Season finale review: ‘The Killing’ – ‘What I Know’

06.17.12 6 years ago 166 Comments


A review of “The Killing” finale coming up just as soon as I smoke in a garage…

“Just the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, it comes down to that, I guess.” -Holder

In the case of “The Killing,” it seems to pretty exclusively come down to that.

So Rosie Larsen died not only because she overheard Jamie’s Indian casino conspiracy talk, but because Aunt Terry was in the car and would rather let what she thought was some random girl drown in a lake than lose out on the chance that Mr. Ames would leave his wife. And before that, Darren Richmond got paralyzed because he had the horrible timing to have been attempting suicide at the exact moment Rosie was killed, making it difficult for a man in his position to offer the cops a convincing alibi. And before that, Bennet Ahmed got beaten half to death(*) because he also couldn’t tell the cops the truth because he was busy trying to save some other, unrelated girl from being ritually circumcised the night that Rosie died.

(*) And is Stan still going to prison for that at some point? Or does his decision to make a fresh start in the house with Mitch and the boys have the legal power to prevent him from being tried? I’m unclear on that, just as I’m not sure how Linden got Rosie’s movie transferred to DVD so quickly. “The Killing”: fuzzy on details great and small!

There were so many horrible coincidences involved in the death of Rosie Larsen and the lives of the people who either cared about her or were suspects in her murder that I almost can’t blame Linden and Holder for so consistently bungling the investigation. What are the odds that a single murder case would involve this many fluky twists of fate? And since Duck Phillips told them that they did a good job, it must be so, right?

I’d like to say that season 2 of “The Killing” was an improvement on season 1, and in some ways, it probably was. The second season certainly did a better job of doing what Veena Sud claimed to be doing last year, in that it took advantage of the extra time to sketch in some of the characters. (Though even there, some of the character work turned out to be a red herring, as Jamie wasn’t all the man he presented himself as.) And the second season played the “everything we just told you was completely untrue, but made for one hell of a cliffhanger” trick slightly less than the first had. (I was relieved, for instance, that the finale’s opening scenes didn’t instantly reveal that it was Gwen, and not Jamie, who attacked Rosie; though the episode did throw in that final twist where Rosie technically died by Terry’s hands, Jamie was at least involved.)

But I honestly feel like any kinder feelings I have for the second season came from the complete lack of investment I had in it. The first season had been such a mess on so many levels, and then the finale such a miscalculation on top of what had come before, that I no longer cared about the show as anything but a Joel Kinnaman delivery system (and to a lesser extent, a chance to watch Brent Sexton, Mireille Enos and a few others), and as something I would watch to the end just so I could say that I had. And because I didn’t care, I wasn’t as troubled by the endless loop of visits to and from the casino, by the show’s laughable understanding of how social media works (the election-winning “viral” video of Richmond playing basketball got all of 1200 or so views), by all the extraneous business involving Stan’s old boss Janek, etc.

Was the the mystery of who killed Rosie Larsen(**) and the impact her death had on the people who got tangled up in the case worth 26 hours of television? With better execution, maybe. I think this format has merit, and there were stray episodes and moments (mostly involving Holder and Linden hanging out together in scenes unrelated to the mystery) that seemed to live up to the potential.

(**) And my first thought on seeing that the finale was opening with a flashback to Rosie alive and well on the morning of her murder was “Too little, too late.” Among the biggest mistakes the show made was failing to make Rosie matter as anything but a driver of the silly plot.

Overall, though, this was a slog, filled with clichés (I was pleased that Holder got a chance to say “This goes all the way to the top!” a few episodes ago), contrived plot twists and repetitive misery that Sud and the other writers kept mistaking for deep characterization.

“The Killing” got 26 hours (give or take commercials) of my life. In return, I found out – later than expected – who killed Rosie, I got to watch some good acting elevate sketchy writing, and I got to watch a whole lot of rain. (Though the finale was oddly bone-dry.)

I know I swore off the series at the end of the first season after being outraged over the finale and all the stupidity that had come before. I came back, partly out of professionalism, partly out of completism, partly because I was usually so exhausted the morning after “Mad Men” that I couldn’t be bothered to watch something that required more mental energy. And now that I’ve come to the end of the mystery, I feel more confident in saying that if AMC renews the show for a third season, I don’t need to see it. Been there, done that, got the coincidentally identical pink t-shirt. There’s nothing more to see here, even if Linden somehow gets sucked back into the job – again! – in time to help Holder out with another mystery this time next year. (Me? I’d be on the first plane to Sonoma to drink a whole lotta wine, with or without Callum Keith Rennie.)

But that’s me. For those of you who also stuck it out to the end, did you feel satisfied with both the resolution and everything else that happened over these 26 episodes? And for those of you who bailed earlier, did you at any point suspect either of Jamie or Aunt Terry?

What did everybody else think?

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