Series / Forbrydelsen

Sarah Lund in that sweater, flanked by the major figures of the first season's case.

This is the entry for the Danish-language TV series known in English as The Killing. If you're looking for the American remake, go here.

A tale of murder, politics and knitwear, Forbrydelsen (first season 2007, second 2009, third and final 2012), , literally translated as "The Crime", but known in English as The Killing was a crime drama produced by State Broadcaster DR.

The first season, set in Copenhagen, Denmark focuses on the murder of Nanna Birk Larsen, a 19-year-old Danish schoolgirl. Each episode of twenty focuses on one day in the investigation, from three different perspectives:

Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl), a dour moody woman who likes wearing Faroese sweaters, is about to move to Sweden with her boyfriend, but decides to stick around and work with her replacement, Jan Meyer, to solve the crime.

Troels Hartmann is trying to become Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, when his campaign gets connected to the murder and his own activities come under scrutiny.

Theis and Pernille Birk Larsen, Nanna's parents, have to come to terms with the murder of their daughter... Their decisions will shape their lives and those of others.

The second season is set two years later and revolves around the Danish military. Lund, having been exiled to a passport control job, is called back to Copenhagen when Afghanistan veterans start getting bumped off in gruesome ways, creating a panic over Islamist terrorism. Meanwhile, new Justice Minister Thomas Buch is trying to get a new anti-terror bill through parliament, while trying to find out just what was going on with his ill predecessor.

In the third season, Lund is trying to get a less stressful administrative job in the police, but finds her old obsessions growing again when the discovery of a dead body by a dockside turns out to be the forerunner to the kidnapping of the young daughter of a shipping magnate, which appears to be connected to the rape and murder of a schoolgirl years before.

A massive hit in Denmark (a third of the population turned in for the first season finale and the second half of the season was brought forward), when shown in the UK on BBC4, got rave reviews, huge audiences for the channel and won the 2011 International BAFTA. It has become a Trope Codifier of the Nordic Noir genre and combined with Engrenages opened the floodgates for subtitled shows in the British market.

