With just two more episodes to go (tonight, June 10, at 9/8c, and next Sunday, June 17, on AMC, check local listings), Season 2 of The Killing is just about to wrap and Rosie Larsen’s killer will be revealed. While I’m absolutely absorbed by this gripping crime series, the finale can’t come soon enough, apparently, for the naysayers who whipped up a storm of protest when Season 1’s finale failed to shut the door on the case. There were complaints about the rain, the pace, the red herrings, ad nauseam.
This crankiness shocked me given the mindless, predictable stuff one typically finds on broadcast TV these days. Are attention spans getting so short (a plague of ADD or 140-character-itis?) that viewers can’t sit still long enough to appreciate the richness of a character-driven drama framed by outstanding direction, cinematography, editing and plot twists that actually twist, in this case, through the criminal underbelly of Seattle?
There are no handsome or beautiful detectives here who flirt and banter with their partners and solve crimes in 60 minutes or less. Detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) are flawed, complicated and relentless. Both have dark pasts that haunt the present. Holder is an ex-addict and loose cannon and Linden is a vagabond single mom whose troubled childhood in foster care drives her obsession to right the wrongs of murdered children. Linden and Holder are mavericks and, as their prickly partnership settles into a comfort zone, their heads are prime targets for the corrupters within their precinct. And in TV land, they’re heads above the cookie cutter cops one finds on run of the mill cop shows.
The casting is inspired and the scripts are superb. I find myself riveted every week as tightly-wound Linden and fire-cracker Holder maneuver through the corrupt landscape that surrounds the Rosie Larsen murder case. Recent episodes have smacked Linden and Holder into incredibly damning places and have actually given me chills they’re so brilliantly evoked.
Aside from the dynamics of the Linden-Holden “partnership,” there are other fractured “families” to consider as well. There’s councilman and Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) and his driven, potentially shady young advisors Gwen (Kristen Lehman) and Jamie (Eric Ladin). And there’s Rosie Larsen’s family: her ex-mobster dad Stan, vaguely detached mom Mitch (Michelle Forbes), Rosie’s bewildered younger brothers and their suspiciously evasive aunt Terry (Jamie Anne Allman). Lesser but no less important characters (and potential suspects) are also all sliding in and out of this scenario saddled with secrets galore.
Stan’s vigilantism and parenting skills (brilliantly played by actor Brent Sexton) have been especially shocking and brutal. But, to the scripter and actor’s credit, I don’t think I’ve seen, in recent memory, a more moving portrayal of a grieving dad dealing with the conflicting emotions that come with the loss of a child. Stan’s clumsy attempts to make amends to his victims and to parent his young sons during a period of unimaginable grief are actually touching. I have less understanding of Rosie’s mom Mitch, who ditches her family to grieve on her own in seedy motels and bars.
The Killing initially reminded me of Twin Peaks…same opening premise…a lovely teenage girl is found gruesomely murdered, floating in water, inciting a similar sense of ominous dread. A diehard Twin Peaks fan, I’ll never forget screening the opening two-hour episode prior to its premiere with a handful of fellow critics in a small screening room at ABC. We all sat silently mesmerized as we watched that groundbreaking David Lynch drama unfold. I stuck with the Twin Peaks series and never-ending Laura Palmer murder investigation, despite the fact that other directors and scripters steered its original promise into Crazy Town, USA.
The Killing thankfully played out differently. At the end of Season 1, I was comfortable with its unsettling denouement and excited by the promise of more to come with the Rosie Larsen case. I wasn’t finished with it.
Season 2 has travelled to dark places that no one could have predicted. Red herrings are the backbone of the very best murder mysteries, not their downfall, and those planted in Season 1 cleverly made sense. If I can guess a murderer or figure out a mystery in the first 10 minutes, I’ll be folding laundry or reading the newspaper while watching the rest of the show out of the corner of my eye. Not so with The Killing. Each episode has kept me glued to my seat and, frankly, goose bumps have been generated by the sheer mastery of the medium and genre.
Two of my guilty pleasures, Revenge and Smash, while fun to watch, don’t progress very much from week to week and can be reduced to a few minutes of dialogue bookended by endless commercials. I get caught up with my laundry and newspapers without missing a plot twist or a downbeat. Since it’s rare to find a good character-driven series on TV these days, contemporary viewers have little or no experience with the slower pace that such a drama demands. Sadly, The Killers’ naysayers have missed the point…they’re perhaps a tad impatient and distracted and can’t forgo their tweeting, texting or talking long enough to pay attention. I’m transfixed by The Killing and can’t guess how the finale will play out. This is refreshing in my book and the mark of an outstanding crime drama. —Judith Trojan
[Ed. Note: You can catch up with previous episodes of The Killing on DVD, et al. Look for updates on the AMC Website @ www.amctv.com ]