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You Should Be Watching: 'The Killing'

If you yearn for a melancholy setting for tense, thoughtfully paced police investigation, then binge-watch "The Killing." Twice surviving cancellation to make it to a fourth season, "The Killing" offers first-rate, thoughtful murder mystery.

Title: "The Killing"

Year it began: 2011

Where it can be seen: AMC, Netflix and Amazon.

Who’s in it: Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Michelle Forbes, Brent Sexton, Billy Campbell, Kristin Lehman, Eric Ladin, Peter Sarsgaard, Elias Koteas and Bex Taylor-Klaus.

Typical episode length: 45 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 44

Brief plot description: While investigating the murder of Rosie Larsen, Seattle police detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder track related corruption in politics and business. Linden, tormented by a past murder case, later joins Holder’s investigation of a serial killer.

Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos star in "The Killing." (Carole Segal/AMC)

Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos star in "The Killing." (Carole Segal/AMC)

Why it’s worth watching: Based on a Danish original, "The Killing" offers a captivating law enforcement narrative set in a gloomy Greater Seattle. At the heart of the show is the excellent chemistry between detectives Linden and Holder, whose status as ethical outsiders highlights the systematic corruption of their world.

Enos’ performance as Linden is both compelling and subtle: she deftly projects both vulnerability and competence as her psychologically damaged character throws herself into dangerous and unsettling work. Kinnaman’s interpretation of Holder also is spectacular. Projecting both a playful adolescence and the scars of his inner demons, Kinnaman conveys a heartfelt respect for Linden that makes her both mentor and partner.

The well-cast show features many excellent supporting performances, such as Forbes’ formerly joyous, now distraught mother, Mitch Larsen; Sexton’s tortured Stan Larsen desperately trying to hold his family together; and Taylor-Klaus’ alternately fierce and vulnerable teen runaway, Bullet. The show’s moody cinematography, which uses Washington’s grayness and wetness to generate a consistently melancholy mood, is a key ingredient in its success.

While the show confidently handles the mechanics of murder mystery investigations, it also ambitiously explores such questions as the collusion of government and business interests, the fairness of sentencing, and the structural problems created by teenage homelessness. The show’s critique of structural injustice forges a bond between viewers and the lead detectives, each of whom emerges as both a misfit from typical police culture and a victim of the cruel society they serve.

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