The Killing creator Soren Sveistrup on what makes the show so special

"I often say that you could take Sofie Grabol, you could put her in a box, and you could bury her with dirt - and you would still see the box glowing"


To understand The Killing, says its creator and head writer Soren Sveistrup, you don’t need to watch CSI. You need to read Greek mythology – and, in particular, the story of Oedipus. “The whole city of Thebes is damned. Nothing grows, and the sun can’t shine, because Oedipus has done something, and he doesn’t know what – until the ending,” says Sveistrup. “The Killing is like that – Copenhagen is overtaken by some kind of damnation, but by the end the clouds start clearing, you can see the sky again, because the case is closed. But until that moment, every main character is encaptured by this enigma, by this threat, by this killer.”


The idea of destiny, says Sveistrup, accounts for one of the best-loved features of The Killing – that montage of scenes, at the end of every episode, that runs wordlessly over the final title music. “A lot of different destinies are running around in one city – and at the end I need to try to put them together and show, ‘Where are they now?’” says Sveistrup. “That’s what comes up at the end of the episodes, with the montages.”

It’s August, and Sveistrup is sitting in the writers’ room in the DR Fiktion building, where he will soon start work on the last-ever episode. Series three will, says Sveistrup, be more emotional than the rather macho, army-and-Afghanistan series two.

“The emotion is what I’m drawn to in season one, with the murder of Nanna Birk Larsen, I was drawn to the family’s loss and with her father Theis, the whole revenge/forgiveness thing, like in the Old Testament,” he says. “And with the politician Troels Hartmann, idealism versus corruption. With Lund as the lonely cowboy.”

During his research for series one, Sveistrup was allowed to see some forensic photographs from an actual murder case. Pictures of a girl, who was brutally murdered and left in a room, naked. “I can still feel the shock today,” he says. “I knew from the case, of course, that she had a mother and a father, and that was the fuel for the story. Grief is love being homeless. I wanted to tell a story about how to recover from a loss like that.” And then, almost without missing a beat, he adds: “And any excuse I could make up for sending Lund into a cellar, really. Every time. Just get her into that garage, or the cellar, because that’s the kind of stuff I like myself.”

It’s also important, says Sveistrup, for Lund’s forensically brilliant but “socially handicapped” character to remain an enigma. “It’s been very important for me not to explain – you know, not suddenly for her to say, ‘Oh, by the way, I was on the FBI course, I was in Langley, and that’s why I’m so good’ – I didn’t want to make that kind of explanation for her.” That doubt, he explains, allows him to make Lund do things that are out of the ordinary.

Another huge part of what makes Lund so extraordinary is, of course, the actress who plays her, Sofie Grabol. Sveistrup credits Grabol with a uniquely magnetic on-screen presence – even in a big thick sweater. “You can do the sweater because Sofie is really, really special. I often say that you could take Sofie, you could put her in a box, and you could bury her with dirt – and you would still see the box glowing.”

When The Killing ends, Sveistrup says that he’ll take a vacation – but might then consider working on a British project. (He’s already had offers, but won’t say what.) “You have London – a huge city, with many possibilities for doing things I haven’t done before. There’s a lot of sinister stuff, the rain, the Thames. The ghost of Jack the Ripper is all over London. And,” he adds with relish, “you probably have a huge network of sewers.”


The Killing III begins tonight at 9:00pm on BBC4