Archive for the ‘The Killing’ Category

Frost in Farringdon: Nordicana pics (belatedly)

July 16, 2013

Nordic Noir beat the drums and the fans came running to Nordicana. Yes, it was some time ago (15 June) but it’s summer so I’ve slowed to the pace of a glacier, melting. I’m not a convention-al person normally, but it was nice to goggle at beautiful actresses and taste some pomegranate cider (unexpectedly lite). Like you care: here are the pictures.





Pleased as paj

Pleased as paj

Sidse besides Radio Times' editor Ben Preston

Sidse besides Radio Times’ editor Ben Preston


Marie Askehave

Charlotte Jonsson

Charlotta Jonsson

Charlotta Jonsson: quelle cheekbones!

Charlotta Jonsson: quelle cheekbones!

Linda Wallander

Linda Wallander

Lars Knutzon

Lars Knutzon

Lovely Lars

Lovely Lars





There is Nothing Like A Dane

January 4, 2013

This article was originally published in the December 2012 edition of Diva magazine

It’s BAFTA 2012 and the Specialist Factual winner has just been announced. Its producer is flustered after being kissed by the award’s presenter. “And breathe…” she says, fanning herself. “I’ve got a bit of a girlcrush on Sofie,” she splutters. “And relax…” She’s just been handed the award by Sofie Gråbøl, aka Deputy Superintendent Sarah Lund in The Killing, which returned to BBC4 for a third series mid-November. Lund has that effect on women.

Lund (never, ever just “Sarah”) is lynchpin of the Danish drama, which, despite niche viewing figures, attracts countless obsessive followers who are fixated on the monomaniacal, unsmiling detective. Tickets for November’s Q&A with Gråbøl at the BFI sold out in under an hour and at the Scandinavia Show at Earl’s Court in October, people queued just to look at jumpers like those worn by her in the show.

Numerous women have a man-size girlcrush on her: Jennifer Saunders shoehorned a 50-second Lund cameo into AbFab’s Christmas special. The Duchess of Cornwall engineered three separate meetings with Gråbøl during a four-day state visit to Denmark. She has set social media’s hearts collectively a-thud: “HUGE girlcrush! STOP BEING SO DAMN GORGEOUS!”; “I am 99% hetero, but I believe that I am somewhat in love”; “I just started watching it with hubby and we’re addicted. I think she’s gorgeous!” There’s also a loyal lesbian following: Emma Kennedy has written The Killing Handbook; Stella Duffy mentioned being “a little in love with” with Lund. Val McDermid – who’s created several iconic crimefighters herself – is a fan: “She’s up there in the pantheon, she’s definitely well on the way to being a classic of the genre,” she says.

What does Lund have, then, that Scott or Bailey lack? After all, these are tough ’tecs too, with difficult jobs and complex lives. According to Radio Times’ Alison Graham (“I certainly have a slight crush on her”), Lund is magnetic because she is unlike any woman on television: “The convention of tough, female heroines is that they may be very clever at what they do but they’ve always got to have chaotic personal lives and they always have to go home and fall apart. Which she never did. She’s every woman who doesn’t drop to bits.”

Loving Lund means putting in hard work: plots are bleak, particularly series one, dealing with the ripple effect of the murder of a teenage girl. Episodes are long, subtitled, with little action and sparse dialogue. But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded by a character so intense she makes Frankie Alan seem like Amy Childs. (Incidentally, Gråbøl was playing characters who have sex in morgues when Frankie was still playing with Action Men.) 

