THE KILLING Season One Wrap-Up

People are incensed at last night’s season finale of THE KILLING, but that’s hardly the worst crime this crime drama committed. Spoilers within.

(spoilers ahead)

In last night’s open thread, Roger and most commenters demonstrated an ire at the season finale of The Killing that seems to be internet-wide. People are incensed at the open-ended nature of the finale. We were led to believe that the mystery of Rosie Larsen’s murder would be solved by the first season finale, and that a new mystery would open the second season. Last night’s finale ended with yet another missed flight to Sonoma by Linden and her son, the discovery that Det. Holder is a big, fat, double-crossing, fiery-pantsed liar, the potential shooting of Richmond by Belko, and not a single legitimate answer to any questions whatsoever.

I’m annoyed; I’ll admit it. Maybe showrunner Veena Sud never said that the mystery would be solved within the first season. Maybe we only assumed that because the original Danish series Forbrydelsen solved each mystery within its corresponding season (albeit with twenty episodes to resolve the storyline rather than the thirteen episodes of The Killing). Maybe we as viewers are slaves to the formula, as Sud suggests. Or maybe last night, we simply confirmed what we’ve all reluctantly suspected since week two of the series: The Killing kind of sucks.

If the second half of this season had been better-handled, I certainly wouldn’t have minded the bait-and-switch presented in last night’s finale. I would have applauded Sud’s nerve and looked forward with delicious anticipation to the second season premiere. But the mystery has been so ill-paced and shoddily executed that I’d already decided that only a brilliant resolution could garner my attention for a second season. How many episodes were squandered on the red herring of teacher Bennet Ahmed? As a character surrounded by so much suspicion that early in the season, only the most gullible of viewers must have believed he was the culprit. The rest of us bided our time, waiting for the inevitable discovery that Ahmed is a good guy, misunderstood and vilified by the racist media. This transparent storyline went on for six episodes. Six of thirteen! Of course, thirteen of thirteen episodes were spent showing the intricacies of a mayoral campaign with only the most hackneyed connection to Rosie’s murder. Are we really going the casino/teenage brothel route? For all of Sud’s exhortations about the importance of bucking formula, she certainly had no qualms about lifting a very specific storyline directly from Twin Peaks. Wapi Eagle Casino = One Eyed Jacks, no?

The Killing has embraced the Dexter method of delivering an overabundance of personal background about an overabundance of characters, in the hopes that the audience will form our own theories as to which of these random tertiary characters are actually valid suspects. This way, the writers don’t have to do the work of creating  more than one or two valid suspects themselves, because we fill in the blanks for them, assuming the only reason we’ve spent so much time on Angel’s rocky and tedious relationship with his wife is because she must be the Ice Truck Killer.  This is cheap and lazy mystery-making, and I hate it. Watch season one of Veronica Mars for a beautifully executed mystery. Nearly every character is revealed to have authentic motivations and resources to have murdered Lilly Kane, and when we discover the real culprit, it makes the sort of perfect sense that we never could have predicted before the finale.

It’s not all bad. One complaint I’ve read about The Killing with which I do not concur is that the show is lacking multi-dimensional and believable characters. I find Mireille Enos’s portrayal of Det. Linden to resonate with authenticity, and I feel the same about Joel Kinnaman as Det. Holder. The episode focusing on the two cops searching for Linden’s delinquent son (“Missing”) touched me as a lovely representation of what this show could be if it dropped all the pedestrian circus tricks. And while I began to feel that the show spent too much of the dwindling time focusing on the grief-stricken Larsens, I believed in their grief and regret, no easy achievement for any show. But man alive, I grew weary of the mayoral campaign. Both candidates, the sex-obsessed, racist, homophobic mayor and the earnest Councilman Richmond (played to heavily eyelinered effect by Bill Campbell), were flat and phony. The mayor literally said the words “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” in a recent episode. Seriously?

Most of the mystery’s diversions this season were dropped once disproved. What happened to Rosie’s sleazy ex-boyfriend Jasper and his wealthy, powerful father? The creepy janitor at her high school? Her best friend with the low self-esteem? Rather than showing Linden and Jack miss a flight to California for the thirteenth time, maybe the writers could have fleshed out some of those plots a bit. And as much as I do believe in Linden as a character, I will never truly relate to someone who dreads quitting her gloomy job and moving to sunny Sonoma. Sonoma, Linden! Think it through!

What upsets me most is that The Killing could be a good show. The cinematography is gorgeous, the premise was tantalizing, and most of the cast is terrific. But Veena Sud’s last show, Cold Case, was on CBS, and she’s treated The Killing‘s viewers like the undiscerning audience that typically patronizes that network. This is AMC, yo. A network with standards! And although I’m still curious who killed Rosie, I’m too disgruntled to watch season two. I admit that my dissatisfaction is all the more severe because I loved the pilot. You can read my hilariously optimistic review of that episode here.

What about you guys? Was the cliffhanger the most reprehensible offense committed by The Killing or had you given up long before then? Or did you love this season and feel that it ended on a high note? Speak up in the comments!