come em­broiled in the pol­i­tics of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and in the lives of the miss­ing girl’s fam­ily as she tries to piece to­gether the per­pe­tra­tor’s plan and the debt he is ap­par­ently de­ter­mined to re­claim.

If that’s not com­pli­cated enough for Lund, it soon emerges that a cold case must be solved to res­cue the young girl. The many nar­ra­tive strands weave in and out of each other so baf­flingly as to cause headaches, and not just for Lund.

Se­ries cre­ator and head writer Soren Sveistrup has a tal­ent for ma­nip­u­lat­ing our as­sump­tions that amounts to devilry. He’s a mas­ter of the red her­ring and blind turn, plot­ting with the pre­ci­sion of an ar­chi­tect, while jug­gling mo­tive, clues, sus­pects and con­flict. But he also cre­ates char­ac­ters with a dread­ful plau­si­bil­ity about them that en­gulfs you in their un­tidy lives, leav­ing you at the end of each episode, as that fa­mil­iar fi­nale mu­sic rises, feel­ing mildly trau­ma­tised.

Lund, though, sim­ply moves on, peer­ing into dark cor­ners and those un­lit base­ments, heavy gun firmly in hand, the fore­bod­ing score from com­poser Frans Bak, with its de­lib­er­ate echoes of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks pur­su­ing her. She hardly ever eats and only oc­ca­sion­ally changes those fa­mous jumpers.

Sveistrup has likened her to Clint East­wood’s Dirty Harry, the morally right­eous cop who be­trays lit­tle in­te­rior life be­yond the hint of a se­cret sad­ness. ‘‘ I’ve al­ways been fond of Clint East­wood,’’ Sveistrup said in a rare in­ter­view in Bri­tain’s The In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day. ‘‘ The parts he plays are so silent, some­times a bit bib­li­cal. If you watch Dirty Harry, he’s not es­pe­cially lik­able, and I like that para­dox.’’

Then there was the fa­mous in­ci­dent when Sveistrup at­tempted to give Lund a ro­mance with one of the sus­pects in the orig­i­nal Killing se­ries. Grabol stormed into his of­fice to protest: ‘‘ I am Clint East­wood; he doesn’t have a girl­friend.’’

Sveistrup also said when he was think­ing of Lund, and the idea of The Killing, he found the whole pic­ture of TV’s fe­male de­tec­tives dis­ap­point­ing. ‘‘ High-heeled de­tec­tives with a lot of mas­cara look­ing good, model types, dat­ing the guy from foren­sics dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I just couldn’t be­lieve in it.’’

And for Grabol that jumper is the key to char­ac­ter. ‘‘ It tells of a woman who has so much con­fi­dence in her­self that she doesn’t have to use her sex to get what she wants,’’ she said in a re­cent in­ter­view. ‘‘ She’s her­self.’’

It is also in­ter­est­ing that Swedish crime writer Arne Dahl, whose pro­ce­dural se­ries, bear­ing his name, aired re­cently in Bri­tain, sug­gested Lund owed much to the great Bri­tish de­tec­tive DCI Jane Ten­ni­son, played so con­vinc­ingly by Helen Mir­ren, from Lynda La Plante’s Prime Sus­pect.

For the first time — the se­ries started in 1991 — a fe­male lead was the cen­tre of what Mir­ren called ‘‘ that edgy, dark, se­ri­ous kind of drama’’, a woman per­son­i­fy­ing the flawed, lonely, fa­tigued, painfully heroic char­ac­ter once only the prov­ince of men. Ten­ni­son’s in­creas­ing iso­la­tion through the 15 years of this su­perb drama was the re­sult of her hav­ing to forgo a great deal of what a male de­tec­tive might take for granted and, fac­ing re­tire­ment in the fi­nal sea­son, hers was a com­pellingly melan­cholic view of the world.

The most fa­mous fe­male de­tec­tive since Miss Marple brought de­pres­sive, dys­func­tional poet­ics to the con­fi­dently de­duc­tive world of the po­lice pro­ce­dural that de­vel­oped from the ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess of Prime Sus­pect. I’m sure she would ap­plaud Sarah Lund and her bulky jumpers as a wor­thy suc­ces­sor.

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