I love a good murder mystery. The earliest books I remember reading were Boxcar Children stories, which I cannot really remember anymore. I’m assuming they didn’t have too many murder mysteries in them, but it began my love of the genre. I moved to the Encyclopedia Brown series after that with even more mundane mysteries that usually involved lost school supplies. When I was in sixth grade, I moved to Agatha Christie books. I would lay awake all night after reading a chapter of And Then There Were None. I would dream of being killed by bee stings and the Indian statutes that sat in the middle of the room as each person died one by one.
The hard part of these stories is that many people love them and there are so many different varieties. Moving past books, TV and movies have hundreds of murders occurring each year. And very few of them are interesting.
Earlier this year, Psych did a Twin Peaks inspired episode. I had never seen the show, but knew it centered on the murder of Laura Palmer. I bought my brother the DVD collection of Twin Peaks a few years back for Christmas, so I asked him to borrow it. I watched the entire first season, but never finished the second season. The hard part was it was more of a soap opera than a murder mystery. My brother argued that the murder wasn’t the important part of the story, but that it was basically the engine that drove the story that showcased evil in a small town. Taking the supernatural and mystical stuff out of the picture, I wasn’t that drawn to the characters, but I am willing to give it a second chance sometime in the future. Nonetheless, I wanted to watch a good murder mystery with interesting and diverse characters who are good and bad, happy and sad, guilty and innocent.
This past weekend, The Killing premiered on AMC. I read many articles that compared the show to Twin Peaks as it occurs in a small town setting. I imagine for writers in LA or New York City, Seattle is a little town just like Twin Peaks. But right off the bat, I am more interested in this series than Twin Peaks. I’m drawn to some of the characters and am interested in the political and social aspects of the story. I had the same reaction to the first half of the first season of Twin Peaks, so it may turn out to be something that I eventually will not be interested in.
The story starts with a woman who is leaving the homicide division of the Seattle Police Department to marry her boyfriend in San Francisco. However, as she is moving out of her office and her replacement tries to move in, a call comes in for a missing girl presumed dead in this forested region. Of course, we meet the missing girl’s family along the way as we watch them discover that their daughter has been killed. There are delinquent teenagers, piercings, skateboards, and school dances involved. There is also a mayoral campaign that pits what seems like an up-and-coming city councilman who wants to change the city against the staid old mayor who has outworn his welcome. The murder brings all of these individuals together in an intrinsic plot. And this was all in the first two episodes. There are about twenty characters floating around that we have met with motives all over the place for the murder as well as just devious behavior. It’s a typical murder mystery in that description, but the characters definitely have a depth to them that is rare in TV crime shows.
Additionally, the directing is fantastic. Like Twin Peaks, the setting appears to be a huge character to the story. There are many establishing shots and fly-overs of the forested region where the girl was found and bright cityscapes to counter that dark, green mystery. The city has a gray tone to it that makes it seem very gothic. The rain-soaked atmosphere of Seattle also plays well for this type of story.
I greatly recommend this show to anyone who likes a good serialized murder story. AMC has a wide array of quality TV. I enjoyed Rubicon greatly, but this show is far superior in pacing. It has not reached the level that show got in tension yet, but it needs a little more time. The show airs on Sundays, but I am sure it is available On Demand and is also being rebroadcast all week as it just premiered. It will take the place of Celebrity Apprentice on Sunday in my TV schedule. For anyone who knows me, that is a huge step. Goodbye Gary Busey. Hello Seattle.