The Weekend's Viewing: The Killing is back with a new sweater design but an old set of basic ingredients

The Killing III, Sat, BBC4 // The Secret of Crickley Hall, Sun, BBC1

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The Independent Culture

We were given two versions of the gothic over the weekend: Scandinavian Moderne and Country House Traditional.

Both featured that universal terror, the loss of a young child and both involved extended exercises in the chiaroscuro of dread – the screen full of dark spaces from which something dreadful might suddenly jump. But only one of them could offer Sarah Lund.

The Killing is back for series three, with a new sweater design but an old set of basic ingredients. Just as Coke returned to its classic recipe after an unhappy flirtation with novelty, The Killing III looks as if it’s falling over backwards to restore the formula that made series one so successful. There’s an election in the offing, a candidacy troubled by association with a criminal investigation, intrigue over coalition deals and secret affairs. And there’s also a Lund who seems to want to do anything but play the heroine. 

The episode begins with Lund preparing to receive a  certificate for 25 years in service and readying herself for a move to a back-office analysis unit. When a dismembered corpse is discovered in dockside scrapyard, she only turns up because she’s dropping off a puppyishly eager young detective. As he’s inspecting human meat, she’s in the background haggling for an old wheelbarrow. But the corpse is on the site of a Prime Ministerial photo-call and also has connections to Zeeland, a large conglomerate essential to the government’s re-election strategy. It also appears to be connected to the kidnapping of the Zeeland boss’s daughter. So Lund is ordered to take an interest by an old police  academy colleague who now works for Special Branch.

We’re not fooled, naturally. Underneath that mask of indifference, the old Lund is stirring and she re-emerges – rather pointedly – in the middle of a disappointed  telephone conversation with her estranged son. Lund has cooked dinner for him and his girlfriend but he’s cried off at the last moment, leaving a table set for three and one disconsolate diner. But even as Lund needily begs him to name an alternative date, she spots  a clue in the case file in front of her and trails off in mid-sentence. Once the kidnapper insists that she is the sole liaison for the ransom payment, she’s solidly locked in for the duration.

Austerity hasn’t done anything for the famously poor light levels in The Killing. At police headquarters, it looks as if only one bulb in 10 is actually functioning and Lund has already pulled out her torch two or three times to sweep a light-saber beam around some ominous potential crime scene. But the series offers more than mere light effects. Saturday’s double bill ended with a Grand Guignol shock twist – what you might call a town-hall-hanger. But the most gripping scene had occurred a little earlier as Lund – actually en route to deliver the ransom money – found herself frozen by the sight of her son with his pregnant girlfriend on a station platform. It’s how she’ll react to that shock development, not the one that follows, that really keeps you watching.

The Secret of Crickley Hall is so traditional a horror tale that even its title creaks. This, too, begins with an abduction, after Eve nods off in a playground while her son plays nearby. Eleven months later, with no clue about what’s happened to him, the family rent a house while Eve’s husband is working up North. Crickley Hall is fully equipped with every gothic convenience. There’s a black-mawed well in the spooky cellar, strange footsteps in the attic, a wrinkled retainer who looms unexpectedly at the windows and – best of all – it’s located in the welcoming-sounding Devil’s Cleave. It is also the favoured haunt of Mr Cribben, a vicious spectral pedagogue who tends to lash out with a cane when disturbed. Douglas Henshall is genuinely creepy as Cribben but the rest may have you stifling giggles not screams.