This show contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: The scene where Sarah holds a skull in an Afghan house. It is clearly that of a child and has a prominent bullet hole in it
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Lund's mother turns up at the police station to talk in front of Lund's colleagues about her student love life and how her son doesn't want her in his life.
  • Big Bad Friend: Vagn. And Strange. And Reinhardt. The show likes this. Then subverted with Borch, who is hiding things but genuinely trying to help.
  • Big Eater: Meyer is frequently seen stuffing his face, usually with junk food. Ditto Buch.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: On Strange in the second season, and unsuccessfully on Reinhardt in the third.
  • Broken Bird: Lund, by season three.
  • Bullet Proof Vest: Utilized by Lund in the ending of the second season.
  • Children Are Innocent: Emil and Anton in Season One.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: the main killers in all seasons are into this.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Gilsfort, who gave Reinhardt an alibi for the time of Louise Hjelby's murder so the investigation wouldn't reflect badly on Zeeland corporation. He's entirely indifferent to if Reinhardt is guilty or not.
  • Crusading Widower: deconstructed with Theis - his attempts to avenge Nanna's death are depicted as catastrophic mistakes. Also, the kidnapper in the third season appears to be trying to avenge the murder of his daughter.
  • Da Chief
  • Defective Detective: Lund is a great detective but a rather emotionally constipated person, even before the events of the series pile on the emotional trauma.
  • Detective Mole: In the second season, Strange, Lund's new sidekick, is the killer.
  • The Determinator: Lund will do pretty much anything to solve a case, often putting herself in a lot of danger to do so.
  • Exposition Victim: Lund ends the second season by baiting Strange into shooting her, but reveals herself to have been wearing a bullet-proof vest.
  • External Combustion: with a boat, rather than a car
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Lund and Meyer slowly head in this direction over the course of the first season. Tragically, he is killed just when it looks like they might be getting there.
  • First-Name Basis: Borch calls Lund "Sarah" because they had a relationship years ago.
  • Hot for Teacher: The first season is complicated by the victim's sexual attraction to one of her teachers, which was shared by other girls as well.
  • Iconic Outfit: Lund's Faroese sweater in the first season. The Radio Times promoted the second season in the UK with a knitting pattern.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Turns up in both seasons, but by amateurs, not the cops.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Reinhardt, by Lund herself.
  • Knight Templar Parent: The kidnapper in Season 3 is a father trying to solve and avenge his daughter's murder, which was covered up and declared a suicide. He kills several people involved in the cover-up and is prepared to murder an innocent nine-year-old to make her father suffer, but changes his plan to only using her as a hostage when doubts are raised about her father's role.
  • Last Name Basis: Lund and Meyer. It becomes a plot point when Lund is accused of shooting Meyer, because, as she points out, if he was going to use his last words to accuse her, he we wouldn't do so by calling her "Sarah".
  • Let Off by the Detective: Borch tries to do this for Lund after she kills Reinhardt, but quickly realizes there's no story they can give that will be accepted and instead helps her escape the country.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lund often wears the same clothes three or four days straight. Justified because she gets so engrossed in cases that she just doesn't have time to change.
  • Man on Fire: One of the disabled veterans in the second season is gruesomely burned to death in his wheelchair.
  • Married to the Job: Lund doesn't have much time for romance or family. That's not to say that she doesn't try, but she often screws it up by walking out on or ignoring them because she is so focused on a new lead.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Subverted with Lund in season three; after sleeping with Borch, she wakes up with the sheet pulled up to her chest, then leaves it behind in her hurry to get up.
  • New Old Flame: Lund and Borch used to be a couple back when they were in school.
  • No Badass to His Valet: The scene when Lund meets Meyer's wife for the first time says it all, really.
  • No Hero to His Valet
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Buch, thrown into the ministry to sink or swim, keeps suspecting his new aides of being this and secretly betraying him in his quest for truth. At the very end, it's he who betrays them.
  • Oh Crap!: Lund has one of these late in season one, when she's alone in a house with a man who has previously been eliminated as a suspect, and looking at the design on his sweatshirt she realises, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he's the killer—and then she realises that he's just worked out what she's thinking.
    • Repeated with double the threat in the third season: Lund comes across evidence that makes it blatantly clear that the man who she's alone with is probably the man who raped and murdered a teenage girl, at which point the girl's Axe Crazy father turns up looking for vengeance having come to the same conclusion.
  • Papa Wolf: Robert Zeuthen
  • Perpetual Frowner: Lund
  • Pocket Protector: An inversion of this costs Jan Meyer their life.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In the very first episode, Vagn is seen calling a man "Paki", and later repeats racial slurs when Theis is beating Kemal, and in the final episode during his Motive Rant he reveals he killed and raped Nanna because he had a crush on her, and he couldn't stand the thought that she loved a Middle-eastern man instead of him.
  • Poisonous Friend: Morten to Hartmann in the first season, and Kristian to the Prime Minister in the third. Vagn appears to be this to Theis in the first, but is actually trying to stir things up to distract from his own guilt.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: All three seasons. Lund always solves the crime, but in season one the murderer is then murdered by the victim's father, who'll go to prison for it; in season two Lund's partner, who she was starting to fall in love with, turns out to be the Big Bad and she's forced to kill him; in season three the kidnapped girl is found alive, but the real Big Bad escapes justice until Lund herself murders him and has to flee the country, leaving behind her One True Love and the newborn granddaughter she'll probably never get to meet.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Brix, for the most part.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After the foul-up of the first season, Lund is demoted and packed off to do passport control in a remote Danish port.
  • Refusal of the Call: Lund blows off the investigation of the docks corpse at the beginning of the third season, and then is blamed by others and herself for not investigating more closely and possibly preventing the kidnapping.
  • Revenge by Proxy: The motivation behind Emilie Zeuthen's kidnapping. It was originally planned to end with her being murdered in front of her father before doubts were raised if the target was actually guilt; he still doesn't let her go, though.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Whether Vagn was really a Serial Killer, or whether he was only guilty of the first murder linked to him in addition to those in the main action.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Lund's sidekick Meyer is killed towards the end of the first season.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Raben in the second season.
  • Sleazy Politician: Given the number of political characters with conflicting agendas, this trope is frequently played with. Morten and Mogens are the clearest straight examples, while Hartmann, Buch and Kristian Kamper double-subvert it.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Strange is trying to cover up an atrocity he committed while a military officer in Afghanistan.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Meyer doesn't die in the novelisation of the first series, though he is left paralysed for life.
  • Spice Up the Subtitles: The official English subtitles for the first season translated practically every Danish profanity as some form of "fuck" regardless of how mild or extreme it was, leading to complaints from Danish speakers.
  • The Stoic: Lund. Deconstructed in that it's not that she's so good at controlling her emotions but because she runs from her feelings.
  • Sweater Girl: Lund is usually seen wearing distinctive Faroese sweaters, although they do not have the tight fit and Male Gaze appeal usually associated with this trope.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Lund becomes one by killing Reinhardt
  • Take Me Instead: The kidnapper in the third season finally challenges Zeuthen to hand himself over in exchange for his daughter, with the implication that this was always his objective.
  • The Unfettered: Have you murdered someone? Are you Danish? You lose! Lund will find you out, she will make you pay, and she will sacrifice friends, family, colleagues, bosses, her sleep, her happiness, her government, her health, her career and her freedom to get it done. Particularly striking because virtually everybody else eventually sells out, often at the eleventh hour.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Lund's preferred hairstyle.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Happens a lot to Lund.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: The second season introduces a tough survivalist ex-soldier woman, who gets murdered the following episode.
  • Vigilante Execution: Lund ends the final season by murdering Reinhardt after he outright taunts her with the possibility that he'll rape and murder another teenage girl
  • What You Are in the Dark: The show likes this trope. Several characters are put in situations in which they can have everything they wanted if they let a cover-up stand but stand to lose it all if they do the right thing. Hartmann, Buch, Kristian Kamper, and to a lesser degree Robert Zeuthen, eventually fail after passing earlier tests. Lund passes, if you count shooting a rapist-murderer in cold blood as doing the right thing.
  • Wild Teen Party: An out-of-control high school party causes some confusion in the investigation of the first season.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: One scene in Season One has Theis being mugged by a gang of teenagers- he grabs one and goes to punch him when he discovers, to his shock, it's a girl. His hesitation gives them a chance to finish robbing him and run.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Averted to a degree with Raben in the second season.
  • Yandere: Vagn, as it turns out.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: The killing of Emilie in the third season, although it turned out that her kidnapper faked her murder.