Edit: I wrote most of this prior to seeing the last few episodes of the AMC version. For thoughts on the final episode skip to the very end. And no, I don’t say who the killer is for either version. Don’t spoil yourself, people.
Short version: The original is still the best. The long version…
Several months ago I heard that Michelle Forbes had landed a role in a well-regarded pilot called The Killing which would be playing on AMC. After quality stuff like Mad Men and The Walking Dead AMC had elevated itself to rank among the greats (HBO, Showtime, TNT, etc) I was very excited she was going to finally be in something that seemed perfect for her. I didn’t know if I was ready for her to be in “the mom” role yet, but it looked like she was going to get a lot to work with so I was going to give it a try. Once I was reasonably sure she wasn’t going to die in the first episode or anything (it’s a fear!) I made a mental note to watch it. I streamed the trailer, kept my eye on the calendar, and tuned in.
I mean, The Killing
I was impressed! What was this oddly paced, wet and dreary show? It was perfect for me. Brooding and quiet and more than a little messy. The killing was only the beginning. Crimes aren’t solved in one tv hour. The people left behind, the accused, and those investigating it don’t get to hit the emotional reset button at the end of each episode either. It felt a bit like Touching Evil meets Damages. Characters were just people, not the sum of their quirks. No investigators with “a thing” like so many US shows like to do. In fact, there was something European about it. The atmosphere had life. The lead investigator wore a frumpy coat and looked like a normal person. Something was clearly off the norm.
I watch a lot of British shows and recently branched out into South Korean and even a little Swedish now that the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies have hit stateside. Yes, there was something familiar about The Killing. It wasn’t the normal American tv fare and I was going to find out where it came from. An initial search turned up something similar that was shown on BBC4. A British show? I looked into it further and found that was a Danish show. Not Dutch. Not Swedish. Denmark? Forbrydelsen. The Crime. And while it was subtitled it still got killer ratings on BBC4. It must be good if thousands of regular tv viewers were willing to read subtitles for it, right?
Having become a veteran in reading subtitles over the years the fact it was in Danish wasn’t going to be an issue. I watch anime and kdrama subtitled without problem. I loved the AMC version so much that after the Pilot I couldn’t just wait around a week to see what happened next. There was a whole season of it out…in Danish. Besides, I love learning about new languages and places and if I liked the remake so much I must like the original too? Maybe I’d watch one episode of each every week and do comparisons. Well, there are twice as many episodes in the original. Maybe I’ll watch two of those…
*Cough* Days Later…
So apparently Forbrydelsen ate my brain. I watched all of series one in *cough* days and a horribly subbed series two as well (and there is a series three in production for 2012 I believe…that will give me time to have a social life again).
So yeah. I guess I liked it. I’ve kept up with the American version too, but while it is a good show there is something about the original story that demands to be Danish to work the best no matter how wet Seattle is. Even the sound of the language has become an invisible character to me. You just can’t have as good of a rant as you can in Danish I don’t think.
A direct comparison between the two shows is difficult to do. The American one is almost half the length of the original. They cut out a lot of the rabbit trails along the way and only follow a few of the plot lines (the campaign car, the students, the teacher, a few others). You might be tempted to think the other trails from the original must not be important if they can be cut out, but having seen the original and eight episodes of the remake I think trimming them out has changed the impact the show could have had, especially down the stretch. Hopefully some of my thoughts below can explain how I came to that conclusion.
They trimmed out a lot of Nanna’s backstory in the new version. The storyline with her aunt and being listless enough to be drawn into the Gentlemen’s Club seem to be gone (at least as of episode eight) to be replaced with some druggy friends/problems from her past as her “dark side”. At first blink this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it wrecks the back half the political storyline. In the original, the political storyline had multiple connections back to the case and legitimate reason to be suspicious and/or care for Troels. Lund/Troels had ongoing interaction and you really felt for both of them as they were going through a parallel trial of fire. The most common complaint I hear from new viewers to the American version is why we should care about Darren and the campaign. Well, I don’t know. They cut that bit out. They seem to think the connection to Rama/Ahmed is enough but I don’t think that is the case.
Like I said above, Darren is missing a lot of what made his storyline keep up with the others in the original. Troels’ wife died of an illness.Darren’s wife in a drunk driving crash. Darren seems upset about it during the hearing, but not to the level Troels was nor the level of depression that lead to events that seemed to implicate him. Darren’s campaign manager Jamie is accused of leaking info as in the original, but Darren uses him as a mole instead of the creepy thing that happens with Troels/Morten all because of that one event Troels’ depression triggers. That whole dynamic between Troels/Rei/Morton is downplayed and shortened to the point of almost not being there in comparison to the original where the loyalty paranoia ran deep.
