Now that The Killing has revealed its killers I ask: Was this worth it?
From the very beginning of its run, I was never quite sure what to make of AMC's The Killing.
A slow, moody drama meant to stretch a single murder investigation over many episodes, it began with a leisurely pace that veered between compelling and snooze-inducing -- with two mismatched police officers sorting through a complex crime in a steady downpour meant to evoke Seattle's soggy atmosphere.
SPOILERS AHEAD - read no further if you don't know who killed Rosie Larsen and still care to see it on TV.
I never wrote much about the show in its first season, because I couldn't decide if it was a brilliant tease or an empty debacle. One minute, Joel Kinnaman's Det. Holder was an irritating hipster with a predictably dark secret, the next he was a good guy led astray but fighting hard to do the right thing.
At first, Mireille Enos' Det. Sarah Linden was complex, conflicted character -- a single mom struggling to do right by her fiancee, her son and her case. But then her past as a orphan asserted itself and she began treating her boy like a sack of potatoes to be dumped in any convenient spot while she ran off to chase a murderer so dangerous, she once thought he (or she) might be tracking her (and, um, her unattended son).
When the world learned that the murder case wouldn't be solved in one season but in two, a great many critics bailed in anger, assuming The Killing was an interesting murder story stretched out with increasingly implausible side stories and false suspects (click here for the best of those angry rants, delivered by Hitfix.com's Alan Sepinwall). I felt the same, but kept watching -- hey, I'm the guy who is still drawn to watch Law & Order: SVU, almost against my will -- in hopes that something would happen to make all this time spent in front of its relentlessly downbeat vision worthwhile.
But with the show's final twist revealed -- some claim they saw early evidence Rosie Larsen's aunt, covert call girl Terry Marek, was involved, but I was surprised -- I can render a verdict.
Nope. It wasn't worth it.
Executive producer Veena Sud made a fatal miscalculation, assuming fans and critics would enjoy the surprise reveal that Rosie Larsen's murder wouldn't be solved at the end of the show's first season. If the various subplots and false starts in the investigation were particularly compelling, that might have been true. But too many of these subplots felt too thin -- one minute, Linden's kicked off the force in disgrace, then next minute, she's directing cops in a controversial search of offices in an Indian casino, something which should literally be a federal case.
And the subplots were hard to track. Was Rosie Larsen a prostitute involved with an online dating site, or a wayward daughter drawn to the son of a man her father killed or an angry kid who rejected her mother for fooling her about who her father really was?
Actually, she was just an unlucky kid who stumbled on a secret meeting by three power brokers in local politics, thrown in a trunk by a campaign aide who didn't know what to do with her. Marek, who was planning to run away with one of those power brokers, jumped in the car and drove it into a river, unaware her niece was the girl trapped inside until the body was found by police.
More than anything, this felt like a story which could have been sheared of its weaker subplots -- did mom Mitch Larsen have to leave her family just so dad Stan could show his grief, too? A slimmer effort, told in a single season, could have ramped up the pace of each episode until you had something resembling an exciting series.
Instead, you've had a show so plodding, one critic compared avoiding the series' second season to dodging a sales pitch for a condo time share; as Sunday's finale approached, too many writers cobbled together pieces asking "does anyone still care about The Killing?
The response to the disappointment in the first season's end should have been a rejuvenated show, one that demanded former fans re-engage. But instead, most of the cool storylines seemed saved for the first season -- from Michelle Forbes' awesome and understandable disintegration as a grief-stricken mother to Stan's past organized crime ties, the creepy Muslim teacher who proved a massive red herring and the creepy mayoral candidate who performed a similar function.
What I liked about The Killing, I really liked. The way the show held onto the family's grief in ways TV cops shows rarely allow, except in Emmy-bait special guest starring episodes. Vaulting between so many cultures, from white working stiffs to Indian casinos and Muslim religious groups. Kinnaman, who created a character so compelling I wouldn't mind a show devoted to his backstory.
But, ultimately, those high points were too few and far between. Either by design or coincidence, many early fans of the show seemed to react the way Linden did in Sunday's finale after hearing there was a new murder to investigate.
She gets out of the car and off this horrible ride that derailed her life.
Those of us who hung on until the bitter end of this season, can certainly relate.