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TV review: 'The Killing' returns with mystery, mood intact

SHOW PATROL

  • Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos star in AMC's "The Killing."
Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos star in AMC's "The Killing." (AMC )
April 01, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

It’s impossible to write about the season 2 premiere of “The Killing” (7 p.m. April 1, AMC; 3 stars) without addressing what happened to the show at the end of its first season.

The moody mystery series opened to mostly critical raves as Seattle detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and her new partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) tried to answer the question, "Who killed Rosie Larsen?” The series’ tag line would haunt it when the 13-episode season concluded.

The finale ended with the duo arresting mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) for the murder, followed by Linden realizing that Holder had framed Richmond. We did not learn who killed Rosie, leading some viewers to freak out and some critics to make silly, over-the-top “I will never watch this show again!” pronouncements.

What a load of crap. Sure, viewers are free to share rants and raves—and it is the critics’ jobs—but since when does either get a say in the dramatic arc of a show? Fans have a right to be upset with a show’s direction, but I have problems when fans think they are owed something other than what the creators and writers envisioned.*

Besides, the show’s tag line was “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” and not, “We will tell you who killed Rosie Larsen at the end of Season 1.” Show creator Veena Sud said “The Killing”—her adaptation of the Danish series “Forbrydelsen”—would hew closely to the original’s timeline. It took that series 22 episodes to reveal the killer, not 13.

Mind you, I had issues with the first season, too. The way the show is set up, each episode is a day in the investigation, and the episodes sometimes move as slowly as a dreary Seattle drizzle. And while some characters were complex and fascinating, some weren’t explored as deeply as I would have liked.

Had those issues been enough to turn me away from the show, I would have done just that: turned it off—long before the finale aired. Overall, though, the season 1 storytelling and the acting transfixed me, as it already has done with the season 2 premiere.

“The Killing” remains much more than a standard police procedural not because it doesn’t use some of the same tropes of those series, but through their use it does a better job of putting viewers in the investigators’ shoes. Last season I felt the same frustration Linden did when a clue led to yet another disappointment, not because I was bored or impatient with all the red herrings, but because I was fully invested in the trip Sud and her actors were taking us on.

That trip included a heartbreaking yet riveting examination of the grief that washes over victims’ families. (Michelle Forbes, as Rosie’s shattered mother, Mitch, and Brent Sexton III as her explosive father, Stan, were hypnotic.)

So I harbor no ill will toward Sud or AMC going into Season 2, except that I’m disappointed they felt they had to tell viewers Rosie’s killer will be caught at the end of the season. Doesn’t that kind of ruin the mystery? We’ll simply be able to discard any early suspects, no?

Despite the quibble, I am excited for the new season. The two-episode premiere, “Reflections” and “My Lucky Day,” doesn’t stray from the show’s mournful mood or its deliberate pace. But the acting remains impeccable, and the writing adds depth to characters that seemed one-dimensional the first season.

Season 2 begins moments after last year’s finale, with Linden and her son, Jack (Liam James), at the airport after their aborted trip. She knows Holder framed Richmond, and she needs to solve both that issue and her case. Meanwhile, Richmond’s aides Gwen (Kristin Lehman) and Jamie (Eric Ladin) are chasing after the paramedics tending to their boss.

Lehman and Ladin do wonderful, emotional work later in the premiere in well-written scenes in which their characters wait at the hospital for news about Richmond.

Enos and Kinnaman remain outstanding. Enos plays Linden as a buttoned-up investigator who never gives away too much of what she’s thinking. Yet with a simple stare Enos reveals just enough of Linden’s rage, fear, frustration, guilt or  irritation toward Holder.

In Holder, Kinnaman has created a complicated character that I came to love by season’s end. One of the most surprising moments of the finale was when Linden learned that Holder had set up Richmond. With his cocky attitude and past drug problems, he always seemed a bit shady. But Holder a criminal? I was shocked but delighted, just as I was to learn in the season 2 premiere that his motivations are much thornier and plausible than we may have thought.

"The Killing" is as much about the characters' past mistakes as it is about who killed Rosie Larsen. Watching Linden and Holder discover another crime drama cliché—a conspiracy—didn’t trouble me in the least. I have faith “The Killing” will deliver another intricate, secret-filled season that will continue to entertain and enthrall me, and I hope many other viewers.

(* And while I’m on the subject, when did TV critics start to believe that producers or show runners must read and agree with their criticisms, then follow their dictates for “fixing” a show? I thought we wrote to tell audiences whether a show was worth their time, not to tell show runners how to do their jobs. What arrogance!)

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