How Does The US Version Of The Killing Compare To The Original?

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Think back to earlier this year and the hullabaloo that surrounded the acquisition by BBC Four of a twenty-part Danish detective drama, The Killing. Actually don’t bother, because there wasn’t one. Like all untested foreign language dramas, the channel slipped it to us quietly and hoped for the best. As it turned out, Denmark’s Forbrydelsen (as it’s known in its homeland) was brilliantly plotted, wonderfully cast and everyone loved it. Beige and black knit wearing lead cop, Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabol), was a frazzled, crime-solving pit-bull genius. And we soaked up the brooding Copenhagen backdrop. Overnight, the Danish capital went from distant-sounding and of little interest to perceived cultural hub. The fact that none of us had actually been there was irrelevant.

When it emerged that AMC (the creators of Mad Men and The Walking Dead) were making their own version set in Seattle--and that US networks had overlooked the original--purists snorted. How could any reworking hope to capture the complex subtlety and delicious slow burn? Americans like fast resolution and on-the-nose plotting, so devoting one whole episode to a single day of a delicately layered investigation--to be followed by more and more days given over to the very same case--would never work.

Then came the killer blow: our beloved 20-instalments would be boiled down to 13 parts (pathetically over simplified, or so we imagined). Thankfully, the suspected episode thinning turned out to be one of the series’ many red herrings. Viewers in the US may have been outraged when the last instalment left them hanging (the conclusion will come next season) but British devotees of the Danish version will be reassured.

As Channel 4 prepares to load up the UK premiere (Thursday, 9pm), we've decided to take an early look at episode one and consider whether we were right to pour on pre-emptive scorn. As it turns out, perhaps not. The adaptation is ludicrously faithful (at least to begin with), though some names have been changed and the victim is 17-years-old Rosie Larsen instead of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen. But scene-for-scene it’s a virtual facsimile.

Big Love’s excellent Mireille Enos plays lead investigator Sarah Linden and it’s hard not to love her Lund-alike performance. Linden is prickly and sombre much like her great Dane counterpart. The bereaved parents are just as well cast, though we don’t see enough of Troels Hartmann’s Seattle equivalent in episode one to make an informed comparison. So far, though, there’s nothing much wrong with Billy Campbell’s portrayal of the secretive politician.

But if you’ve watched and loved the original, is there any good reason to give over 13 hours to a rehashed version, then more next season? Actually, yes. Despite staying on-plot for the first episode, The Killing US will eventually swerve off and do its own thing (although our American colleagues tells us it does go downhill from this point). The makers have hinted at a different motive and murderer. So for now, don’t go around telling people The Killing is dead to you. It just might be worth watching after all.