TV, thou art my muse (for the moment)

Again, dear friends, we find ourselves knee-deep in another Mystery Monday. I sincerely hope everyone had a restful weekend and got to spend at least a few hours doing something for yourself. I took a two-hour long bike ride Sunday afternoon and I used that “me time” to unwind a few plot hiccups in a novel I’m currently working on. Exercise always seems to work out the mental kinks.

Speaking of kinks, we all know that most of the time, for writers, TV is our worst enemy. It pulls us away from what we should be doing, like writing, or working on the website, or doing research, or a myriad of other productive things.

But something strange happened on the way through the 400 channels of crap that clogs my cable system. I came across the 2nd installment of AMC’s The Killing last night, and it was fantastic. Why? Because unlike CSI or L&O (both of which I do like) the crime isn’t solved in an hour (actually, 40 minutes when you take into account the commercials) by people who look like they’re on a break from the Vanity Fair cover shoot using forensic tools of which Buck Rogers would be envious. On a more serious note, the fact that these shows race through their cases so fast, could, as David Martindale wrote in a recent Fort Worth Star Telegram article, “desensitize us to violent crime.” Why? I’ll quote Mireille Enos, who plays lead investigator Sarah Linden on The Killing for the answer: “I think the outcome of the accelerated pace is that the victim becomes this nameless, faceless persona that the audience really doesn’t care very much about.”

I tend to agree with Enos’s statement, especially when it comes to the deep anguish displayed every time the camera is on the parents of the murder victim in the show. I won’t ruin it for you, but there was this one scene in last night’s episode where the mother nearly does something unthinkable. As a parent, I was on the verge of tears as I watched, all the time thinking, “How in the world could I survive what those parents are going through?” Whenever I write a scene about the grief a parent must feel when they lose a child, I will recall that scene.

If there was ever a TV show that could be a muse and has the ability to touch the same depths that a novel can, probing every ripple caused by a singular event, The Killing, so far, is the top contender. By watching the show, it’s reminded me that:

1. It’s okay to have a lot going on. While having a lot of characters not doing very much is not a good idea, showing a few, central characters that have a lot going on makes them more realistic.

2. Along that vein, Detective Stephen Holder in The Killing wouldn’t win any ethical or moral awards for his police work. While I find him almost repulsive at times , he does what he feels is necessary to get the job done. The actor Joel Kinnaman, who plays Holder, does an excellent job giving us this “scruffy angel”, especially when that character is juxtaposed against the slick councilman played by Billy Campbell who might just be a devil in Armani. By showing the many sides to both characters, the actors make them all that more human, relatable and, most importantly, watchable. If the main facet of good storytelling is creating compelling characters, one not need to look any further than The Killing to study some very well-developed characters. Besides, when was the last time watching TV could be counted as research?


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at


One Response

  1. This is a ‘killer’ of a show. Phenomenol acting by a group of unknown actors. It reminds me so much of British shows where beauty and glamour are not the watchword and female detectives don’t chase criminals in 6 inch heels, tight dresses, and perfect hair.

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