Danish drama Den Som Dræber (Those Who Kill) has returned for a new season, eight years after it first aired. Producer Zire Schucany talks DQ through the process of rebooting the dark crime series.
When a television drama is cancelled, it doesn’t take long for social media to become awash with messages calling for streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon to save them. Even up-and-coming rivals such as BritBox and Acorn TV have moved to resurrect series deemed prematurely canned.
Now Nordic streamer Viaplay has joined the game, following the launch of Den Som Dræber – Fanget af Mørket (Darkness – Those Who Kill). The gloomy crime drama, about a specialist police unit that deals with serial killers, first aired on Denmark’s TV2 in 2011. Eight years later, the series has been rebooted for Viaplay with a brand new cast and format. Where the first season told five stories across 10 episodes, this new run carries one serialised tale across eight instalments.
What links the two seasons, apart from the title, is the central relationship between a detective and a criminal profiler. In this new story, police investigator Jan Michelsen is looking for 17-year-old Julie, who disappeared six months earlier, when he finds the body of a girl of a similar age. Then when another girl is reported missing, he calls in profiler Louise Bergstein to get inside the mind of a killer and help him find the two kidnapping victims.
“Work started on a sequel with TV2 but in the end they weren’t interested,” series producer Zire Schucany explains. “But Viaplay were really excited about having the first season on their platform, so they really wanted to do a second season.
“It’s a reboot; it’s quite different in every way except the fact it’s still a crime series and a ‘whydunnit.’ In all other aspects, we have rebooted everything. That was quite interesting for me to be part of because I wasn’t part of the first season.”
The change in format, from two-part stories to one serialised plot, came down to the ambition of the filmmakers to go deep inside the mind of a serial killer. “It’s not just about why it happened, we’re trying to understand their motivations,” Schucany says. “We not only see them as a serial killer, but we ask what else do they do? Who is the person behind it? That was the ambition of a serialised show. So not only do we follow the investigation but the murderer and some of the victims too.”
Schucany left film school in 2017 and linked up with Those Who Kill producer Miso Film in June that year, immediately joining the production, which by that stage was into the writing process led by head writer Ina Bruhn.
The starting point, she says, was introducing the police officer and the profiler into a story where viewers will know who the killer is from the outset. “Jan and Louise quite quickly understand each other. The two of them have different abilities and they need to work together. The thing about them is Jan is more optimistic in believing they can save these girls and, because he has worked this case for so long, he feels obliged towards the families. He feels an obligation to find these girls. Louise is more pessimistic because of her experiences on other cases. That’s the difference between them, but they know they need each other to find the girls.”
On screen, Kenneth M Christensen (Borgen, Arvingerne) plays Jan, with Natalie Madueño (Bedrag, Kriger) as Louise. “With this being a dark show and going into a serial killer environment, Natalie plays Louise pretty well. She played a similar character in Bedrag [Follow the Money]. She has an amazing presence – she lights up the room. Kenneth was also great to work with. They have been an amazing pair.”
Behind the camera, director Carsten Myllerup and cinematographer Eric Kress filmed all eight episodes during a five-month production period as the producers sought to ensure the series employed the same visual style through the season.
“They did everything,” Schucany says. “It’s a handful because they have to keep the context of the story. It’s a long time to shoot and they had to structure the editing process around it. Normally, you have one director go into edit while another director is shooting. We couldn’t do that, so we had to structure the editing differently. But it feels more like a vision from one person. You feel when you watch the whole series that it’s the vision of one director. When you watch some series, you can feel it’s a new director. It’s been so fun. It was a great shoot.”
Filming took place in Copenhagen and on the outskirts of the city in an area called Greve. And although the story takes place over three weeks, the crew were forced to contend with weather ranging from snow to brilliant sunshine, while Myllerup was simultaneously shooting scenes, preparing future sequences, scouting locations and editing. “Of course, he had help,” Schucany says, “particularly in the editing. But it was our ambition to have one director and it was great.”
Following its launch last month on Viaplay, the Fremantle-distributed series will also air on TV3 across Denmark, Norway and Sweden later this year. But while there are some lighter moments in the series, the fact it was made for a streaming service without a schedule meant this version of Those Who Kill could push further into areas a traditional broadcaster might not be willing to enter. The word ‘Darkness’ isn’t part of the title for nothing.
“We’re not afraid to go into the darkness,” Schucany admits, adding that the tempo of the story also differs from other crime dramas. “It’s not very fast-paced. We took our time to go into the story and tell the story. The tempo is very different. In Denmark, when you do a crime show, you think of Nordic noir and everything is grey. We tried to a bit different and to not be afraid to go with some colours and go in a different direction.”