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AMC is dead on with ‘The Killing’

Detectives Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) team up murder case “The Killing.”

Detectives Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) and Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) team up on a murder case in “The Killing.”

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‘THE KILLING’ ★★★1/2

8 p.m. Sunday on AMC

Updated: July 23, 2011 12:22AM

It’s heartening that AMC thinks so highly of its audience. While some cable channels may pander to our baser instincts (Starz, I’m looking at you), AMC assumes we have discerning taste and a hunger for art.

Sometimes they are right on the money (see: “Mad Men”), and sometimes they woefully overestimate our patience (see: “Rubicon”).

With their moody new mystery series “The Killing,” AMC clearly knows what’s good for us. What at first seems like a slow pace turns out to be a permanent sense of dread. Teenage Rosie Larsen is horrifically murdered, but it doesn’t feel sensationalistic. It just feels very real.

AMC has remade the 2007 Danish series “Forbrydelsen” (“The Crime”), which was an insane hit there. I got to see the first two episodes, which were not nearly enough. I spent the next hour Googling for spoilers, but my Danish is maddeningly rusty. I am obsessed.

Mireille Enos plays red-haired Sarah, a low-key homicide detective in the tradition of Frances McDormand’s “Fargo” character. She’s due to leave Seattle to marry a sweet guy in sunnier Sonoma, but she’s resignedly drawn into the murder investigation. When her fiance tries to sweet-talk her over the phone, she demurs, “You know I’m not one for words.”

The most devastating early scenes are centered on the dead girl’s family as they get the news. Michelle Forbes (“True Blood”) and Brent Sexton (“Justified”) will break your heart as Rosie’s parents.

It turns out that poor Rosie had some secrets, a la “Twin Peaks.” No one’s sure where she got a $2,000 pair of shoes, for one thing. Soon her death is connected to the election campaign of a local councilman (Billy Campbell of “Once and Again,” who prefers “Bill” these days).

Sarah is saddled with training her replacement, an ex-narc cop played by Joel Kinnaman as sort of a white Snoop Dogg. You’ll hate him at first sight — and then start looking forward to hating him as a break from all the grief.

If you’re already depressed — or still trying to decide whether you want to have kids — do not watch this series under any circumstances. Suffice to say that no one would have kids if they knew what potential pain lays ahead.

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