It’s brooding intensity that lies at the core of her appeal. Tamsin, 30, says: “She’s so moody and inscrutable and that’s incredibly appealing.” 32-year-old Camilla agrees: “She’s complex. You never quite have her figured out, which makes her totally compelling.” For Jayne, 28, unpindownability is the key to her allure: “I read an interview in which [Gråbøl] said she made a conscious decision to ‘play her like a man’ in terms of her emotional detachment and non-reaction. That brings an interesting – even verging on gender-play – element to Lund, which is never a bad thing.” Lund is ostensibly heterosexual (she had a husband; there was a boyfriend; although relationships, not even with her own son, aren’t really her thing) but the way she talks, moves, dresses and compartmentalises her life, all resonate with lesbians. As McDermid says:That sort of difference, that being apart, speaks to the lesbian experience because for a lot of lesbians, that’s part of their early experience, being the outsider. I’m not alone, probably in seeing aspects of my own experience in Lund.”

McDermid also admires the fact that she’s “someone who’s clearly a ‘no shit’ figure”. She can stop planes, swagger into cellars or deserted abattoirs without hesitating – meaning she’s invariably shot at and knocked about the head with blunt instruments. McDermid says “she takes hold of a situation without a second thought, without a backward glance,” and, indeed, all the women I spoke found her fearlessness intoxicating. “She’s so gutsy and brave,” says Camilla, while for Jayne:  “She’s so competent and capable, she wouldn’t take any shit – and she looks like she could administer throw-down!”

So is Lund a superhero in chink-free armour? For Graham, she probably is: “We want her to be vulnerable because that’s what we want from women. But I’m not sure she is.” Yet for 23-year-old Bethany, she’s this extraordinary mix of incredibly stern and tough and no-nonsense while also being a bit of a mess.” Lund is played with such subtle strokes that any vulnerability is only ever whispered and it’s up to us to infer weakness from her Nicotinelle addiction, or softness from her sweater, which Bethany says ishot, because it’s sort of ridiculous. She’s so stern and unfrivolous that it’s cute she wears a semi-goofy jumper.” For McDermid the jumper is intrinsic to Lund’s lesbian appeal: “The jumpers [are] very lesbian.  You know, in the winter, your big thick jumper, because you’re going to go out and chop logs – or at least look like you’re chopping logs.”  Whichever way you look at it, the now iconic knitwear is etched in the national consciousness, appearing in everything from Vogue to Primark. If you’re currently sporting a Nordic-patterned anything, then be certain the hand of Lund is behind it.

A stony-faced cop in an adorable snowflake jumper is never going to be easy to put in a box so, while for McDermid “she’s on the side of the angels,” for Jayne “Lund epitomises the ultimate anti-heroine.” Watching the programme, you sense she may be concerned less with right vs wrong and more with always being in the right, and that she’s not a million miles from Patricia Highsmith’s Thomas Ripley. That character, also rather androgynous, has a steely determination for having his own way and –like Lund – woe betide anyone who gets in the way. In fact, Gråbøl herself recently said in a Danish interview:  “I’ve always felt […] she’s more associated with the perpetrator than the victim.”

We may find out more in series 3, which promises to focus on her private life, filling in gaps from her past: let’s just hope it doesn’t colour in all the blanks. What’s certain is that this series is the last. So what next for Lund? Everyone I spoke to want her to find happiness – they also agreed that this could only come through work. “If she gets all lovey-dovey then all the things that make Lund who she is would be made a mockery of,” says Jayne. Graham agrees we’ll never see Lund in The Great Danish Bake Off: “She’d let us all down if she moved to a cottage with Bengt [her boyfriend from series 1] and baked rye bread,”  while for Tamsin, “Lund would never settle for happily ever after.” McDermid believes “finding love and happiness would be terrible for her! It would undermine everything we know about her.”

So does that leave only one thing? Camilla says “If she gets killed off I’ll be devastated.” Of course, Lund being Lund, she could go out in a Butch-Cassidy-and-the-Sundance Kid-style blaze of glory, leaving us dangling on a string just wondering if that really is the end or if, just maybe…?

If you aren’t already addicted to Lund, this is your last chance to tune in. Trust me: you’ll never hold a flashlight the same way again. 

