And finally, after 2 seasons, 26 hours of television, seemingly a hundred red herrings, and enough rain to float the SS Poseidon, THE KILLING revealed who killed Rosie Larsen. The only thing that was ever worth spoiling on this show is going to be revealed here, so if you’re reading this without having watched, a big fat SPOILER ALERT is in effect.
The season (series?) finale, written by series creator Veena Sud and Dan Nowak, and directed by Patty Jenkins (who also directed the series pilot), did, as it turned out, have one last surprise up its sleeve. We began by confirming what last week’s episode had seemed to say. Rosie had been in the wrong place (a room in the Indian casino hotel) at the wrong time (when a potentially scandalous political deal was being discussed). Darren Richmond’s (Billy Campbell) political strategist Jamie Wright (Eric Ladin) had found her there, and pushed her to the ground so hard that she cracked open her head, dropping his City Hall key card to the floor as they struggled.
But it turned out that Rosie wasn’t yet dead. In a story that became increasingly far-fetched, Jamie had driven her to the woods, found out she was still alive, chased her, hit her again, locked her in his (campaign) car trunk–but she still, Rasputin-like, lived. So instead of finishing her off, he called dishonest contractor Michael Ames (Barclay Hope) to finish the job. Ames was on his way to the airport, but he turned back with his girlfriend in the car–that girlfriend being Rosie’s Aunt Terry (Jamie Anne Allman). When she and Ames arrived in the woods, and Terry discovered that whoever was in that trunk could keep Ames from running away with her, she calmly drove the car into the lake–having no idea the girl dying inside was Rosie.
The numerous shortcomings of The Killing have been detailed many times, in many places: the slack pace, the repetitious, circular plotting, the fact that even our hero police detectives, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) often tripped over their own feet. But the way the story wound up may have most typified The Killing as a series. It’ s not that the final twists were hard to believe–we accept ludicrous plot twists all the time on procedurals. But cops making 5 wrong turns in a 1-hour episode of CSI or Law & Order before catching the culprit is different than watching the same process over 26 hours. After all that, we expect some kind of emotional or thematic resonance to a crime’s solution, and ultimately The Killing had none to offer.
Rosie ended up being killed by two people, one of whom had never met her before, and the other completely ignorant that they knew each other. The only motive was that she got in their way, essentially a random innocent bystander. And that may have been the point of the show, that Rosie’s death, in the end, was completely meaningless. It’s a valid point of view about violent death, maybe true more often than not. But dramatically, it’s an utterly unsatisfying one. Rosie’s death told us nothing–not about politics, or about obsessive romance, or about family secrets. The investigation, with its contrived obstacles, told us nothing about police work. Any one of a dozen people in the show could have murdered Rosie, and in every case it would have meant the same nothing. Nihilism is a tough point of view for a TV series to take.
AMC hasn’t announced whether The Killing will return for a 3rd season. The ratings were borderline–not good, but not the complete collapse that some expected after the non-ending of Season 1 provoked viewer hostility. It may or may not mean something that the finale ended very much like a series conclusion: not only was there no segue into a new case that could be the subject of Season 3 (as had been rumored would be the plan), but the show ended with Linden seemingly walking away and quitting the force (one imagines for her own mental health, if nothing more). it’s the kind of plot development that could easily be reversed in a Season 3 premiere episode, but it may also indicate the way Sud and AMC feel about the show right now. The Killing wasn’t a terrible series–Enos and Kinnaman were excellent, as were some of the other actors (notably Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton as Rosie’s parents), and it certainly didn’t lack for mood. But really, 2 years of dreary self-conscious emptiness may be enough. Let Mad Men lead in to some other, worthier new series next year.