It’s simply impossible that the makers of The Killing [M] (2007) could recapture the power of the first season because the latter's creation was so unique: star Sophie Grabol was involved with the shaping of her character and affecting specific plot twists, and with a slate of 20 episodes, the writers could neatly map out character backstories and revisit them at regular intervals to give viewers metered hits of drama and misdirection.
With half the episodes and seemingly less money to spend for Season 2, the writers chose a very clumsy combination of the familiar and the topical, but not until the final four episodes does the season actually kick into gear. The entire reasoning behind the murder of a prominent military lawyer and the soldiers whom she investigated for war crimes after a tour in Afghanistan is preposterous, and once again government – upgraded this time from municipal to Federal – is in peril of a discord that could bring down another precarious coalition.
Grabol returns as Det. Sarah Lund, initially working in some nothing town as a customs guard after losing her partner, and being too much of a system-bucker. Periodically visiting her mother in Copenhagen, Lund hesitantly accepts an offer from her boss Lennart Brix (Morten Suurballe) to be a consultant on a grim murder case that continues to spin-off new deaths.
Although many colleagues still regard her as fully responsible for her partner’s death, she manages to re-acclimatize to her old job while working with an intriguing new partner, Afghan vet Ulrik Strange (Mikael Birkkjaer), who may have some extra insight as case details emerge of a cover-up that goes as high as the former Minister of Defense.
Worked into the investigation plot are two tangential storylines: the new appointment of the new Minster, Thomas Buch (Nicolas Bro), who discovers a more wretched cover-up that may involve members of his political team; and escaped vet Jens (Ken Vedsegaard), the lone survivor of a massacre that may involve the deaths of innocent civilians.
The convergence of the storylines is a bit clunky, and few characters maintain any resonance because by denying the writers more episodes, Season 2 has regular junctures where we feel key scenes are missing – material either shorn during the writing stage, or dropped during the editing to keep the episodes tight.
The details that made the characters within Season 1 so compelling are wholly lacking, and secondary characters feel like pawns being maneuvered for the benefit of contrived cliffhangers. Needed are additional scenes, such as Buch’s assistant Karina (The Eagle / Ornen’s Charlotte Guldberg), or a specific character that’s frequently mentioned in the season’s first third but disappears after a singular appearance that comes far too late in the season’s structure.
Worse, the marriage of Lund’s son and mother are given short shrift: they literally disappear from the season after a handful of scenes which frankly offer nothing new to themselves or Lund; their entire elimination would’ve been preferred in favour of what feel like filler material.
It is interesting to watch Grabol play Lund as someone aware of her vulnerable place within a department that shuns her, but her colleagues and peers have none of the emotionally intimate moments present in Season 1. There’s a more-than-implied liaison between Brix and his superior, Ruth Hedeby (Lotte Andersen, who co-starred with Grabol in Nightwatch), but it’s never developed beyond hand-holding or shoulder pats.
Season 2’s cinematography is affecting in its moodiness, but the sound design that made Season 1 so punchy in HD is utterly lacking. Frans Bak’s score is a pastiche of cues from Season 1 + a handful of new yet generic action and suspense loops that often fade up & down with little relation to the actual drama. Where the music and themes in Season 1 related and enhanced subtext in specific scenes, here they’re applied quite lazily, and just as uninspired is re-use of Season 1’s end credit music: the haunting voice that carries the main theme feels terribly misplaced against a pair of blue-tinted dog tags instead of the haunting visage of Season 1’s victim, Nana Birk Larsen.
Then there’s the finale where a revelation is simply nonsensical because the reason the person became a serial killer is pulled out of a rabbit’s arse. The only benefit to the finale is Lund’s emotional state after the unmasking, because it puts her character in an even worse state, as well as Jens (although his own past trauma should've been further detailed in prior episodes by the time-strapped writers).
Season 2 isn’t awful; it’s a generic whodunnit that only in its end wrap-up revisits the energy of its prior successor, but it goes completely astray. What remains unique about the season is the writers’ ongoing, stark cynicism for Danish politicians and authority figures: anyone in possession of morals is either crushed, killed, or forced to become corrupt to survive – if not for personal gain, than strategic revenge. The end scene brings only death, doom, and gloom, which at least gives us hope Season 3 [M] will put Lund under further duress and make for a better series.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan