Preview: The Killing series three

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Phil Harrison assesses the return of Sarah Lund – but is she bowing out at the right time?

Sarah Lund investigates one more crime in 'The Killing' Sarah Lund investigates one more crime in 'The Killing'
Rating: 4/5

Saga Noren. Brigitte Nyborg. The potent, intriguing women at the heart of the Scandi thriller gol rush now constitute an honour roll. So it’s a peculiar feeling to be welcoming back Sarah Lund, the enigma at the heart of the original riddle. It’s not that ‘The Bridge’ or ‘Borgen’ surpassed ‘The Killing’, exactly. But these dramas now have a lingua franca and a set of expectations surrounding them. What once felt fresh and exotic now feels as familiar as a comfy old Faroe Isle jumper (even though Lund has new knitwear for this third series).

‘The Killing’ ends here. It’s probably just as well. Certain tropes are edging towards self-parody. The familiar spooky piano refrain when Lund intuits a clue might have you smirking. The manner of her recruitment into this latest case – she’s content in an office job, she’s dragged back in by a offer she can’t refuse – feels thoroughly predictable. And, while the climax to the second series was thrilling, it was also utterly ludicrous. Much more upping of the stakes might well see the show sailing over the proverbial shark, never to return.

So will ‘The Killing III’ match up to its celebrated predecessors? Actually, on the basis of the opening pair of episodes – which form a Saturday night double bill –  it probably will. ‘The Killing’ might now feel like a Chinese whisper returning, slightly garbled, to its original source. But it’s easy to forget how routinely brilliant it is, what a fascinating screen presence Sofie Gråbøl has become, how tangled and unpredictable its plotting can be. Season two lacked the dimension provided by the heartbreaking, immaculately rendered disintegration of the Birk Larsens’ marriage. This season looks set to put that right, containing what already looks like a superbly nuanced exploration of the effects of divorce on children.

We know how it works. One spoiler is one too many. No one who truly loves ‘The Killing’ wants to know anything about a new series of ‘The Killing’ before they see it. And in any case, it would be impossible to do justice to the multiple strands which make this grand finale so potentially thrilling. So suffice to say that Lund’s latest (last?) case will take place in the context of the financial crisis. It will involve politicians high and low, Serbian pimps, another lovingly constructed love/hate relationship with a male colleague, a few jarring shocks and the odd intervention from Sarah’s batshit mother. Scandi-drama upstarts take note – ‘The Killing’ is still the gold standard.

‘The Killing’ series three starts Saturday November 17, 9pm, BBC4


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