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‘The Killing’ explores a murder and its aftermath

- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - From the first moments of "The Killing," the mood is foreboding.

The climate for the show's Seattle setting is wet. Water plays a key role on this series, and you feel you could catch cold just by watching. But you can't turn away. You're hooked by the simple spectacle of ordinary people living their lives.

Then, catching you by surprise only by how long it takes to confirm, a murder will disrupt the lives of everyone in sight.

"The Killing," which premieres April 3 at 9 p.m. EDT, is the latest entry in AMC's portfolio of original dramas that began, of course, with "Mad Men" four years ago and most recently saw the wildly popular attack last October by "The Walking Dead."

In keeping with the AMC formula of defying formulas, "The Killing" has little in common with the network's other dramas (which include "Breaking Bad" and the short-lived "Rubicon"), other than its fierce distinctiveness.

This is a whodunit, unleashing Homicide Detective Sarah Linden (series star Mireille Enos) and her partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) on a grisly case _ the drowning murder of Seattle teen Rosie Larsen.

This case will drive the narrative at least through the first season, which, episode by episode, will cover 12 consecutive days of the investigation.

But there's more going on than that.

Rosie's murder will have an explosive impact on the mayoral race of Seattle City Council President Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), as he becomes swept up by the crime. His imperiled campaign and political career is the show's second narrative strand.

A third: the aftershocks of the murder on Rosie's parents (played by Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton) and two little brothers.

The overarching mystery (and it promises to be a dandy one) will eventually yield the identity of Rosie's killer.

But based on the first three episodes previewed, the greater power of "The Killing" is the meditative way it takes stock of the living; the brooding, anxious way it tracks the ripple effects of a death on those left behind.

"A child's death is devastating to her family and the other people around her, and the cops are affected, too," says Veena Sud, the series' creator and executive producer. "On most crime shows, we spend time with cops as they put clues together, but we don't see the price of a death. This show allows us to feel how sad and how profound a death like this is.

"Many other cop shows are more what I would call left-brain," she says. "They're more about the puzzle than going on an emotional journey."

By contrast, "The Killing" is an emotional journey for a collection of travelers that keeps you riveted every step of the way.

At the center: Detective Linden, who, when Rosie is reported missing, is just hours from pulling herself from Seattle and her draining job. She means to uproot herself and her young son to Sonoma, Calif., where she will marry her fiance and start a new life.

"We're going to be really happy in California. It's going to be great," she tells her son, unconvincingly.

Series star Enos (perhaps best known from "Big Love," on which she played the twin compound wives Jodean and Kathy Marquart) has a porcelain-pale face that seems bleached by all the unpleasantness she has witnessed on the job.

Holder, who is supposed to be her replacement, is transferring from Narcotics Undercover work, and not ungrateful for the change.

"You think Homicide's going to be any different?" Linden challenges him.

"At least you've got a bad guy," Holder says.

"Yeah? Who's that?"

"Is that why you're running away? `Cause you don't know no more?"

But Linden won't be running away. You can see it on her face.

In an interview from Vancouver, British Columbia, where "The Killing" shoots, creator Sud recalls the difficulty casting Sarah's role, and her epiphany when Enos arrived to audition.

"There was one moment," Sud says, "when I literally could see her standing out in the field _ that really green field in the pilot, where Sarah is looking around. I could see her in that scene and it felt so good to be like, `I found Sarah. Here she is!'"

Sud came to "The Killing" after years as a writer and executive producer on the CBS procedural, "Cold Case." In adapting "The Killing" (originally a hit in Denmark) for an American audience, she says she retained the structure and some of the suspects.

"But this show had to have an impact in a country that is much larger and more violent than Denmark is," she says. "Why should we care about this girl? Because, we care about her family and the other people in her world. So we get deeper into the characters than the Danish version did."

Another big change (lest any viewer want to cheat by finding out who did the crime on the Danish original): the perp won't be the same for this American version.

Sud even hedges when asked if the doer will be revealed by the season finale. When she joined the series, she says, "I knew there was an end point that would be ideal to get to. But since then we've been finding organically when the story should end. So, whether it's this season or the next, or after that, remains to be seen."

Meanwhile, AMC is promoting the series with the question, "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" But, scene after scene, "The Killing" demonstrates there are other urgent issues in a death to be addressed.

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AMC is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.

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Online:

http://www.amctv.com

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EDITOR'S NOTE _ Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org.

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