Mireille Enos, The Killing

It will take 13 episodes for viewers to learn who killed young Rosie Larsen in AMC's new, slow-burning murder mystery The Killing. Before getting answers, audiences will have to wade through the dark investigation, its well of complicated suspects and the tragic aftermath for Rosie's family. For executive producer Veena Sud, writing this show has been the perfect antidote to years at the helm of a network cop drama.

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Sud previously ran CBS' unsolved-crimes procedural Cold Case, where she became expert at crafting stories that wrapped in a single episode. But she wanted her next project to be darker and longer, and soon after she left the show in 2008, her agent directed her to the popular Danish series Forbrydelsen ("The Crime," in English), a harrowing narrative about the search for a murdered teenager's killer in Copenhagen. The rights to remake the series were available, and AMC, already home to the luxuriously slow, Emmy-winning character drama Mad Men, was interested.

"Cold Case was a wonderful place to learn how to work and problem-solve and get things done, but it was also such a grueling, grueling process," Sud says. "To come here was such a breakout. I have 13 episodes instead of 24. I can take time with my baby. I can spend hours thinking about character, and have it drive the story — not the other way around."

The show has already drawn favorable comparisons to the Oscar-winning films Mystic River and The Silence of the Lambs. Like the original, each hour in the U.S. version of The Killing (premiering Sunday at 9/8c) will take place within a single day, following the murdered girl's broken family, the detectives on the hunt for her killer, and the local mayoral candidate with tenuous connections to the crime. (Copenhagen has been swapped out for the alternately gloomy and beautiful Seattle.)

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Viewers are meant to watch most of the events unfold through the eyes of guarded yet hypersensitive homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), who gets pulled into the case of murdered Rosie Larsen on what should have been her last day of work. She's as eerily quiet as she is perceptive, but her personal life — a lonesome son and a weary boyfriend waiting to marry her — struggles to compete with her professional one.

Sarah's conflicted headspace is one well-known to Sud, who dates her lifelong obsession with homicide cops back to childhood. "Since I was 16, I would hang out with the vice squad just because I was fascinated," she says. She's also spent time with detectives in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and for years longed to work on a show like Homicide: Life on the Street and David Simon's The Wire. "I wanted to be able to tell those stories, the reality of cops," Sud says.

Enos says figuring Sarah out is something she has to work at. "Is she really guarded, or does she have to be?" Enos asks. "What is she protecting? Is she a person who just doesn't feel? Or is it more interesting if she's a person who actually feels too much and so her barriers have to be that much more thick?... I think she struggles a lot because feeling helps her with her job, her intuition kicks in, but then she has a hard time crawling back out of the rabbit hole. She's got a natural gift, but she has to walk a really fine line." 

Check out photos from The Killing

Sarah will have to feel her way around many to get answers: Rosie's body is found in a car rented out to the campaign of idealistic city councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), who is running for mayor. Her parents (Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton), who discover the gruesome truth about their missing daughter by the end of the first episode, deal with their grief in different ways. Meanwhile, her classmates' suspicious reactions to her death begin to slowly reveal Rosie's hidden demons.

And indeed, the key word is "slowly." As Sud put it, "I love that about the Danish series. I think European storytelling, in general, assumes the audience is very intelligent and will get on for the ride and not have to solve everything right away. ... Maybe he's a suspect, maybe he's not. Let's have a look at what's going on in her personal life. Oh! Something is happening with them over there — I gotta say, Homicide also did this kind of thing so well."

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Adds Campbell: "There is something really incredibly satisfying about shows like Law & Order and CSI. They're kind of really satisfying in the same way junk food is. It's like oomph! You get your fill, and you're done, you're satisfied, it's over. But then there's this notion of having an amazing, multi-course, gorgeously prepared meal, of having an experience. That's what the Danish show did, and that's what I think our show does."

As for the whodunit, not even the actors were privy to the identity of the killer during much of the filming. "None of them know where they're going," Sud says. "They do know they each have a secret that no one else knows... a secret from their life, or from their past, or maybe about where they were the night of Rosie's murder. I told each of them their secret before we started shooting. It was strategic. It informs their performances, without letting them all know what's up."

What Campbell knows about the character he plays is pretty vague so far — but it works for a politician who is also a suspect. "Ostensibly, he's a good guy. Of course, we don't know," he says. "I think his is the kind of dilemma of probably every good person that gets into politics, and that is how do you walk through a pig pen without getting dirty? I'm not sure it's possible. We all think we're good people, but we all have dark sides as well."

Don't look to the original Danish series for answers, either. Sud says she used it as a blueprint, but has other surprises in store.

Will you watch The Killing?