COVER STORY:As the third and final series of the Danish crime thriller The Killing approaches, will its lead detective Sarah Lund retain her role as one of the greatest female characters ever created, asks EMMA KENNEDY
Why do we love The Killing? Series three of the Danish crime thriller returns next weekend and it’s going to be the last outing for Sarah Lund. We shall never see her again.
The Killing was always intended as a trilogy and what becomes most obvious, on watching series three, is that the cases Lund solves are the sideshow. The Killing is the story of Sarah Lund, played by Sofie Grabol.
Series three opens with Lund hoping for a desk job. She’s been in the force for 25 years, has bought herself a house and wants to wind down her police work so that she can have one last crack at happiness before life passes her by. But with the child of a high-profile industrialist kidnapped, Lund is thrust back into an all-consuming world from which she longs to escape.
It’s a hard watch. For those who, like me, have grown to love this complicated woman, there are moments in series three that will make your heart break: her failed relationships with her family, her loneliness, how far away she seems from that very first episode in series one where we see Lund laughing and looking forward to a new life.
I shall say no more, for fear of spoilers, but what has struck me most, watching this final series, is how affected I have been by a woman who doesn’t exist. And this is The Killing’s success. Oh Sarah Lund. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .
When we first see Lund in series one she’s in transition. She’s about to leave her job and her home and pack herself off to Sweden where a new life awaits her with her criminologist boyfriend. She laughs, wears a toy Viking helmet complete with fake blonde plaits at her leaving party and then empties her desk into a cardboard box and that, we believe, is supposed to be that.
But then a girl’s body turns up in the boot of a submerged car and suddenly, Lund can’t go to Sweden. She has to stay and do her job. And that, very simply, is the secret to Lund.
Here is a woman whom nobody wants around. She has a reluctant partner who can’t wait to be shot of her and a boyfriend who would prefer she turn her attention to picking wood for a sauna rather than getting to the bottom to an unpleasant murder. Her mother, exasperated, longs for her daughter to be the compliant girlfriend, her son wishes his mother could remember the first thing about him, but Lund fends them all off with nothing more than silent stares. She has a job to do and do it she will.
Why on earth should we be drawn to a woman who’s so hell-bent on going against the grain? There’s a scene in series one in which Lund’s boyfriend turns up at her office and tells her to stop doing her job, pack it all in and hurry up and follow him to wherever he wants to go. She ignores him, gloriously so, and it’s at that moment that all women of the world should have stood up and applauded. Lund is allowed to behave like a man and that, simply of itself, is radical and revolutionary.