Guest Blog-The Killing: Why the Season Long Arc Works So Well

Since the premiere of the Danish ‘The Killing,’ there has been a strong interest in serialised crime shows, focusing on a single case that is investigated throughout the course of the season. Given that ‘The Killing’ is a US remake of the show, it is no surprise it also adopts the serialised form, opposing the episodic structure that has become the archetype of American crime dramas, such as the case with CSI and Criminal Minds. This works impressively well for the show, and it allows the writers and actors to explore themes that wouldn’t be able to be addressed if there was a different case per week. I personally believe that being a serialised crime drama is a large part of what makes ‘The Killing’ so entertaining to watch.

For me, the best thing about ‘The Killing’ having a season-long arc is the possibilities is opens up for character development, not only of the complexly crafted detectives Linden and Holder, but also for the families of the victims affected by the crime. As previously discussed in the blog post by @teamforbes, the character of Mitch Larsen is an absolute joy to watch develop (or should we say breakdown?) over the course of the first two seasons. This close investigation into her character, and of the impact the death of a family member has on a person wouldn’t be possible in a case-per week based show, and for me this is one of the key points of what makes ‘The Killing’ so interesting and unique. Not many shows in my opinion explore character development in such a nuanced way, and I watch a lot of television.

There are also aspects of the season long arc that are unique to ‘The Killing,’ and I find that those too help to increase the quality of the show. It follows the rough guide of each episode corresponding to one day of the investigation, and this allows for a consistent pace to the narrative; it helps avoid the show from becoming a bit slow in the middle – something that I find is one of the key challenges all shows face. I really liked this concept, it kept my interest in every episode and also allowed me to process what was happening with all the twists-and-turns in the show much more easily. For someone with an interest in crime dramas, but also wants to put their feet up when watching them, this is a key selling point for ‘The Killing.’

I also find that by allowing the writers more room to explore the case over the entire season, or two with the Rosie Larsen murder, it also allows the subplots of the season to be explored with greater clarity. In fact, in season one Missing pretty much focused entirely on finding Linden’s son Jack, giving viewers a greater insight into their family relationship and how Linden copes with being a mother. This is a strong point of the show, as it allows viewers to become more invested with the characters, and the journey that they are going through. This is especially true in the stunning 72 Hours, where we see Linden institutionalised when the Larsen case begins to weigh heavy on her. Mireille Enos’ performance is exceptional, and the prolonged, understated interviews with the psychiatrist are sublime to watch. These scenes, these performances, these psychological interrogations are what make ‘The Killing’ so utterly brilliant, and what sets it apart from pretty much any other crime drama on television.


I also think that it should be pointed out that ‘The Killing’ isn’t just about solving a crime. It has a much wider purpose to its episodes than having Linden and Holder simply investigating a case without much emotional involvement from the wider body of cast. The show explores the prolonged impact of death, and the social ramifications it has on those immediately affected by it, as well as those who feel the impact through a knock-on effect. This is done subtly, powerfully, and also extremely realistically. Watching the entire Larsen family deal with Rosie’s death was always incredible to watch, right down to the final moment with Terry’s shocking revelation in the finale. I have no doubt that as the show moves into season 3 and explores the theme of street-kids and death row, previously announced by showrunner Veena Sud, I will continue to be amazed by this aspect of the show. An aspect that is only successful due to the season long arc that the show follows.

All in all, what I’m trying to say is: watch ‘The Killing’! The format of the show is a breath of fresh air and a deviation from the episodic format of other crime dramas on television. I for one cannot wait to immerse myself back in rainy Seattle; it’s my ray of sunshine on a Sunday evening.


Connor is from Middlesbrough in England.  His interests include writing, reading, and running.  He is a massive fan of television, in particular crime dramas, and he is currently studying for a degree in English Literature and History with a keen interest in film analysis.  Follow him on Twitter: @ConnorBriggs

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