The teacher storyline is similar as is the student storyline. In the AMC version the teacher storyline seems to be one of the sole remaining rabbit trails. Which is sad because even at that they do tame it down because of time. Tame it down in one way and add the FBI in randomly.
Which I don’t mind because they used that to try to gain ground on the Linden/Holder relationship which wasn’t as far along as it needed to be, but still. The way the beating happened and was resolved was very important to more than just Ahmed’s story. It changes Stan Larsen’s character and Linden who actually needs to be way more stressed than she is at this point if they ever want the payout with the final race to the finish. In the original I could believe the lengths Lund would go to solve the case because she had been through so much…with the new one I am not sure there has been enough tragedy and mistakes to make her go all batshit at the end.
Speaking of where the characters need to be…
Meyer/Holder is a very different charter. I like both actually, but if they take them down a similar road I am not sure how stunned I would be now that I know they are so completely different. Both guys are blunt and bad with interrogations and insecure about their jobs but that is where their sameness end.
The original, Meyer, is all of those things at first but then one of my favorite scenes happens. Lund is waiting in the hallway at the department and a woman walks up to her as though she knows her. We find out this very sweet looking woman is Meyer’s wife. She brought his pills and bananas because he forgot them. She goes on to say he get sick on coffee, chips, and cheese (pretty much the only things Lund has seen him eat) and that Lund needs to make sure he eats only what he is supposed to and takes x number of pills a day. Lund looks like she could be knocked over by a feather at this point. Such a rough guy is married to this nice lady? His wife goes on to say Meyer can be difficult but he is only worried about his new job and he says nice stuff about Lund at home etc etc etc. All pretty much going against what Lund knows.
Up until that point Meyer has been pissed she hasn’t taken off to Sweden yet and difficult at every turn. Meyer walks in at this point and kisses his wife and smiles like he’s never smiled. His wife leaves and Lund hands him the bananas and pills. They stand awkwardly for a moment, secret out, and then Lund says they should get going and they quickly pretend nothing had happened, Meyer sticking the bananas into his pocket like he was in a spaghetti western.
On Meyer’s part he slowly warms up to Lund as he hears her family life fall apart over the phone while she gets ripped a new one at work over and over again — all faced with that same split second of emotion before she gets back up again and moves forward. He starts standing by her when she gets reprimanded and eventually finds himself following her instinct and going off grid even at the risk of his job. This is all a natural progression and by the end it seems perfectly justified things would turn upside-down for Lund when the shit hits the fan at the end.
I am not so sure with the new version. Holder has no family. He worked Narcotics and is getting over some addictions from his time there along with a lifelong gambling problem. He is creepy with the teens by using drugs as an in. He has that personal space violating thing he does. Not the same kind of ick as Meyer had in other words. We find out he is in Alcoholics Anonymous and instead of meeting his wife like in the original, Sarah follows him to an AA meeting and listens through the door as he talks about his struggles. She thinks he is an informant and it turns out he just has some personal demons. So…a rough guy who is seeking help but it isn’t the same as a guy with a wife and 3-4 kids under ten to take care of and be loved by. No ear infection for him to stay home for. He does have a connection with Sarah’s son Jack who thinks his creepy ways are cool. He also pays attention to Sarah’s life unraveling over the phone.
He wants her gone but he also wants her respect and is pissed when she starts cutting him out of the loop during a misunderstanding about his AA partner. Maybe my problem is with Sarah. Her reaction to finding out he was going through some problems is different from the original Sarah realizing that this rough guy has a family, fears for his job, and is working so hard his stomach is in knots. One you feel sorry for a bit and the other you have to completely adjust your perception on.
Sarah Lund/Sarah Linden
I think the biggest thing I miss that is in the original but no so much in the remake is how warm Sarah Lund can be and on the opposite end of the spectrum how relentless she can be when required. Lund has a way of internalizing other people’s emotions much better than she deals with her own. That’s what drives her through the case and what makes an otherwise socially off norm woman be able to reach out to everyone from Nanna’s best friend to Troels. Linden doesn’t lock in on people like that. She similarly doesn’t get the other side of it either. Maybe it’s the language difference at work here. Danish you can run sentences together and on and on in a good rant which you can’t do as well in English.
When Lund has something to say she can rattle off a page of it and leave someone curled up in the corner before it is over. Troels can similarly do that and that is also missing with Darren come to think of it. It must be a Danish thing. I love it, but it is hard to replicate in English all the same. So yeah, the nuance just isn’t there. I like Sarah Linden well enough (ok, so I like her despite the fact she looks like Macaulay Culkin and how “squint” is one of her top three emotions) but she doesn’t seem to be able to pull of that warm, attentive side nor the other extreme. Granted they trimmed out most of the storylines that they were needed in, but it is still nagging.
