bill bodkin looks back at two season murder mystery…
We finally found out who killed Rosie Larsen…and the long, arduous, thrilling and suspenseful wait known as AMC’s The Killing is over.
However, one has to wonder as Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) walked off into the overcast Seattle sunset, while her partner Detective Steven Holder (Joel Kinnaman) drove off to his next case, is this the last time we’ll see The Killing on TV? As of the posting of this review, AMC has not confirmed whether the Seattle crime drama will be returning.
The case can be made for the show not returning to television — what does the series have left to offer? Wasn’t the whole series based on the gimmick of “Who Murdered Rosie Larsen?” — can we really build another series based on just one murder again? Has that gimmick run its course? Also, will there be an audience for another season? When the series returned to the air this spring, the ratings were down 30% over the previous season, due to the fact audiences were still steamed that the first season ended in a cliffhanger (which frankly is absurd).
Yet, after watching this season unfold, a third season should in fact be commissioned for the Seattle-based crime drama and these were all evidenced in the finale of season 2.
1. The Killing Knows How to End A Season: Throughout its two season run, The Killing has taken the narrative approach of the long, slow burn and then ending with a mammoth, explosion of an ending. In Season 1 we ended things with Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) being arrested for Rosie Larsen’s murder and ultimately getting shot (which led to his paralysis) by the deranged employee of Rosie’s dad (Brent Sexton), Belko (Brendan Sexton III). It absolutely took audiences off guard and unjustifiably turned a lot of people off.
This season the finale came in two-parts, with the revelation that Richmond’s righthand man Jamie Wright (Eric Ladin) was the man who discovered Rosie Larsen in the Indian casino. Honestly, things were wrapped up a little too neatly with Jamie unravelling and then eating a bullet from Holder in the first fifteen minutes. With 45 minutes left in the episode we were left wondering if there was something still unsolved.
And then it happened. The revelation that Terry (Jamie Anne Allman), Rosie’s aunt, the woman who gave up her life to take care of the Larsen family when Mitch (Michelle Forbes) walked out on them, the woman who was the glue that held the Larsens together, the woman who was the reality check for her self-absorbed sister — was actually the one who killed Rosie. She put the car, which had Rosie in the trunk, in drive and let it roll into the river. She stood there by the water, hearing the screams of a defenseless girl and did nothing…all because her lover, Michael Ames (Barclay Hope), decided to renege on his promise to leave wife (which was all due to a long, complicated deal involving a waterfront Indian casino) to be with her.
If you saw this coming, you’re a genius. Seriously, you are brilliant because the writers did a beautiful job of making Teri such a sympathetic, almost saintly character. However once it was revealed she ended Rosie’s life, you look at her and everything she did for the Larsen’s, post-Rosie’s death, with complete contempt and disgust.
The curveball the writers of The Killing threw here was so wicked, so nasty, not even the most seasoned crime drama viewer could’ve seen it coming. And if the writer’s can keep this brilliance up, a third season is definitely something AMC should consider.
2. Stephen Holder is The Man: When we left Holder at the end of Season 1 we all thought Holder had sold out his partner and was involved in a massive conspiracy to take down the Richmond campaign. Turns out, the former meth addict turned jive-talking detective was actually sold out by his sponsor, a cop who was actually involved in the conspiracy. In the beginning of this season we saw him spiral out of control, almost turn back to drugs, beat the hell out a drug dealer and flail about in despair. But then he got his mind in check and morphed into a bad ass detective who drove the drama but also provided a ton of comic relief. Telling Linden she was still his “BFF” or that he was her “Jedi Master of Life” or the countless wisecracks he delivered every time he entered the Indian casino provided the series with much needed levity.
Frankly, if the series does not return with Sarah Linden as the lead, the show could easily revolve around the character of Holder. He’s such a dynamic force that people would probably get behind a series where he was the focus. And it’s already reported that Joel Kinnaman, is on board if season three were to ever happen — even stating he’d film the show by himself if he needed too. Now that’s dedication.
3. But Having Sarah Linden Come Back Would Be Good: Sarah Linden was a woman that had come undone this season…and it was a glorious thing to watch. Not that one would enjoy watching someone lose their child, have an engagement fall apart and end up committed in an asylum. But the fallout of this trauma turned the Sarah Linden character into a smirking loose cannon, who like the famed Internet sensation the honey badger, just doesn’t give a shit. Watching the petite, pony-tailed detective ferociously and relentlessly go after anyone in her way was awesome. It’d be really interesting to see what comes of her character in a third season. How would she able to deal with her obsessive nature and the fact she is a mother? Is there a little something developing between her and Holder? Will she ever quit smoking?
4. The Characters Never Stop Surprising You: When Darren Richmond shuts the door on his girlfriend and top advisor Gwen Eaton (Kristin Lehman) and proceeds to meet with political fat cats about developing a casino on the Seattle waterfront, a subject he opposed throughout his campaign, we were just as stunned as when we found out who killed Rosie Larsen. The flawed yet seemingly altruistic Richmond shocked us all by fulfilling Jamie’s final words about how Richmond needed to accept the fact that he [Richmond] had to drop his righteous facade and accept that he’s a corrupt, ego-maniacal, self-serving, politician like everyone else.
All the characters on The Killing, from Holder and Linden to the entire Larsen Clan to all those involved in the Richmond campaign were extremely dynamic, well-written and fully realized characters. They all moments of true, pure, kindness to moments of pure selfish and sometimes deadly evil. It might be USA who says “Characters Welcome” but it’s AMC that has truly built its creative empire on brilliant characters.
5. The Pacing: One of the biggest complaints about the series throughout its run has been the pacing. And I’ll admit at times the show was a bit slow for me. But it was all a set-up for the unwinding of a convoluted case that has involved politics, infidelity, race relations, prostitution, broken families and lots and lots of rain. This slow, unwinding, pace reminds me of a lot of well-written UK crime dramas. It takes its time, it makes you think and if you are patient with the series it will suck you in — just like all the great AMC shows.
It’s emphasis on strong story and strong character has been the hallmark of AMC from Mad Men to Breaking Bad to The Walking Dead. All these shows are drastically different, but they all take their time in getting to the point. This slower pace allows for your mind, the cliffhangers leave you wanting more. And that’s why AMC has become so successful at original programming they leave audience wanting more and those hungry audiences will rewatch the reruns, they will take chances to watch new AMC programs based on previous experience and they’ll tell their friends to go out and find these shows on whatever platform they can to discover what they already love.