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Series: The Killing
Det. Sarah Linden and her partner Stephen Holder.

The Danish original is under Forbrydelsen. If your moody sweater-wearing detective has black hair, follow the link.

The Killing is an American crime drama airing on AMC based on the Danish series Forbrydelsen (literally translates The Crime but marketed to English-speaking territories as The Killing). Each arc focuses on one crime with each episode devoted to one day in the investigation. Set in Seattle, Washington, the first arc (broken into two half-seasons) focuses on the murder of Rosie Larsen, from three different perspectives:

Detective Sarah Linden was about to move to San Francisco, but the grisly crime persuades her to stick around and solve it herself, accompanied by her would-be replacement, Stephen Holder.

Rosie's parents, Stanley and Mitch, try to move on with their lives to the best of their ability, but it's far easier said than done.

Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond makes the case an important part of his campaign, declaring that this kind of crime will not happen on his watch. But along with the tactic comes struggles with his conscience over exploiting the tragedy.


The Killing provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 555
  • Actor Allusion: A character that interacts with Holder in season 3 looks conspicuously like Lizbeth Salander. Joel Kinnaman (Holder) had a silent cameo in the American adaptation of the first book.
  • Adult Fear: Trusting your seventeen year old daughter to be safe staying with friends for a weekend away, only to come back and be told she's missing and then finding out she's dead.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Linden with the Pied Piper, a.k.a. her ex-partner and lover, Skinner in the season 3 finale.
  • Artistic License - Geography
    • The Blue Moon bar is a real place, as mentioned below (See Did The Research), but it's in Seattle, not Tukwila.
    • Wapi Casino island: Is it Whidbey or Bainbridge? The detectives point to Whidbey on the map in one important scene, but the rest of the indications point to Bainbridge.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Jamie asks the doctor how he's going to tell Richmond that he's paralyzed from the waist down, the doctor calmly states that the patients usually tend to notice pretty quickly.
  • Bottle Episode: "Missing" and "Six Minutes".
  • Butch Lesbian
    • Chief Jackson and her security chief.
    • Bullet in the third season.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Linden's fiancee. Their relationship collapses in the first season. In the second, it's revealed that he was Linden's therapist, and he returns to Seattle to get her out of the psych ward.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Linden held hostage in the car with Pastor Mike in "Try" in Season 3. He's got a gun and already told her not to smoke but she really, REALLY needs one.
  • Cliffhanger: Each episode tends to end on the revelation of a dramatic new lead.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Several characters point out that Linden is neglecting her own child, leaving him alone for extended periods of time, while she's busy trying to solve the murder of someone else's child.
  • Continuity Nod: In Season 2's "Eminent Domain", Holder briefly mentions "Mayor Richmond's waterfront", which was a plot point in Season 1.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: People close to Linden are routinely bringing up events in her life and past cases which hint that they have a reason to worry about her getting too involved in the Larsen case. The case becomes important in season 3.
  • Da Chief:Lt. Michael Oakes
  • Did The Research: Jasper says that during the night of the crime, he was at a bar called the Blue Moon in Tukwila. There actually is a Blue Moon Tavern in Washington.
  • Domestic Abuser: Chief Jackson is eventually revealed as such, among other unpleasant characteristics.
  • Downer Ending: Season 3.
  • Driving Question: Who killed Rosie Larsen?
  • Faux Affably Evil: Janek seems like a very reasonable authority figure at first, especially for a criminal boss, but it's soon revealed as a front for a sneaky Manipulative Bastard.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Rosie Larsen dies.
  • Foregone Conclusion
  • Functional Addict: Kris, the resident drug dealer, hints that Holder might be a junkie as well. The only reason he qualifies as this is that they have yet to show him do drugs on-screen. Turns out the reason for that is that he's a functional ex-addict. He's been in a Narcotics Anonymous program for six months.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Rosie's mother Mitch (short for Michelle), and her friend Sterling. Also Reggie, Linden's houseboat-dwelling female friend.
  • Going by the Matchbook: A variation; one of the casino workers hands Holder a matchbook from her father's barbershop with a date and time scribbled in it, as a subtle way of arranging a meeting in a safe place.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Linden and Holder. Lampshaded.
  • Graceful Loser: After a bitter and amazingly dirty, no punches pulled election, when Mayor Adams loses he concedes gracefully, complete with kind words for Richmond about what a potentially great leader Richmond is.
