End of the trail for Sarah Lund and The Killing

After just three series, the cult Danish drama is quitting while it's ahead

The Killing III came to a bloody and somewhat bewildering end last night, Sarah Lund perhaps taking the show's title too literally and jetting off to yet more darkness. As she disappeared into oblivion, so the curtain came down on one of the most talked-about, boxset-friendly cultural landmarks of the 21st century to date.

The Danish noir debuted on BBC Four only 18 months ago, but quickly attained cult status through word of mouth and rhapsodic broadsheet reverence. Its largely middle-class audience obsessed over plot twists and tongue-twisting Danish names ("Troels!"), and discovered a hitherto untapped, if ironic, appreciation for chunky knitwear. And now it's all over. Twitter will be quieter with its passing.

Much of this final series provided a fitting denouement for such a mesmerising show, but it also revealed that, after just three series, its makers were rather running out of ideas. After The Killing II included an unlikely segue into Afghanistan, this series deposited Lund (played to customary perfection by Sofie Grabol) back into familiar territory: investigating another family wrenched apart by the loss of a daughter in her typically dogged manner, which once again, brought her into conflict with her superiors, and had political leaders wanting her banished to Norway at the very least.

But to its credit, III did at least try to introduce a softer, more humane side to a lead character with fewer facial expressions than Frankenstein's monster, and every bit as compelling. Here, we saw Lund with her hair down, in heels, and out of knitwear; we even saw the cleft in her bare buttocks as she rose post-coitally from a crumpled bed. And if that weren't discombobulating enough, there was suggestion of her reuniting with her estranged son, and settling into contented grandmotherhood.

It couldn't last, and duly didn't. Lund was helplessly drawn back into the case of a kidnapped girl, a case with tentacles leading into politics and business, and down an awful lot of dark alleys. But last night's climax disappointed because it had Lund do what the Sarah Lund of the previous 39 episodes would never have done: take leave of her senses. But then perhaps that's what a perpetually overcast Copenhagen does to the soul. Much as her overused torch was likely running out of batteries, so too was the poor woman herself, and so she went out in a blaze of glory, albeit Scandinavian-style: at night, with stealth, and on her face the full realisation of what her actions would mean for the rest of her wretched life.

Devoted viewers may have craved a more satisfying ending, but they'd be fools to have expected a happier one. The Killing, after all, never offered comfort to anyone.

It's right and proper that the makers end it here. Television history tells us that this level of quality rarely endures, so let the US rema ke of The Killing continue to dilute its power with endless series. In its gaping absence, we'll gorge on whatever BBC Four offers in its place: The Bridge, for instance, and Borgen (which returns to our screens next month) are similarly accomplished – and Danish. What better pedigree?

Short and sweet

The old adage that you should always leave your audience wanting more has been proved by some of the best TV shows. Fawlty Towers followed the advice to the letter when it closed its doors for the last time after only two series – three years apart – and 12 episodes.

Three decades later, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant trod the same path with The Office, albeit with two Christmas specials added to its dozen episodes. David Lynch's Twin Peaks proved uncharacteristic for an American show in this respect. Instead of signing its stars to multiple seasons, the cult mystery drama also ended before it had outstayed its welcome. Eight first-series episodes were followed by the longer second series of 22.

Kiwi comedy-folk duo Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie packed away their guitars after just two series of Flight of the Conchords. It should never have worked, but with musical lines such as "I'm not crying, it's just been raining on my face", it did.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on