The Killing 3: Lund is back…one last time

Watching the opening of The Killing 3 tonight was a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand, there was the delight of seeing ‘our Sarah’ again and hearing that oh-so-evocative theme tune, and on the other, a sense of melancholy, because this is really it – the final series – as director Søren Sveistrup has repeatedly stressed in interview.

Cover of the Series 3 DVD, due out mid-December

Warning: slight spoilers below

In the previous two series of The Killing, Sarah Lund has faced a stark choice between the conventional happiness provided by a strong family life and her commitment to the role of police detective, one that ultimately alienated everyone around her, leaving her painfully isolated. Viewer reactions to Lund’s professional tenacity have sometimes been divided between admiration (without her, cases wouldn’t have been solved), and criticism for neglecting her family (in particular her son). These reactions have in turn generated some interesting discussion about gender stereotypes, especially as Sofie Gråbøl, the actress playing Lund, has said that the key to her characterisation was ‘acting like a man’.

When we meet Lund at the beginning of Series 3, it looks like she’s opting for happiness: after 25 years on the force she’s completed her fair share of murder investigations, and is moving sideways into a comfortable desk-job at the OPA (Operational Planning and Analysis unit). She’s trying to make time for herself (gardening! cooking! a funky new jumper!) and to repair her relationship with her son Mark. Of course, we know it can’t last – seeing Sarah cook a tasty Stuvet Oksekød doth not a riveting crime series make. And so, when a man’s dismembered body is found by the Copenhagen docks ahead of a visit by the Danish prime minister, it’s clear that she’ll soon be back to her old investigative ways. And when she is, we’re treated to a heady (and topical) brew of big business, politics, kid-napping and murder that’s gripping to watch. I already have a bit of a theory, which I’m writing on a bit of paper to be unfolded only after episode 10…

To be honest, though, I’m a little fearful for Lund. After the traumas sustained in the last two investigations, I’m not sure she can survive a third intact, either physically or mentally. I’m also a bit worried that director Søren Sveistrup will send her off with a bang that’s way too literal for my liking at the close of the series. Lund’s death in service would in many ways be a fitting and logical end to her unswerving dedication to the job, which takes her into dangerous situations and annoys some exceedingly nasty people. But I would really rather that didn’t happen to our girl.

On a lighter note, I settled down on the sofa this evening for a highly enjoyable game of  ‘Forbrydelsen Bingo’. I can report that I put a cross in a grand total of 7 of my boxes. I’ll hang on to my sheet to see if I can cross off the other 5 next week.

Finally … here’s a whole heap of marvellous links for your delectation

Episodes 1 will be repeated on Monday 19. November at 11.25pm, with episode 2 following on Tuesday 20. at 11.25pm. Both are also available on BBC iPlayer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the beginning of the series, but please try to avoid big spoilers so that we protect the enjoyment of those still to watch 🙂

Update: there are a few spoilers in the comments below, so please look away if you haven’t yet watched!

15 thoughts on “The Killing 3: Lund is back…one last time

  1. Hi Mrs. Peabody, first time commenting here. I’ve recently watched the first 5 episodes of the 3rd season and although I love the show’s pace and many of its plots, I’m somewhat disappointed. [Light spoilers] 3rd season is like a synthesis of seasons 1 and 2. The mother/son plot is totally ANNOYING. It’s obvious that none of the writers was raised by a single or divorced mother, or maybe he/she was, but doesn’t care anyway. I’ve noticed that in Forbrydelsen, Broen and Borgen, traditional family (dad, mom, kiddies, dog and the van) has a very big value, which seems to me conventional, conservative and unrealistic for a bunch of writers that are otherwise edgy. It’s a cheap source for drama.

    The writers have put Sarah through some boring deja vu’s on this season, and it’s quite unsatisfying. The son is now a young man and I’m really puzzled at his (non) relationship with his mom. It really doesn’t compute. WHY? Why the severe rejection? This guy is becoming a nasty stereotype of the mother-hating man who will either become a possesive husband/father, or a hating one. Whatever happened to will and to characters that defy stereotypes in these Danish series? I won’t even comment on Sarah’s new “love interest” because it’s equally wrong.

    On the good side, we get a quality of drama that reminds a lot of season 1. The tragedies are played as some sort of classic greek drama, something that the Dogma generation Danes love and are very good at. The father here is so contained. He belongs to the opposite social hierarchy of the 1st season father (Thies), yet their suffering and guilt have an equal and realistic measure when tragedy strikes.

    Another very positive aspect of the 3rd season is the young detective, which has been shaped as a young Sarah only to remind Sarah what really matters.

    As for the political context all these stories develop in, it’s very similar to Borgen.