I think I’d like her to be happy: Alison Graham on the Lund effect

December 31, 2012

I spoke to a lot of interesting and knowledge people in the course of writing my article on the Lund effect. Alison Graham, TV Editor of the Radio Times, was high on the list of people I knew were essential to talk to  about The Killing. Not just because she’s a high-profile fan but because I also knew I could rely on her for an intelligent commentary and encyclopaedic telly knowledge. Naturally, she didn’t disappoint and her comments on social media, I think, are particularly perceptive.  Here’s our conversation in full.

Why do you love Sarah Lund?
I thought she was so different from your usual – not just police heroines  – but heroines, in that you never see a glimmer of flighty emotion from her. She doesn’t behave like a girly. You know the convention of tough, female heroines on telly – whether they’re cops or nurses or doctors or whatever – is that they might cope with their jobs brilliantly well and be very clever at what they do, but they’ve always got to have chaotic personal lives and they always have to go home and fall apart. Which she never did. She had a chaotic personal life but it didn’t really matter to her. She had a child and a relationship that never really went anywhere, but you felt she didn’t… care is the wrong word, but it wasn’t up there with the job. The job, and getting it done and finding out who killed [Nanna Birk Larsen] was the most important thing to her. She was so committed to that and to her job, and to doing the right thing for this victim.

What I’ve noticed is that so many women seem to be in love with her. Why do you think that is? Why does Lund have that effect?
She does yes. I certainly have a slight crush on her. It’s so hard to explain. It’s for all those things that I’ve just said: she is every woman who doesn’t drop to bits. She is a great heroine for every woman like me and probably you and a lot of other women who don’t sort of drop to bits when they go home, even if things go wrong. They don’t fall apart and they’re committed to what they do. She’s so strong and she doesn’t feel she has to apologise for being strong. And she doesn’t behave like a woman’s expected to behave on telly. She’s got that scruffy old jumper that she wears for the whole duration of the investigation and her hair’s scruffy. She doesn’t feel the need to put on little heels and skirts. She doesn’t do any of that. It must be quite liberating. It’s quite liberating to watch her in a way: there’s no vanity. She doesn’t have any vanity and she just doesn’t care.  She doesn’t behave as people expect her to because she’s a woman.

Do you think she’s vulnerable beneath that brave exterior?
I don’t know if she is really. It’s hard to tell because she’s so closed up; she doesn’t give anything away. I can’t even think of when we saw her as being particularly vulnerable. We saw her let her guard down a little bit when she had that faintly flirty dinner with Troels Hartmann early in the first series, but it was sort of nothing and even then we thought she was only trying to get to know him because she thought he’d killed Nanna Birk Larsen. I think we want her to be vulnerable because that’s what we want from women but I’m not sure that she is.

You’ve got vast knowledge of TV characters. Have you ever seen another character have this effect on women?
No, not to that degree anyway. The only character who comes close – and she’s still a long way off – is Jane Tennison, who again was strong and did what she did. But she was the one who went home and got horribly drunk because she was so unhappy and she fell apart as soon as she got into her flat. She was desperate, flawed and lonely but she was tough during the day, and she was vulnerable too. But no, I’ve known nothing [like this].

I think the thing you’ve got to remember, too, is that The Killing came along in the era of Twitter and Facebook and instant reaction. Once word of mouth gets out there, it just gets bigger and bigger, and becomes the big talking point, because it’s easy. You know, we can all immediately go on Twitter and go: “isn’t she marvellous? We love her!” So it was perfect, she came along at just the right time, because technology allows the flourishing of these kinds of crushes now and we can all chat to each other about it.

So, do you think Twitter invented the girlcrush?
I don’t think it created it but I think it facilitated that sort of fandom. Quite sensible people don’t feel at all shy about going on Twitter and going “ooh, I have a crush on her!”