Similarly to Holder, Sarah Linden’s mom is gone and we have yet to see her exhusband. She still eats out of the pot and chews gum and is probably a food thief like the original Sarah, but her circle of people is even smaller. Her BF isn’t involved in the case as much which is a shame because he looks to be someone who could do something worth investigating. Linden dates someone who looks like a killer and Lund dates someone who looks like a member of Abba. Both could do better.
My main fear for Linden is that by the end of the show she won’t have had enough damage to be on edge enough to do what she needs to do. If the killer isn’t the same person then maybe none of that will turn out that way either, but if it is the same Linden doesn’t have as much perceived blood on her hands yet nor the right emotional connections to Holder nor enough reprimands, firings etc under her belt. The exhusband hasn’t shown up to lure her son away.
She just isn’t there yet and they’ve cut too many plotlines for me to picture her getting there if that is where the story is still going. It’s the same with Troels/Darren. They follow a similar path to distruction where doing one more right thing might be the end of them and doing one wrong thing, just once, might get them home free. The choices they made in the original were so poignant to me. I am sad that I don’t see either of them getting that moment due to time constraints and lost story threads.
This is the one area I think the new show has done fine with, great even, and while some stuff I still miss (Theis’ assault and time at the shelter, Pernille reenacting in the hotel vs Mitch reenacting in the bathtub, the aunt and Theis keeping the club stuff from Pernille) I think they did manage to make cuts and replacements much better than elsewhere as emotionally it mostly seems to be there. Many of the scenes I like better than the original though that might be my love of Michelle Forbes showing or the fact the mom in the original looked way too much like Catherine Tate.
They give the kids way more to do. Cleaning up after bedwetting because he doesn’t want to worry mom and dad or the younger boy going to the store in his pjs to get milk because their parents have forgotten to get food – both great additions. The kids are a little older in the remake and actual characters in their own right. Wish the original had a few scenes like that too.
I’m not going to talk about the killer. While nothing as of episode eight has ruled out the killer being the same person there is a lot of that story missing too and I am wondering how it could be emotionally as powerful. I am kind of hoping they pick someone different, but there is enough there they could go ahead and force it if they had to. They’ve got a couple of episodes left to advance the characters along. Still, the body count is low, the politics storyline seems disconnected, the partners relationships and families are different, the number of red herrings are fewer so the baggage is less…pulling it off would be something.
The original is the better of the two, but the remake is still very good. While Linden isn’t gravity itself like Lund is in her series she is surrounded by characters who knock it out of the park like the family (especially Forbes) and even Holder who has taken his sketchy character and made him one of the more unusual investigators in the history of tv. It suffers for what has been trimmed out, but there is enough individual performances, excellent music, and who-done-it to keep a person entertained. On the flip side, don’t let subtitles freak you out. Watch the original. Lund is one of the best tv characters I’ve come across in a long time. Sofie Gråbøl is someone to keep your eyes on in the future as much as Noomi Rapace. Denmark deserves the attention it is getting from this show being an international success. Danish is an awesome language only second to Icelandic in my list of favorite sounding languages. The whole experience is worth it.
Edit: Well, one more episode until the AMC version of The Killing is over. Recently they added the casino and aunt storyline into the mix. Not exactly like the original version, but as far as lining things up to it they are closer on track than before. Everything is so rushed from my perspective. We’ll see if the killer turns out to be the same.
Edit 2: Just finished the last episode of the AMC version. Hm. Well, that was different, wasn’t it? In some ways it had to be because Holder and Linden are so different from their counterparts. Their stories couldn’t be the same in the end either.
About ten minutes left in it I figured they couldn’t possibly end it the same way. I wish they had ended it in one way or another though. The original at least had a complete case in the first season. The second season picked up kind of like the second season of The Wire did: chapter closed with a new case starting off and character stuff carrying over.
The AMC version…the case isn’t over. I guess it could still be the same killer, but that’s all for next season. And Holder’s turn there at the end? Dirty cop or bought cop? I’m not sure if he isn’t just a dirty cop wanting to put the guy he thought did it away any method he could use or if he is a bought cop. My other thought is that he could be working for the FBI or doing some other level of police work. Whatever he is up to he is alive and well and next season, even if they have the same killer, is going to be completely different from the original version’s season two. I need to just separate the two in my mind completely. And rewatch Forbrydelsen because I need to see some BAMF Lund getting things done to tide me over until next season.
How American of them for not making it a complete season. I think the last thing I expected was for it not to be case closed at the end. They cut seven episodes off it and the new version still managed to feel both slow, rushed, and not finished while only using half the characters and half the case leads.