  • Grey Rain Of Depression: A given in Seattle.
  • Ivy League For Everyone: Councilman Richmond and his late wife met at Dartmouth.
  • Lady Macbeth: Mitch to Stan which lands him in jail when she pushes him to pursue Ahmed after the police let him go.
  • Last Name Basis: Linden and Holder.
  • Magical Native American: So very averted.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed. Her racist family doesn't approve.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: An imam notes that the cops are looking a lot harder for Rosie Larsen's killer than for a missing Muslim girl. Possibly justified by Linden's Mysterious Past and the fact that Linden is a homicide detective, meaning a girl who is only classified as missing wouldn't fall under her caseload, regardless of her ethnicity.
  • The Mole: There is one in Richmond's campaign. Also Holder, but he turned out to be a subversion when it was revealed that he had no idea that the photo implicating Richmond was fake.
  • Motivational Lie: Both of Richmond's top aides, Jamie and Gwen, use this at different points when Richmond's morale is low. When Richmond is depressed about being paralyzed, Jamie tells the inspiring story of his grandfather Ted, and how he stoically carried on after losing his leg in a work accident. In the second season's final episode, it's revealed to be something Jamie made up. When Richmond is despairing about his chances in the election, Gwen brings him a video that a random person created and uploaded to youtube, celebrating Richmond. She uses this as proof of how much people believe in him and are pulling for him to win. The end of the episode reveals that she paid the video's creator to make it.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: There have been hints that Linden sees the case this way. The main driving force for Linden through season 3.
  • Not So Stoic
    • Linden flips her lid when Holder gets attacked on the Indian reservation and her boss won't authorize a search party. The episode is titled "Off the Reservation", intelligence slang for "going rogue".
    • When she breaks down crying after she believes her son has gone missing definitely qualifies.
    • Linden had an affair with her ex-partner, Skinner.
  • Put on a Bus: Lindens son jack in season 3.
  • Rasputinian Death: The eponymous killing, which even ends in drowning.
  • Red Herring: Too many to count.
    • The first season is just an endless string of these. Somewhat deconstructed — following up on all these false leads causes severe consequences for many people, and the Chief puts them on a much shorter leash after all their mistakes.
    • Quite a few pop up in season 3 as well; one is a pedophile scumbag vut not the killer, another was a well-intentioned ex-priest who wanted to keep helping poor children despite having been falsely accused — and found guilty — of sexually abusing a girl he was trying to help, and the last was just a disaffected, pretty lazy cop.
  • The Remake: Of a smash-hit Danish show. Some scenes are pretty much identical to the original.
  • Remake Cameo: Sofie Gråbøl appeared in series 2.
  • Retirony: A non-fatal version; Linden is about to leave for California the day the Rosie Larson case begins.
  • Reverse Mole: Jamie for the Richmond campaign.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Bullet and Ray Seward in season 3.
  • Scary Minority Suspect: The Somali teacher.
  • Seattle: The race for mayor is a major plot point.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Holder and a fellow officer are hotly debating whether or not hamburger pickles count as vegetables when Belko tries to break out of confinement with a gun and takes a hostage.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Janek seems fond of this line.
  • Shoot the Dog: Jamie seems to see this as his big role in Richmond's campaign. He does the dirty but necessary things that Richmond can't or won't, either because Richmond's morals won't let him, or because it would be possible bad publicity.
  • Sleazy Politician
    • Richmond zigzags on this trope as the series progresses, ultimately getting charges of obstruction of justice dropped against allies who were closely involved in the Larsen affair. His aide Jamie mostly tries to keep the excesses of his sleazy exploits out of his boss's knowledge, because (a) he wouldn't like them and (b) they might tarnish Richmond's own reputation.
    • The incumbent mayor is (at least behind closed doors) unapologetic about being one of these; his lowest blow involves framing Richmond for the murder by tampering with evidence.
  • The Stoic: Linden
  • Sweater Girl: Linden! In fact wearing the same type of sweater as her Danish counterpart, Sarah Lund.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Linden/Holder.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Poor Jamie.
    • Linden in "The Road to Hamelin" when the full weight of Skinner's crimes hits her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mitch starts to give Stan one for attacking Bennett, only for him to turn it around on her, reminding her that she very much pushed him into it.
  • You Just Told Me: How Linden tricks Richmond into revealing that he had someone watching them while they were investigating the school.


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