This Underrated Netflix Mystery Series Did ‘True Detective’ Before ‘True Detective’

For four seasons, these two detectives investigate murders without easy solutions and struggle with their demons.

It hasn’t been that long since Jodie Foster and Kali Reis solved the chilly and weird crime out in Alaska, but it’s probably been long enough to need a new show to fill in the void. While a new season of True Detective is on its way, there’s another series that might fill in the void. The Killing is adapted from the Danish series, Forbrydelsen, and while it borrows heavily from the original series, the American remake forms its own identity in time for the first season finale. In the absence of True Detective’s antiheroes, The Killing offers a pair of detectives struggling with keeping their lives from falling apart while investigating a case. The atmospheric, gritty, character-driven murder mystery might be exactly what True Detective fans need.

‘The Killing’ Tries To Solve Rosie Larsen’s Murder in Season 1

Set in gloomy and rainy Seattle, the first season centers on the murder of teen Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay), whose body is discovered in a car submerged in a lake, a car that just so happens to be connected to a mayoral campaign. The first of the detective duo brought onto the case is Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), on her last day before she plans for an early retirement and a relocation with her son out of state. She’s assigned to have Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) tag along with her as they look into Rosie’s murder, and by the end of what should have been her final day, Linden changes her mind.

These detectives become obsessed with finding who killed Rosie, uncovering secrets from the girl’s personal life to secrets that expose corruption among Seattle politicians. The Killing doesn’t just focus on its main detectives, episodes get close and personal with the grieving Larsen family, Rosie’s friends who may know a different side to the murdered girl, and others who become personally affected by the crime. Show creator Veena Sud wants to examine the red herrings and dead ends an investigation can run into, and while the mystery is an important throughline, the main detective duo is pivotal to engaging viewers on this long, bumpy road to finding Rosie’s killer.

Sarah Linden Is a Better Detective Than a Mom in ‘The Killing’

Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) in The Killing.

Before Mireille Enos’ intense performances in World War Z (2013) and Prime Video’s Hanna, she was Sarah Linden. In Season 1 of The Killing, Linden is a single mother who is ready for early retirement, with the plan to get remarried and move her teen son Jack (Liam James) and herself to California. This is wishful thinking on her part. It’s established how quickly she sends all her concentration onto the investigation for Rosie Larsen and doesn’t leave much attention to her son. Sarah Linden is a steadfast detective, even when she falls back into bad habits that turn her haggard and a terrible parent until she catches the killer.

She fits right in with the leads of True Detective, where four seasons may change the locations and mysteries, but every “true detective” has their inner demons. Sarah Linden shares an obsessiveness like with Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) that makes them into incredible forces of justice, at the cost of any fulfilling life outside of work. But Linden is merely one-half of the detective team in The Killing.

One of Joel Kinnaman’s Best Roles Is ‘The Killing’s Stephen Holder

Detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) in The Killing.
Image via AMC

If Mireille Enos plays the quiet, sullen partner, Joel Kinnaman plays the loose cannon, a character in the crime genre that can either bring some humor or be reckless. Stephen Holder is a mix of both. Linden’s stoic self is the complete opposite of Holder who jokes around or never stops running his mouth. When interrogating suspects, Linden recognizes one positive for her new partner and steps back as Holder’s aggressive personality emerges. He is recently assigned as a detective when The Killing begins, with a past going undercover in narcotics that has left him in recovery from drug addiction. This doesn’t seem to make him all that promising.

Because of how dark and gloomy The Killing is, Detective Holder offers some needed levity. As Season 1 goes on, Holder moves away from being needlessly hostile, and he becomes as dedicated to solving the murder mystery as Linden. They will need to rely on each other because their search for clues will pick up on the wrong leads to follow, which could test their patience and the viewers.

The Controversies of ‘The Killing’ and ‘True Detective’

Kali Reis, Finn Bennett, and Jodie Foster gather around at a phone in True Detective: Night Country

By the Season 1 finale of The Killing, there was an uproar from critics and audiences when Rosie’s murder was not solved, ending the season on a cliffhanger. When a TV show shocks its audience with an unexpected plot twist, sometimes the reaction is very polarized. The Season 1 finale of The Killing received so much disdain, that Veena Sud had to explain holding off from revealing Rosie’s killer was always the plan, then having to promise the next season would give answers. Season 2 did that, solving Rosie’s murder, but the show was then subsequently cancelled by its network, AMC. That is until that decision was reversed, and Season 3 was made. Yet, it was cancelled again after Season 3, and it might have stayed in the morgue if it didn’t get picked up by Netflix for a fourth and shorter, final season.

Meanwhile, with True Detective, the Season 1 finale was deemed by some as too much of a happy ending for all the grim and grimy Southern Gothic that came before it. Season 2 was too nihilistic and bloated. Then, it took four years to finally get Season 3, and Season 4 was met with hate from the original show creator, Nic Pizzolatto. There are no easy answers to making fans happy and keeping them that way. However, even if both True Detective and The Killing didn’t get everything right when it came to storytelling, they most certainly were successful in casting.

Every Season of ‘The Killing’ and ‘True Detective’ Has Great Actors
Jodie Foster as Liz Danvers and Kali Reis as Evangeline Navarro sit in a kitchen looking at each other in True Detective: Night Country’s season finale. Image via HBO

After Season 2 solved Rosie’s murder, new mysteries were created for the detectives: Season 3 looked into the homeless youth of Seattle, and Season 4 went to an all-boys military academy. Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos are spectacular throughout the series run, and the supporting roles are too: Elias Koteas, BexTaylor-Klaus, Amy Seimetz, and Joan Allen play allies or suspects. True Detective might be known for its talented cast of actors playing the leads, but the recent season of the anthology series still knows how to make the smaller parts just as engaging.

Jodie Foster’s return to the crime genre was fantastic not only for her and Kali Reis’ performances, but she headlined a great ensemble to fill out the town of Ennis. Finn Bennett, who played Officer Peter Prior, and Joel D. Montgrand, who played Eddie Qavvik, were standouts as actors who had to act opposite Foster and Reis, respectively. In the finale, Bee (L’xeis Diane Benson) has a fantastic monologue that spoken calmly but is laced with anger and contempt. Of course, before Season 4, the previous season of True Blood also saw a laundry list of magnificent actors play the leads, including Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Mahershala Ali, and Stephen Dorff.

‘True Detective’ and ‘The Killing’ Have Dark Mysteries in Common

Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in The Killing.

Through every season of The Killing, the duo are captivating to watch as they grow to trust, distrust, and trust each other again. While The Killing never had occult-themed cases, the four seasons are more akin to how True Detective explored the imploding lives of those connected to each season’s mysteries, immersing viewers into the world onscreen as promising leads fall apart. The Killing would also love to build criminal conspiracies that could tower over Linden and Holder, and they would never be able to arrest everyone who deserved to be brought to justice. They had to settle on the smaller victories.

Detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) in The Killing.

The Killing nailed the true crime atmospheric genre that True Detective also operates in. Along with being a crime series, it emphasizes the lives of its characters on top of focusing on solving the murder. The series is drenched in darkness, from the constant rainy days to the violent crimes, and it constantly highlights how Linden and Holder clash with each other. They might have their differences, but just like True Detective, these differences are what drive them to being the perfect detectives for solving an intricate crime.



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