Series 3 of The Killing will be the last one, we’re assured. How should it end for Lund? What would you like to happen to her?
I don’t really know. I think it’s good that it’s ending. I think it’s quite right that she’s not going on and on and on. I do like things that end slightly before their time – I think that’s actually a good idea. I think I’d like her to be happy. I would like her to be happy but I’d like her to be still working, still doing what she’s doing still with her ideals intact. Because she doesn’t compromise: that’s one of the other things I really like about her. She doesn’t give any quarter – she believes in something. I hope that she would stay the same, that she’d still be the Lund that we first knew, however many years ago: still clever and still focused and still doing what she is driven to do. I don’t want to see her settled in a little cottage. I want to see her in that jumper, still looking a bit scruffy, still doing what she was born to do, what she loves. She’d let us all down if she moved to a tiny cottage with Bengt and baked scones or rye bread.

Do you think she can ever be happy, though?
I don’t think it matters really. I think in her own dark, emotionally closed down way she is happy, because she does her job. You know, one of the great things about her is that she’s a woman who loves her job. It’s a really difficult job and she loves it, and it’s what she does. It’s what she is to the exclusion of so much else. I’m not saying that’s completely ideal but I think it’s admirable to see that in a female character. She’s not always weeping, she keeps a lid on it and she doesn’t go home and drop to bits.

She’s on the side of the angels: Val McDermid on Lund & The Killing

December 22, 2012

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to have a very interesting conversation with Val McDermid about Sarah Lund and The Killing. I caught her before she gave a reading from her new book, Vanishing Point, at Bristol Central Library for a piece I was writing for Diva Magazine. Word count restrictions meant that, sadly, I was only able to use a few quotes from our conversation but I think what Val said was fascinating and it deserves reading in full. So here it is. The interview was conducted, of course, when we were innocents, long before we knew anything about what would happen to Lund in the third and final series.

You’re a well-known fan of The Killing – why do you love Lund?
I love her tenacity and her doggedness and her refusal to be palmed off, and her refusal to be seduced by the surface glamour of things. The whole political side of it is very glamorous and very exciting, and here there and yon and she’s like completely like “so?” I think the refusal to take anything at face value is the admirable thing about her as a character.

I found it quite interesting in the second series, there was a moment when she was taken to the crime scene and it just struck me that the way she was reading the crime scene is not the way your average cop reads a crime scene. To me, it had lots of echoes of the way Tony Hill reads a crime scene: you’re coming at it entirely from the position of inside the killer’s head. Why these things are the shape they are, why are things disarrayed in this particular way, what’s happened here…  it’s that sort of difference, that being apart, that separateness I suppose that probably also speaks to the lesbian experience, if you like.

I think one of the reasons why the whole lesbian crime fiction started in the first place was the sense of the lesbian as an outsider, very much in the American tradition of the maverick who walks alone. For a lot of lesbians, that’s part of their early experience, being the outsider, so it’s a genre which suits us particularly well. I’m not alone, probably, in seeing aspects of my own experience in Sarah Lund. I think we’ve all got a Sarah Lund in our past, we’ve all got a fucked-up, emotionally unavailable woman who we’ve fallen in love with, who has then just gone through out lives like a forest fire leaving scorched earth behind it.  You’d just have to feel so. This is a woman whose focus is elsewhere.

Lund seems to have a very particular effect on, well, all women really but lesbians in particular. Why do you think that is?
I think partly it’s the jumpers. It’s very lesbian-wear, you know, in the winter, your big thick jumper, because you’re going to go out and chop logs – or at least look like you’re chopping logs.

When you interviewed Sofie Gråbøl for the Culture Show, you said that Lund is an aspirational character. Why do you think that?
I think we’d all like to have that ability to see something through to the end and not be diverted by all the flimflam in the way. I think that notion of determining that you’re going to go for something and you go straight for it, I think that’s something more of us need to do I think: have a very clear idea of what we want to go for and just go for it.

And to just hang the phone up and walk off…
Yeah. We need to do a lot more of that kind of thing. Something happened the other day and I said to my wife, I’m just far too polite! It’s not a word people normally associate with me but in this particular instance I was polite to someone and, really, there were several things I could have – should have – said and I just didn’t. I thought, if I can’t do it, then what chance has the rest of the world got? Because I can be Bolshie at times. Sarah Lund wouldn’t have stood for it. She’d just have been ‘you’re full of shit’.

