The killing: from Dublin gangland to the American 'Homeland'


TELEVISION:Spoiler alert for fans of ‘Love/Hate’, ‘The Killing’ and ‘Homeland’ – but then again, what are you waiting for?

Apologies to those who have recorded the final episodes of Love/Hate (RTÉ One, Sunday), The Killing (BBC Four, Saturday) and Homeland (RTÉ Two, Tuesday) to watch over Christmas, because this is going to be one big spoiler.

On second thoughts, I take back that apology, because what’s the matter with you if, after weeks of following these tense, top-class telly dramas, you couldn’t find a couple of hours to see how they ended? I couldn’t have gone one more minute without knowing how The Killing turned out.

The final episode of Love/Hate felt like a midseason series hiatus, not a finale, and it ended like the last series, with the best-looking crim getting shot. To save himself, Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) shopped Darren (Robert Sheehan) to the republican crime boss (a menacing Seán McGinley).

It was a brilliantly acted, compelling, claustrophobic scene, but choosing Darren out of all his henchmen to take the blame seemed an unlikely ending in what was a disappointingly slight, simple big-crim-seeks-and-gets-retribution plot.

It felt inconsistent with Nidge’s crafty character and his reliance on Darren throughout the series. The episode, like the series, belonged to Vaughan-Lawlor. His vacillation between his usual kingpin swagger and his terror during his meeting with the republicans in Dundalk was riveting , as was his realisation that he is now owned by them and that the life he had known is over. You’d nearly feel sorry for him – if you could forget the scene in a previous episode in which he bludgeoned Tommy into brain damage with a golf club, quite the most vicious thing I’ve seen on TV this year.

Love/Hate is masterful in its depiction of gangland Dublin, it pulses with energy and a gritty realism we haven’t seen before, and it showed a level of violence that was breathtaking in its intensity – made all the more disturbing because the newspaper headlines during the course of this short series gave a truth to the writing. And it’s made with such skill and technical smarts that it’s not surprising it has been sold abroad.

Series three also showed a confidence in the writing (by Stuart Carolan) and direction (by David Caffrey) that was missing in the first series, which was stuck between not quite knowing whether to glamorise or demonise Dublin’s gangland.

But the women characters – and Love/Hate features some of our best young female actors – were sorely underwritten. Any time they were given even a scrap of something to do they grabbed it and held the screen, Nidge’s wife, Trish (Aoibhinn McGinnity), comforting him in her own confusion in their bedroom as he broke down being an example.

And in Susan Loughnane, as Debbie, Love/Hate featured the most attractive smackhead TV prostitute – seen mostly writhing around on a bed in her pretty underwear for reasons that seemed, like most of the many graphic sex scenes, pointless in terms of plot or character and, given the sheer confidence of the rest of the production, disappointing in an “ooh, guess what we’re getting away with showing on RTÉ” sort of way. Class drama, though.

Killer finale for Sarah Lund

There was nothing midseries about the Danish drama The Killing III, my TV drama of the year. It was definitely a finale. Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl), one of the most mesmerising female characters on TV, a dedicated cop who had messed up all the close relationships in her life and whose face was a study in stern detachment, finally had happiness in her reach.

In this complexly plotted series she became a grandmother; had renewed contact with her son, his girlfriend and their baby; and agreed to let Borch, the special-branch man whom she had ditched many years before, move in with her. And she was about to solve, through persistence and unshowy ingenuity, the murder of the teenage girl, the case that was at the heart of the kidnap plot.

And then, while waiting on the tarmac to fly back to Copenhagen with Borch and her prime suspect, Reinhardt, in a twist that was as bleak as it was surprising, she shot the suspect after he calmly admitted the killing and suggested there were others. Classic Scandi noir where the bleakness at the heart seeps to the surface and ultimately leeches into every act.

Lund has been a tenacious, almost mechanical upholder of the law until now, making her vigilante moment all the more shocking. But she knew that, with his political and corporate contacts, Reinhardt would be shielded and there would be no justice. Not that anyone said that, of course: part of The Killing’s strength was its spare dialogue, trusting viewers to fill in the blanks. A panicked Borch convinced her to take the aircraft (and her without even a spare jumper) and go on the run.

The many loose ends were satisfyingly tied up, including the kidnapped child returned to her parents and the kidnapper killed, and in the parallel political plot – which was at times difficult to follow or make much sense of – the prime minister was elected and revealed his true nature as a weak man, motivated not by ideals, as we had been led to believe, but by the power that politics and his corporate connections gave him. In a nice twist, it was his spin doctor, Karen, who tried and failed to make him do the right thing and go to the police with crucial evidence.

A measure of redemption for Homeland

There was an explosive ending to Homeland, and not just the bomb – though I didn’t see that coming. The take-your-breath-away shock was that it was a really strong episode, almost as if it had strayed in from the tense and clever first series, and that this second series, which ricocheted between boring and outlandish, was just a dream, on a par with Bobby in the shower. A bomb in Brody’s jeep exploded in the CIA compound, killing 200, including, thankfully, David Estes, the counterterrorism chief, who brought nothing to the party but his distracting pixie ears and hangdog expression. The Brody confession tape from series one was released, and he’s now public enemy number one.

Saul (Mandy Patinkin, the star of series three) and Carrie (Claire Danes) are reunited and are top dogs in the CIA: he doesn’t know that Carrie helped Brody (Damian Lewis) escape. Her mission in the next series will be to prove his innocence – a reverse quest compared with series one – though exactly what he’ll be doing roving around Newfoundland or wherever, like a ginger Richard Kimble, is not clear.

For all the dodgy acting from the leads – Danes gets criticised endlessly for her eye-rolling, lip-trembling thing, but Lewis, who’s mostly rigid, like an Action Man doll, is almost as ridiculous – the set-up bodes well for series three.

One to Watch Hitchcock, master of misogynyThe Girl (BBC Two, St Stephen’s Day) dramatises the fraught, damaging relationship between the actor Tippi Hedren and the director Alfred Hitchcock during the making of The Birds and Marnie.

Hitch (played in a fantastic performance by Toby Young) is a terrifying creation, a full-on sadistic misogynist in no way redeemed by his creative brilliance.

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