THE KILLING: Sundays 9PM on AMC
No, really: who did kill Rosie Larsen?
WHERE WE WERE: Possibly throwing something at the TV set. It’s not all that unusual for a series finale to leave fans disappointed or frustrated–I say this as someone who will never forgive the responsible parties for the ending of Lost–but it really takes work to piss viewers off with a mere season finale. THE KILLING managed that by making it seem as though the Rosie Larsen mystery was actually solved, as politician Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) was placed under arrest–only to spring a sudden reversal. It turned out the photo seeming to prove conclusively that Richmond had been on the road to the murder scene on the night of Rosie’s murder, provided by recovering crackhead homicide detective Holder (Joel Kinnaman) was a forgery engineered by Holder at the behest of unknown conspirators. Salt was rubbed into viewer wounds by the fact that our heroine, detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), found this out while finally sitting on the plane to California that she’d been promising to take for 13 episodes, effectively returning the entire series to zero. Meanwhile, grief-stricken mom Mitch Larsen (Michelle Forbes) had fled town to get her head together, leaving husband Stan (Brent Sexton) and Mitch’s sister Terry (Jamie Anne Allman) to take care of Rosie’s younger brothers. Oh, and as Richmond was being taken away in cuffs, Larsen family friend Belko (Brendan Sexton III) had pulled out a gun and shot him.
WHERE WE ARE: Still in Seattle, where the often pointless clues pour down as heavily, and as endlessly, as the rain. The Season 1 finale infuriated viewers not just because the mystery wasn’t solved–after all, shows like The Sopranos, Homeland and yes, Lost often carried or carry their central puzzles over to another season without anyone launching a revolt–but because The Killing already seemed to be spinning its wheels just to reach 13 episodes. The red herrings were becoming less compelling every week, and the characters, instead of broadening and deepening, just repeated their character beats in each episode (the Larsens = mournful, Linden = dogged, Holder = jumpy, Richmond = untrustworthy). The show was becoming repetitious enough that a conclusion to the Larsen story seemed to be as much of a relief to the producers as the audience, and their refusal to let the story end felt downright perverse.
Such wasn’t to be the case, though, and the mandate for Season 2 (where, we are told under blood oath by AMC executives, the mystery will be solved in this year’s final episode) has clearly been to at least make sure things of importance happen every week. The first half of the “2-hour” season premiere (really just 2 back-to-back episodes, the first written by showrunner Veena Sud and directed by Agnieska Holland), provides some serious consequences for Belko’s shooting of Richmond. The second half, written by Co-Executive Producers Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin, and directed by Daniel Attias, seems to once and for all eliminate a key character from suspicion, and also provides information about the forged evidence.
The sense of forward motion in the case–and the show–is welcome, but carries its own risks. It appears that in order to justify 13 more hours of storyline, the series is going to veer in the direction of exposing an increasingly large conspiracy regarding the crime and the investigation, and while that could all turn out to be a giant red herring in itself (as it was in State of Play), along the way it could easily overpower the original murder story while falling victim to cliches. (In this week’s episodes, we already had a surveillance in a deserted junkyard and a shadowy parking garage meeting.) Also, the more time we spend with the cops on this case, the more we’re likely to scrutinize their sometimes less than brilliant detective work–this week, Holder was desperately trying to communicate crucial information to Linden, and just kept unsuccessfully calling her over and over, never even trying to text her or leave a message to give her an idea of why he so needed to speak to her.
Even with its significant flaws, The Killing is still worth watching. Although the premiere’s dynamics kept Linden and Holder apart, presumably that will be resolved soon and we can watch Enos and Kinnaman together again. Their prickly relationship is a pleasure. The visual style and mood, while at this point monotonous–we get it, it rains in Seattle–is beautifully done. The show is smarter and far better acted than the typical procedural. But The Killing, having committed to its lengthy narrative, is going to have to work hard to stay compelling, or the next perps may be its viewers.