    And finally one of the things that I enjoyed the most was seeing Peter Mygind (Borgen’s nasty editor) playing another genius villain. I LOVE this actor, he’s soooo talented. So far all actors on these Danish series are flawless. The PM’s main assistant is also very interesting, confident and reliable female character.

    I hope in the rest of the series, Sarah gets her price for being so awesome. They’re also forcing the autistic aspect of her a bit too far.


    • Thanks very much for your comment, chinchillas, and for providing such a balanced assessment of the series so far. I have to say that I’m loving it, and am not finding any of the strands so unrealistic that they’re impinging on my enjoyment (I think the son / mother strand is plausible, for example). But having said that, I should add that my critical faculties in relation to The Killing are rather dulled by my status as Total Fan of the show and of Sarah Lund / Sofie Grabol. So I may well be blind to some of its faults!

      You might be interested to see a couple of other comments below by viewers who have not been completely enamoured with the series… I will refer them up to your comment as well.

  2. This is so enticing. However, I wonder what we’ll see over here in the States. I’ve seen information saying that there will be a third season over here. Of course, they won’t show the Danish version with subtitles. That is too radical! Even the idea of subtitled films/TV shows over here sends TV producers into shell shock.

    The gender issues with Sarah Lund are interesting. Does a woman who puts her career ahead of everything, including her family, act like “a man”? Aren’t some women just as driven, ambitious and involved in their work as men? I know some and they don’t act like “men,” whatever that means, since men are not monolithic. They have different personalities, drives and ambitions.

    Just today, I saw a male friend with his six-month-old baby at a conference; he was just as concerned and involved with her as a mother would be. Very nurturing, which is what I see with fathers all of the time.

    Just saw a news item online about a third-grader who “flunked” a test when she categorized all games and toys are for both genders, rather than putting them into for “girls” or for “boys.” lists. Her teacher marked her wrong when she listed everything for both genders. Her father tweeted a note about this and thousands of people replied, outraged at this gender bias and that a teacher would mark an 8-year-old’s test wrong on this. Got to move out of these labels!

    • Thanks, Kathy – I totally agree with you – those labels are restrictive, and, as you so rightly point out, often inaccurate. The article I saw (a while back – and which I wish I could find again) was taking issue with viewers’ praise of Lund’s qualities as a detective, arguing that Lund’s dedication / obsessiveness / workaholicism conformed to a negative ‘male’ model of work that resulted in the neglect of important personal relationships (it should be stressed that the first series in particular also thematised and critiqued Lund’s lack of mothering skills).

      There’s a very interesting piece over at the Cineburbs blog that takes up your point about stereotyping and argues that Lund ‘doesn’t wholly conform to traditional representations of gender. The show juxtaposes gender traits to create an interesting individual. Whilst she may ‘go it alone’ like a cowboy, Lund’s refusal to carry a weapon could be interpreted as inherently female. She believes that negotiation is more important than resorting to violence’. The whole post is most definitely worth a read and can be found here:

  3. Thanks, Mrs. P. I will read that article. Why can’t it just be said that it is not a good idea for parents to put their careers first so avidly that their children are neglected? However, if there are other available caretakers, it might work out.

    There are many people, however, who have to work hard, despite having families. I just watched a series on cable over here about an emergency room nurse who works 12 hours shifts, seems to always be a work. She has children, whom her spouse takes care of when she’s at work.

    So many people want to be with their children more, but their jobs don’t allow it. It’s not a gender issue here any more. It’s lack of flexible work schedules, lack of paid parental leave, low wages so people have to work a lot of hours, two or even three jobs.
    Whoever should just get over the genderizing.

  4. I did read this article, and it’s aggravating to see Sarah Lund so gender stereotyped. I think much of society has gone beyond this because women have to work, and many have demanding careers with little flexibility, as do many men. And children must be taken care of and nurtured, but the demands of the labor market make life hard for all concerned.

    That Lund is a bit obsessive can be true of women and men altogether. I know people, women and men, who can’t turn off their drive (and dedication) and continue to do what they’re doing until the wee hours all of the time, no holds barred.

    The gun issue: I thought that in Britain police officers didn’t even carry guns until recently, and this probably is true in other countries. Negotiation is always better than bloodshed, no matter who is the investigator, true with belligerent countries and individuals.

    It’s time to take the gender stuff out of the equation, and just see human beings.

    • Thanks, Kathy – I love your comments because they are always brilliantly thought-provoking. I agree with lots that you have to say about the economic pressures on families that result in one or both partners having to work, with one or more jobs, and the squeeze that this puts on quality family time. At the same time, I’m not sure that gender can be completely removed from the equation: the gender pay gap, and the fact that low paid part-time and contract work is predominantly carried out by women, results in women having to put in extra hours to achieve the same income as their male counterparts (interesting BBC article from 7 November on the subject here:

      This isn’t really an angle that The Killing takes up… Lund just seems to be incredibly committed to her job and the tunnel vision that results often blinds her to her family’s needs.