This phenomenon of the girlcrush (for example, the producer who announced she had one on her, at the BAFTAs). What do you make of that? Lund seems to affect straight women in a way I haven’t ever seen with other characters on television.
Given that sexuality is a continuum, the notion that all these straight women are going to find somebody attractive somewhere down the line. They’re going to have a girlcrush and I suspect that someone who’s clearly a no-shit figure, who has that determination and who blows every body else off that gets between her and her goal is quite an attractive figure if you’re going to have a girlcrush to go for.

Possibly another reason she’s so attractive is that there’s a real air of ambiguity around her, including in terms of gender. She’s very androgynous. She occupies the middle ground.
I think some of the ownership she takes of the situation without a second thought, without a backward glance, most people would perceive as a male characteristic, particularly in the workplace. We do tend to defer and that’s a word that doesn’t quite work in the same sentence as Sarah Lund. So I think all of those are the things we wish we could do in the fleeting moment, but we never quite manage it. Like the things we think of three days later which we should have said and even if we’d thought of them at the time, we probably wouldn’t have had the balls to say them. And it’s quite interesting when people do actually do that in the workplace and do the equivalent of putting the phone down, people talk about it for years. It’s extraordinary. We don’t do this often enough; it’s not about being aggressive. It’s about responding in a way a guy would respond without actually thinking about it and the world won’t end if we do it. She takes agency. She takes it upon herself to do it, but she doesn’t do it in a way that makes you think: ‘look! I’m making a statement.’ It’s completely ‘this is how I am, take it or leave it’. She doesn’t court favour from anyone, not even her own kid. We’re all in thrall to her children, she’s not!

Do you think she’s a Good Cop or Bad Cop?
I don’t think she’s corrupt.

What about in terms of moral ambiguity? I see Lund as something of a Thomas Ripley character, less concerned with right and wrong, more concerned with her being in the right.
I think there is an absolute conviction of right and wrong. I think she’s on the side of the angels, whereas Ripley’s entirely on the side of himself. I don’t think Sarah Lund does things because they’re in her self-interest – I think she does things because she’s absolutely certain they are the right thing. I suppose in that sense, the trouble would come if she thinks the right thing is in direct conflict with what her colleagues or her organisation needs her to do. She’d have been a very inconvenient cop if she’d been in South Yorkshire police during the time of Hillsborough, because she’d have just gone round saying ‘that’s not how it was’. So she’s not corruptible in that way, she’s not interested in her own best interests because, if she was interested in her own best interests, she wouldn’t be policing a ferry crossing somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I think she really doesn’t care about herself.

So you think she could never go over to the dark side?
No, because it wouldn’t interest her. What would be the point? There would be no point in it for her. I think people have said she has elements of the autistic personality and I think that is one of the areas where it does come through. Absolutely I think she has a moral compass and that steers her.

You know a lot about iconic female detectives, having created a fair few yourself. Where do you think Lund stands in the canon?
She’s up there in the pantheon. She’s definitely well on the way to being a classic of the genre. She’s a sort of Helen Mirren de nos jours, but in a very different way, I think Helen Mirren’s [character Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect] another one that provokes girlcrushes, in the same kind of way. She takes power, she takes what she needs to do the job she needs to do. It’s understandable that Linda La Plante steers her down the path of having a drink problem and this lonely old age: there’s an authenticity in that, but I was disappointed at the same time. I wanted her to go, invincible, into the far distance…

Do you think that Lund will ever be happy?
I think she can be quite content when she works things out and everything’s sorted, but I don’t think she weighs her life in those sorts of terms. I think she weighs her life in terms of ‘did I do the right thing?’ I think she feels terrible guilt over Meyer and I think she carries that with her. Those burdens make it hard to have an uncomplicated happiness. It’s hard to imagine her having a relationship. It’s hard to imagine her in love because of all the things that means about granting control to someone else and letting yourself go.

