Two by Three: A Look at AMC’s The Killing and Netflix’s The Fall

Here I am approaching June’s midpoint and I’m up to my eyeballs with a TV serial killer addiction. I’m watching two shows – The 5 episode psychological thriller, The Fall, which screens on Netflix, and The Killing Season 3, which I am watching on the AMC Network.

Up until a few days ago I hadn’t heard of either of these shows. A family member urged that I watch The Killing. He compared it to Top of the Lake with the qualifier – that this is how a multi-part drama involving criminal activities, detective work, and capture of the perpetrator – should be done. He said that this was a police procedural that was top of the line. He even went so far as to call the performance of Mireille Enos, who plays Detective Sarah Linden, as the best work of any actress currently on tv.

To be totally upfront, I did not watch Season One or Season Two of The Killing, so I came into Season Three without any background about the show other than it was about solving one case. I’ve watched the first three episodes of Season Three, and while there are references to the past seasons – one can watch Season Three as a stand alone.

Detective Sarah had left the force, shattered or at least seriously emotionally damaged. Rather than working Seattle’s mean streets also known as The Jungle, she’s working on the Vashon Island commuter ferry as a deckhand. Her former partner, Detective Stephen Holden, played by Joel Kinnaman, who was a somewhat green, naive, and inexperienced detective in the first two seasons, now has a new partner, Detective Carl Reddick, a 25 year veteran who has seen it all, and done it all.

As Season Three begins, Holden is more self-confident and assured. He and his partner catch a new case – a young woman has been brutally killed. Reddick suggests they hand the case off to another Detective, but Holden decides to pursue it.

He goes to talk it over with Linden at her home, and – on purpose –  he leaves the case file in Linden’s house. And as expected, she’s drawn back in. So it is ‘Adios’ to the ferry and welcome back to the force Sarah.

We also come to learn that the convicted killer, Ray Seward, played by the riveting Peter Sarsgaard (above), of Season One & Two’s case, has been moved to a different prison block – C block – aka death row. He’s out of appeals and has one card left to play – a Governor’s commutation of the death penalty for his case. Rather than undergo a lethal injection, he opts for hanging in case his death sentence is not canceled by the governor.

The things that are most interesting about The Killing is where it is set, and who are the victims. So far, the victims are all young girls, all runaways, or cast-offs, who are living on the streets. They crash in a church sponsored dorm with only a few beds available each night, and the decision about who gets the beds (for a night) which also include a shower, breakfast, and fresh clothes, is done by a random selection process – numbers are drawn from a hat.

Other than that, these girl crash where they can, or they become working girls – sex is exchanged for money so they can buy a room at a local roach motel.

Looks like a boy, wa;lks and talks like a boy - pnly she's a girl. This is Bullet - on the streets since she was 13.

Looks like a boy, walks and talks like a boy – only she’s a girl. This is Bullet – on the streets since she was 13.

A few girls are introduced and we watch, helplessly, as they are victimized, or brutalized. It isn’t pretty at all. We just know, because we’ve seen it at least a few times, in this season’s opening episodes – that once they get into a car – it will be a one way trip to oblivion.

And we have no idea who the killer is. It seems that there are definite connections to the earlier case, which is why Sarah has re-joined the force. But the convicted killer is sitting on death row. Or is he the real killer? When Sarah questions her boss, he says, Rosie (the original victim) should get justice.

As has been written elsewhere – the show is addictive. But I have to tell you that watching street kids take some of the worst shots that life has to offer (this is not even including those from the serial killer) is a lot to handle. The kids act tough and yet their vulnerability oozes out of every pore.

dochodzenie-sezon-3-the-killing-season-3-cover-okladkaAs for the cops – Sarah needs an upgrade from the cable knit sweater and the L.L. Bean style field coat she wears. And Detective Holden, seems to not only just wear a black raincoat, a white shirt, and a striped tie but it seems that he sleeps in those same clothes.