  5. Thanks, Mrs. P. I’m not always sure I should say all this, but it does engender good discussions.

    I agree with you on the gender pay gap, but over here it’s more complicated. There is a gender pay gap; that is true. Overall, women earn 77 percent of what males earn. But if one uses white males as the top earners, white women earn a bit less, but then people of color as a whole earn much less than white men, with African-American women earning about 65 percent of what white male workers, and Latinas earning about 55%. African-American and Latino men earn a great deal less than white men, so the differential is for women overall, but then people of color in general earning less, with women of color earning less than men of color, but they are closer to their male counterparts than to white women.

    According to a New York Times article I saw right after Hurricane Sandy, the majority of new jobs since the recovery are temporary, involuntary part-time, hourly and low-wage for women and men.

    Single mothers are among the poorest, and often do work 2-3 low-wage jobs.
    I read a lot about women’s situation over here, including working women, so I follow these issues. As long as you’re up for the dialogue, I’ll discuss.

    • Thanks, Kathy – yes, always up for a good discussion! Those figures that you give make for fascinating, though very depressing reading. I aim to do a little more research on the situation in the UK. I’ve not seen any figures on how ethnic origin plays out in terms of pay here, but can imagine that it may be a similar story to the US (there’s a whole world of pay legislation that needs exploring…).

  6. And here’s a chart showing median wages for women and men of different nationalities. One can clearly see that African-American men and Latinos earn less than white women, and women of color earn even less.

    These are the statistics I am used to reading and hearing about. A higher minimum wage would help lower-paid workers. And so would salaried jobs with benefits, rather than involuntary part-time, temporary and hourly jobs.
    A few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against women workers at Walmart’s who were seeking standing to sue the corporation as a class for wage, promotion and other discrimination.

    So, that set back many women workers, those who work for Walmarts and make miserably low salaries, with no benefits. It also set back women who work for other corporations who would otherwise sue their employers as a class.

    The lower-paid work force is a big issue here for those in the social justice movement.

  7. Am I the only one who is finding this series a tad disappointing? I’m finding it predictable and that’s spoiling the excitement.

  8. No, you’re not alone. Whilst it had its moments, Series II lacked the claustrophobic intensity of the original, particularly by changing the setting and started the trend towards superficial characterisation that felt rather two-dimensional and cartoon-like. Series III has continued in this vein, despite a return to home territory at the same time of year (November).

    Perhaps under pressure from the international market-place (the success in which the series has confounded its producers) it has lost its idiosyncratic pace in which characters were given space to develop and engage. In crime fiction/drama there appears to be a strong inverse relationship between the number of corpses and the intensity of the plot. In Series I there was just a single victim to sustain the viewer’s interest over 20 hours: in Series III there were four within the first two hours. In returning to the world of Danish politics (notably at the higher level of the Danish Government rather than Copenhagen Town Hall), we are once again being invited to be drawn in to political intrigue, again involving the suspicion of police/security services cover-up.

    What is missing, though, is the power of individual characterisations to elevate the plot into something more compelling than a procedural whodunit. Where are the performances to match those of Bjarne Henriksen (Thies); Ann Eleonora Jørgensen (Pernille); Lars Mikkelson (Troels Hartmann); Bent Mejding (Poul Bremer); Søren Malling (Jan Meyer)? Sofie Gråbøl alone is left to provide any emotional momentum to the drama, wit her perennial internal battle of divided loyalties between her job and her life . The plotting seems to have become rather lazy and predictable given what the viewer is shown (or not shown!): an example was the apparent shooting of Emilie by the ‘perpetrator’ (is there not a better translation?) at the end of Episode 5 and the laboured delay in recovering the corpse… The scene in Episode 6 of Emilie’s parents making funeral arrangements was a direct lift of one involving Theis and Pernille from Series I, but lacked the weight of feeling and understanding of the original.

    There were some signs in Episode 6 of a return to the more contemplative style of Series I with all the messy complications of ordinary life intruding, but I fear that the magic has been sacrificed for the sake of larger audiences with shorter attention spans. Let’s hope I’m proved wrong – but time is running-out!

    • Thanks very much for your comment, Howard. I agree with you that one of the big strengths of series one was the in-depth characterisation. Of course that series spanned 20 episodes rather than 10, as has been the case for series 2 and 3, and I wonder if that decision to halve the number of programmes per series is a fundamental problem in your view.

      You might also be interested in the comment from chincillas above (the top comment which I held back until episode 5 had aired) – some reservations expressed about the series there as well. In my response I confess a certain blindness to any faults with series 3 🙂

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