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.