The Killing (BBC 4)

Rachel Cooke celebrates the return of the Danish detective Sarah Lund.

The Killing
BBC4

I suppose you are waiting for me to say something cool and cynical about the second series of The Killing (Saturdays, 10pm): for instance, that it is merely a poor, rush-job facsimile of the first. But the plain truth is that I am hooked and admire it more than ever.

Oh Denmark, land of yellow chairs, teak sideboards and elegant, matt table lamps. That you should also give us the first heroine in the history of cop dramas who loves and is good at her job without also being a snivelling wreck of an alcoholic (see Jane Tennison)! Sometimes I think my heart will break with love for your bounteous gifts. How did you do it? How did you dare do it? Didn't anyone tell you that women who behave like men - by which I mean women who love their children but would die of boredom if they spent too long with them - are supposed, at least in the land
of popular culture, not to exist? Or perhaps it's just that, in Denmark, no one watches fatuous shows about women who "juggle", starring Sarah Jessica Parker and 800 pairs of Manolo Blahniks. In which case, how, precisely, do I go about getting citizenship?

Anyway, first things first. Sarah Lund (the brilliant Sofie Gråbøl) has a new jumper, and it is red. I don't miss the old one, which was off-white. I couldn't care less what she's wearing, or how long she wears it for (Lund, you gather, gets through a box of non-biological at a slower pace than most people). I'm too busy watching her face, which manages somehow to be impassive and inquisitive at the same time.

Called back from lonely exile at a godforsaken Danish ferry port (for her sins, she had been doing passport duty, the police equivalent of 8,000 Hail Marys) by her erstwhile boss, Brix (who has a face like an Easter Island statue), Lund read a report on the recent murder of a young woman and pronounced - cue a semi-humble clearing of her throat - that her ex-colleagues had got the wrong man on account of the fact that the victim's ex-husband would hardly have bothered to videotape his crime.

How did she know it had been filmed? Well, at her son's birthday party (he is living in Copenhagen with his father), her eye had fallen on the discarded cellophane wrapper of the tape on which her soon-to-be-stepfather was recording the celebrations (yes, her nagging mother has apparently found love with a man called Bjørn). Watching her pick up this flimsy thing and push it surreptitiously into her jeans pocket made the hairs on my head tingle. She'd bought her son the wrong-sized hoodie, but she also took his absolution - "It doesn't matter" - at face value, which meant that the requisite light bulb was duly able to illuminate above her head (a similar wrapper had been found at the crime scene). There is, I think, a shrugging, unspoken feminism in Lund's every move and it cheers me more than I can say that so many critics - some of them really rather reactionary - have taken her to their hearts.

The first series, however addictively exciting, was an examination of grief as well as a thriller. This series, allowing for red herrings, is going to be less domestic in feel. The murders - two so far, and very gory - seem to be connected to Denmark's involvement with the war on terror. In series one, we got Troels Hartmann, who wanted to run Copenhagen's city council. This time we get Thomas Buch (Nicolas Bro),
a government minister hand-picked to get anti-terror legislation on to the statute book by the prime minister.

I miss Troels, who had cheekbones like tailfins, and Buch's podgy frame - one too many open sandwiches, I think, Thomas! - seems only to make his absence the more noticeable. But I am intrigued by Jens Raben (Ken Vedse­gaard), a soldier-turned-psychiatric patient last seen running at pace through a hospital sewer. It strikes me even this early that he is going to give Lund, now once again in possession of a gun and a detective's licence, a run for her money. The Killing II is going to be too short - at ten episodes, it's half the length of the last series - but it is also going to be good: gripping and righteous. Sarah Lund is on the case, and she will not stop until this thing is solved.