The Killing III episodes 1 & 2 review

The Killing III gets off to a strong start with a story about murder, the docks, and a wheelbarrow. Here's James' review...

This review contains spoilers.

Episodes 3.1 & 3.2

The Killing III, or The Last Days of Sarah Lund, begins in as bleak a fashion as its predecessors. Where series one opened with a young girl being stalked through woodland and series two began with the discovery of a body at a war memorial, this series starts with the camera travelling through the darkened corridors of a ship eventually finding a man bloodily tied to a stool. Freeing himself, this individual makes it to the ship’s bridge only to find the radio has been literally cut off. A dark figure lurks in the shadows prompting this guy to make a break for it over the side of what is revealed to be a large container ship. Before this happens though we see enough of his heavily tattooed form to recognise it when he turns up in pieces the following day at the docklands. All pretty bad timing considering the Danish prime minister is due to visit the site that morning. 

So is Detective Inspector Sarah Lund on the case with her usual tunnel vision enthusiasm? Erm, no, she isn’t. Not at first, at least. Asbjørn Juncker has come to Copenhagen police department with youth on his side and an over keenness to impress. Sarah Lund seems to have been assigned as his babysitter so she takes him along when DCI Lennart Brix (yes, he’s back) asks her to get down to the docks.  

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Lund though seems almost disinterested. Our first glimpse of her this series has her arranging a dinner with her son and his girlfriend. When Brix asks her to take a look at the body, her primary concern is that he is still going to put in a good word for her with regards to a desk job that she is after now she’s done twenty five years in the police service. In fact, once at the crime scene, she stands around looking mostly bored, letting Juncker do the work while she barters over the price of a wheel barrow to help with her garden! 

Has Lund lost her edge? She even discards the jeans and jumper combo in favour of a smart police uniform. Is she falling in line at long last? Well, not quite. At the crime scene, we can see her fighting her intrigue in what is unfolding before her. The wheel barrow seems like a distraction to try and stop herself getting dragged in. This Sarah Lund is trying to learn from her mistakes and she has a family dinner to prepare. 

Unfortunately for Lund, but fortunately for us as Juncker is no Sarah substitute, it only takes one crack for her defences to begin to crumble. When her son cancels on her that’s all it takes for her to start rifling through photos of body parts and putting the clues together. By the conclusion of episode one, we’ve been left in no doubt that the desk job is the furthest thing from Lund’s mind. 

Sofie Gråbøl has long since made Sarah Lund her signature role but this series she’s showing us a side of Lund we’ve rarely glimpsed since the beginning of series one. It’s the Lund who pretends to long for a more stable life. Gråbøl’s performance is as captivating as it’s ever been, perhaps even more so than it was in series two when Lund was in full on emotional shutdown mode. If there’s really one criticism that can be levelled at the opening episode of series three it’s that there just isn’t enough Lund in it, but maybe that’s to be expected. 

As in the previous series, Sarah Lund is just one part of The Killing jigsaw, a puzzle which wouldn’t be complete without a political sub plot. This series it appears we’re going to be following the Danish prime minister Kristian Kamper in his bid to win the upcoming election. Once again, our political figure is shadowed by a male and female aide, both of who will no doubt have their own secrets and agendas as the series progresses if they’re true to form.  This side of The Killing III’s narrative is also going to tackle the growing financial crisis that continuously seems to plague Europe. Kamper is desperate to stop a large shipping company he’s backing, Zeeland, from upping sticks and relocating to Asia. Hold on though, that guy at the beginning jumped from a large shipping vessel, didn’t he? Already it seems that the waters surrounding Kamper may be murkier than they appear. 

The political side of The Killing is arguably the least interesting of its plotlines but is usually filled with a bunch of colourful characters. Episodes one and two only really serve as an introduction to them so it’ll be intriguing to see how they weave into the overall story as the series progresses. 

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One of the reasons the second series lacked the emotional punch of the first was that it removed the theme of a family coping with tragic events. It is very welcome then that The Killing III has returned to this with the Zeuthen family. Robert Zeuthen is a Christian Grey success level business man going through a divorce and the owner of the aforementioned Zeeland company. He is ruthless in the business world but a man who puts his family first. Played by Anders W Berthelsen, our impression of Zeuthen throughout these opening episodes is that we like him and form an almost immediate attachment to him and his children, Emilie and Carl. 

It’s with a gasp then that as Sarah Lund and co discover photos of Zeuthen and Emilie upon the vessel the man jumped from in the beginning, simultaneously the Zeuthen family home security system is shut down, leading to the abduction of Emilie. If only Lund had that detective hat on to begin with and had searched the boat earlier instead of worrying about a wheel barrow. 

Episode one of The Killing III is presented so fast and frantically that the viewer barely has time to draw breath. We’re introduced to a host of new characters, none of whom we know whether to trust or not. At the same time though, it never feels overwhelming and series creator Søren Sveistrup’s writing has hooked us in good and proper by the time Lund is entering a dark forest with a flashlight once more by the episode’s end. 

Somewhat inevitably, the pace slows for episode two as the search for Emilie Zeuthen becomes the focus of the series and our perpetrator makes first contact with Sarah Lund. As episode two draws to a close, our culprit has set out his stall as a very deadly adversary for a Lund in a suitably dramatic fashion, though his intentions are yet to become clear. 

Episode two does take more time to introduce the character of Lund’s series partner, Mathias Borch, a special branch operative whom Lund shares a history with from police academy. That history is filled in a bit by the appearance of Sarah’s mother who tells him “we thought you might have been the one.” Given the history of Lund’s former police partners, Borch’s fate seems far from safe at this stage. 

Episode two also reveals that there may be at least one thing that can distract the now all-guns-blazing Sarah Lund from her investigation. A deal with Emilie’s kidnapper almost goes to hell when by coincidence Lund spies her son and his girlfriend at a train station and is confronted with the shocking realisation that she is about to become a Grandma. It’s a heartbreaking moment for Lund, and the viewer, in light of the reason behind her mother’s visit being to tell Lund that her son wants nothing to do with her for the time being. It will be very interesting to see what impact this has upon Lund. 

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The Killing III is off to a spectacularly solid start. The story is markedly different but is retaining the things that make it a The Killing style plot.  Gråbøl is as strong as ever and the early indications are that her supporting cast are well up to the job. With just ten episodes in the series and a seemingly bigger plot than ever, it would appear that this is going to be the most intense series yet. 

Read James’ look-backs at The Killing’s first and second seasons.

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