Still, there’s no denying the edge the show creates – both by the story line and the actors performances.  It’s not just the brazen and street tough style the kids emit, but the fact that these detectives, don’t pull rabbits out of hat – detective work is hard – and it shows. Yes, watching the show requires that you immerse yourself in Seattle’s street Jungle, that you watch the savagery (the killer’s trademarks) and then there’s those incessant gray skies, or gray skies with rain. But to pull a one-word description of the show out into the light so you can think about it – fascinating.

Across the pond – literally, as The Fall is set in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, there’s another fetishistic serial killer on the loose. Only in this show, there’s no mystery. Fifteen minutes into the 1st episode we knew who he is. I’ve watched three episodes here as well, but, this time around, rather than not know, we see him up close and personally either in his work – he’s a grief counselor, or in his family life – he’s a doting Dad and husband, as well as in his leisure activities which are both horrific and perverse.

It’s not that he carves up his victims – rather he takes his time strangling them as they look directly at him. Once that is done, he’s quite tender – he cleans and washes his victims, he even cleans and washes the bedding and straightens the apartment before taking photos of his victims in poses that look merely erotic and artistic rather than deadly.

You see he keeps a detailed ‘scrapbook’. And he uploads the images to his computer. The scrapbook is stored in the crawl space above his daughter’s bedroom.

It’s like he’s setting himself up for a post-mortem discovery. After he’s dead, these particulars will be found in his house. At least that is the feeling I have three episodes in. The series will run for just 5 episodes.

So who is the S.I.O.?

The Fall Series One

None other than Gillian Anderson – once known all over the world as Dana Scully in the X-Files. Here’s she’s a no-nonsense Detective in charge, or as they call it in Belfast, The Superintendent of Inspectors Officer.

As Stella Gibson, Anderson plays an older version of Detective Robin Griffin played by Elisabeth Moss in Top of the Lake. Anderson is direct and brusque when she needs to be, or blunt as necessary. She worries about nothing. But she’s so good in what she does.

There’s not been any substantial clues discovered by the Belfast 5-O just yet and while we can’t really see the noose of detection tightening – we know it is so. We’ve been with the killer and we know that he’s made a couple of serious mistakes, as yet unknown to the police. But they’re mistakes just the same and completely obvious to we in the audience.

But watching Gillian Anderson take command of a press conference room, a detective briefing session, a crime scene, or even in the way she takes a lover – is just scintillating.

 This series moves at a far slower pace – meaning longer scenes than does The Killing, and while the supporting police personnel are finely written and performed by actors all unknown to me, it is worth noting that I appreciate the longer scenes in The Fall because it gives you more time to savor the nuances of the script, the acting, and the horror of the killings.

In both shows, the writers have hooked me and I am unable to look away, or walk away from either show.

As viewers, we are hooked and once you come to realize this, once you begin to ask yourself why, you must also ask yourself if you can you explain your fascination with serial killers – those who prey on young girls in The Killing, and in The Fall – all the victims have been beautiful attractive and successful women.

I recommend both shows – AMC’s The Killing – which you can watch on TV or via a computer, and The Fall which is available vis Netflix streaming service.

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4 thoughts on “Two by Three: A Look at AMC’s The Killing and Netflix’s The Fall

  1. The first two seasons of The Killing were rather frustrating. Wonderful atmosphere and acting, but occasionally very frustrating plotting. Love Kinnamon as Holder. I have only caught the first two episodes of Season 3 but I think it was a strong start. I think having this case only last one season might help with the pacing and plotting.

    I just added The Fall to my Netflix queue. I’m looking forward to checking it out soon.

  2. Thanks for the comment Matt. Not having seen either of the first two seasons, I can’t say with certainty that it is the inevitable stretch factor – you know stretch a series into 10 or 12 or 15 eps and you’re bound to have filler, and stuff that’s not interesting – it just might be labeled frustrating by many. Which is how Top of the Lake felt to some.

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