What did you get from the programme, watching it from the perspective of crime novelist?

What I liked best about both was giving a story space. We’ve become very stripped down and episodic about the way we tell stories now. It’s very hard to get a season that lasts more than six weeks and it’s very hard to get a season where it isn’t a different core storyline every week. You can’t get under the skin if you do it like that. It becomes superficial, a series of tropes and it stops being a powerful drama. I really hope that British television companies are going to understand that, particularly with adaptations. If you have a 400-page novel, you can’t do it in 90 minutes. You end up with bad TV drama and it doesn’t work for anybody because nobody buys the books afterwards. I think we need to learn to take a deep breath and understand that our viewers are very sophisticated. My readers are very sophisticated. They have no problem in grasping a storyline that has four subplots going on. Certainly, viewers can do that too: when you see something like The Killing, it’s labyrinthine and we stay with it.

Do you think it help that it was subtitled, in that you have to concentrate and you have to focus on the screen?
I couldn’t watch it when it first went out because my wife likes to stitch in front of the television, so subtitles is a no-no. So I had these secret sessions of The Killing or Inspector Montalbano when she’s out of the country or late at night after she’s gone to bed. So I watched the first one over the space of about a week and a half. It was completely that ‘I’ll just watch one more episode…’ It’s not even like the American stuff where it’s only 40 minutes, this was an hour long and you had to concentrate.

I came to The Killing late. I’d heard about it, thought ‘well, I’d better watch because everybody says it’s great, but I don’t get the thing where everyone is obsessed with that woman…’ then after about one and a half episodes, BAM! I want to marry her!
It’s the intelligence. Clare Balding says the secret of happiness is concentration – so I’m all for that. Then I also love her complete lack of self-consciousness, the character. She’s completely not thinking about how she looks or how she appears to other people. She couldn’t give a shit.

How do you think it will Series 3 will end? How would you like it to end?

Hopefully not dead. That would be very unsatisfying. I can see the dramatic power of that, that she makes that final sacrifice, to go out as the ultimate right – whatever that might be. I don’t know. It’s hard to think of it ending in a way that fulfils the needs of the drama and the audience. I can’t imagine a way that will satisfy both. If I was writing it, I probably would have to kill her – and then leave the country.

Perhaps she could bad, go to a women’s prison and then we could have a new spin-off series…
It’s possible she may go to women’s prison. Not because she goes to the dark side, but because she’s so inflexible about the good side. I can see her ending up there, that’s a possibility… just because we want more series, isn’t it? I think one of the difficulties for Sofie is that for us, she didn’t exist before The Killing and in fact she’s had a very successful, long career in Denmark. I think it’s easy for us to think ‘well, she can just go and do The Killing’ but she has other things she wants to do. But you never know, if the writer comes up with a good idea, it’s always tempting for the actor to come back and reprise it…

I think it would be very wrong if there was a happy ending, with Lund in love…
Finding love and happiness would be terrible for her! It wouldn’t be believable. It would undermine everything we know about her.


There is nothing like a Dane: exclusive interview with Sofie Gråbøl

November 26, 2012

In the end, I did get to write that article about Sofie Gråbøl and the Killing. In December’s Diva magazine, there’s my take on the Lund phenomenon. I speak to Val McDermid and the Radio Times’ Alison Graham, plus other fans. It’s in the shops now.

I also got to meet Sofie herself, and it was everything I’d hoped for. Just wish I’d had more time to speak to her. The interview  is on the Diva website, link here:

Great Dane

And, just because I can, here’s a pic of me with Sofie. The picture took a long time to set up. She is particular, and bossy. And that’s just great.

I’m the one on the left.

… a woman in uniform

September 18, 2012

Currently working on article on the Sarah Lund phenomenon. More news as it comes. But in the meantime: oh, my.Image