Friday, May 25, 2018
TV and Media

Slow pace was the real killer in AMC's 'The Killing'

From the very beginning, 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.)

My problem: I couldn't decide if The Killing 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 a complex, conflicted character, a single mom struggling to do right by her fiance, her son and her case.

But then 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 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 padded with increasingly implausible side stories and false suspects.

I felt the same, but kept tuning in — hey, I'm the guy who still can't stop watching Law & Order: SVU, almost against my will — in hopes that something might make this relentlessly downbeat tale worthwhile.

But with the show's final twist revealed — Rosie Larsen's aunt, covert call girl Terry Marek, was the culprit — I can render a verdict: Nope. It wasn't nearly 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.

Too many of the various subplots and false starts felt too thin. One minute, Linden's kicked off the force in disgrace; the next, she's directing cops in a controversial search of offices in a Native American 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; a wayward daughter drawn to the son of a man her father killed; or an angry kid who rejected her mother for lying about who her biological 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 hoping to run away with one of those power brokers, jumped in the car and guided it into a lake, unaware her niece was the girl trapped inside until the body was found by police.

More than anything, this felt like a story that could have been sheared of its weaker subplots. 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 its second season to dodging a sales pitch for a condo time share.

What I liked about The Killing, I really liked, especially how the show held onto the family's grief in ways TV cop series rarely allow. And Kinnaman's white-boy rapper-trapped in a policeman's body deserves a spinoff all his own.

But, ultimately, those high points were too few and 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 their car, leaving the awful details to her partner and anyone else clueless enough to stay in the game.

Those of us who hung on until the bitter end Sunday can certainly relate.

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