Like many viewers, I was disappointed with the first season finale of The Killing. But my disappointment came not because we didn’t find out who killed Rosie Larsen, but because I couldn’t care less who did. By the time the season ended, The Killing had become a black mark on AMC’s otherwise stellar record, which includes the dearly departed Rubicon.
A major problem was that I cared neither about Rosie Larsen nor about those investigating her murder. In a show that is centered around a single killing and how it affects a city, there should be substance to the main storylines, as well as peripheral elements that make us want to spend time in the town; Rainville (the location of The Killing) needed to become a character. Twin Peaks pulled this off excellently. In that show, Laura Palmer, whose murder kicked off the series, became a character. Her friends were characters, as were the townspeople and law enforcement. After the first few episodes of The Killing, we basically ignored how Rosie’s classmates reacted to the murder. Rosie Larsen’s interests and personality only came up after the detectives realized that the one lead they obsessed over led nowhere. Instead of The Killing building its universe, it slogged through red herring after red herring of people acting suspicious for no reason other than to raise their numbers on AMC’s Murdererometer. Did Richmond need to have that super secret prostitute confession fetish thing? Then again, if they didn’t go to ‘unorthodox sexual practices must mean evil’ well, how else would they be able to throw us the curve ball that he actually/probably wasn’t the killer?
As for the leads, Detective Sarah Linden felt like she encompassed all the boring tropes we’ve seen a thousand times before in Female Cop movies without adding anything new to the character. Married to the job at the expense of her family? Check. “Negligent” mother? Check. Acting-out child? Check. Cares too damned much!? Well, perpetual dourness doesn’t actually mean concern, but they say she does so Check. Willing to corner shadowy suspects in their private residence without any back up just to threaten him? Check. And I still say Detective Stephen Holder’s street slang is laughable (oh snap moms), even if Joel Kinnaman is one of the better actors on the show (word yo).
By the end of the season, I came to the realization that following the clues is for naught. This is the type of show that will make up the rules as it goes along. All we really know is who didn’t kill Rosie, and judging by the type of show this is, I wouldn’t put it past them to take back any of those alibis. My money’s on Helo from Battlestar: Galactica.
And now we return to Rainville a.k.a. The Killing.
The two episodes tonight, Reflections and My Lucky Day, bring the show back to a place around the middle of last season, quality wise. It still lacks the hope or interest that made the first couple of episodes compelling, but it’s not as flat out annoying or desperate as the final few episodes. It’s right at that cusp when you started to get those inklings that the show was going nowhere.
We begin tonight a few minutes after we left off last year. Richmond has just been shot and Linden has just gotten off the plane with her still annoying son Jack having learned that the photo showing Richmond on the bridge was faked. Like last year, we spend the two episodes focused on four main storylines: Detective Linden, Detective Holden, the Larsens (minus the mom), and the Richmond campaign, and it seems as though this will be the format for this season as well. Also like last year, little actual headway is made on the Rosie Larsen case.
To The Killing‘s credit, it does have a decent ability to create ambiance, but the overall tone, blue lighting, and the “shouldn’t they have done that earlier?” cop work are the same as season one. Viewers should not go in expecting a revitalized or reinvigorated series, but rather more of the same. However, it might be worth a return for people who liked what The Killing tried to offer conceptually and want to see if it learned from its mistakes. Though if you are curious, my advice is to wait a couple of weeks and get a gauge on the buzz. Remember, you could/should be watching Game of Thrones.
The Killing did offer some big moments tonight. Linden becomes aware that there is some larger going on behind the Larsen slaying. Richmond is now paralyzed, and he tried to kill himself around the time that Rosie was murdered, which explains why he was wet that night. Belko successfully kills himself after stealing a cop’s gun. A mysterious person drops Rosie’s bloodied backpack off at the Larsen’s house. And Linden and Holder have a new boss after the former one suddenly retired after overseeing their “sloppy police work.”
The biggest surprise of the night to me was that Holder apparently faked the picture because he wanted a badge. I would have put money that someone kidnapped his family, and that was what caused him to betray his partner. I did find Holder’s sadness kind of ridiculous though after his handler told him that the only reason he has a job is because he’s a dirty cop. If you’re planting/faking evidence in a major case, which he does again tonight by giving the lab his backpack instead of Rosie’s, of course your willingness to be dirty is a main selling point. But Kinnaman sells his disappointment well, and this revelation forces him to rush to Linden’s motel and plead for her to let him in so that he can apologize and explain himself. She doesn’t, but a Holder redemption will probably be forthcoming.
Let me close by talking about the conspiracy angle, which looks like it will play a huge role this season. Tonight, we’re even treated to underground garage meetings and scenes of a mysterious person taking mysterious photographs of Linden from a mysterious car in the middle of the night. While this does offer benefits to the show such as more intrigue, more characters, more suspense, and more for the writers to occupy their time with (since it really seemed like it was spinning its wheels with the characters it had by the end of last season), I can’t help but feel that that this hurts the series overall. Along with overshadowing the titular killing itself, it removes the show from the reality it seems to want to portray and places it into more fantasy territory. It’s one thing to include a shady politician that may have killed Rosie Larsen. Even her working as a prostitute for Beau Soleil doesn’t require that much of a stretch. But it’s something else to have a 16-year-old girl killed because her knowledge could bring down the inner workings of Rainville politics. I’m not saying that the show can’t pull it off, but they need to walk a very fine line to do so.
• Linden: “Jack, you’re eating too much junk, you’ve got to eat something real.” Jack: “Hello, chips are like potatoes.”- Oh The Killing, how I missed your awful teenage boy dialogue. Odds on Jack recognizing the tattoo on the enlarged Rosie’s bike mirror photo?
• If Larsen is so concerned about his house not being covered by the police, why does he apparently leave his kids alone when he rushes to the police station to ask why they aren’t being protected?