AMC’s first season of “The Killing” wrapped up its run last night, and closed out the season with the sort of finale that probably turned off even the show’s most ardent defenders. As season finales go, it was one of the worst in recent memory (it made the “Lost” series finale seem like the “Six Feet Under” finale by comparison), and all I will say to those of you who are a few episodes behind or considering watching the series now that its first season is finished is: Don’t bother. Ask someone who has seen it. Anyone who has seen it, and that opinion by this point will be fairly uniform. If the series doesn’t lose 75 percent of its audience in its second season, I will be surprised.
I’d offer a spoiler warning here on the finale but for one thing: There’s nothing to spoil. What we all waited 13 episodes to find out never really came to fruition. We still don’t know definitively who murdered Rosie Larsen. What we do know is that Darren Richmond was arrested for it, although it now seems somewhat unlikely he did it given the show’s trajectory. He may also be dead, as the episode ended on a cliffhanger: Did Belko Royce get a shot off? Probably not, at least not a lethal one, as a second season looks to focus on the same people and on the same investigation, so obviously the mayoral campaign will still be in focus.
What we also know is that Stephen Holder may know who the killer is. Or he was paid to frame up Darren Richmond. Or Holder actually killed Larsen (he does have a sketchy history with underage women). I suspect, given the sympathies we’ve developed for Holder over the course of the season, that it’s none of these scenarios. It’s more likely that Holder manufactured the evidence to help put away someone he was sure had killed Larsen.
It wasn’t Gwen, either. Or so it seems, as she was the one who turned on Richmond, although it may have been to steer the attention away from her, as the episode clearly revealed that Gwen has some issues with the women in Richmond’s past. It probably wasn’t the mother, Mitch, either, but there seemed to be some mystery surrounding her decision to leave Stan and the family. Could it have been Belko? Maybe he shot Richmond to prevent authorities from turning attention back on him instead of trying to earn the respect of Stan. I doubt it, though.
The fact that we are still asking these questions at the end of the first season, however, is the biggest problem with “The Killing.” They fucked us over. They didn’t even bother to lubricate, and if they did, it was with pine tar. It’s one thing to give us a slow-paced show, a slow burn of a season that looked at every facet of a murder investigation, but it’s quite another not to give us any payoff at the end of it. “The Killing” wasn’t supposed to be “Lost,” and it’s not strong enough to keep us interested in the same way that “Twin Peaks” did over a second season. It was supposed to be a procedural tracking a murder investigation over 13 days. That was long enough to try the patience of even the show’s biggest supporters; why anyone would stick around another 13 episodes is beyond me.
If there’s one excuse, it’s that the original Danish series — which follows a very similar plotline — was 20 episodes long. It was my impression that the AMC condensed those episodes into 13. It may be that it plans to continue all 20 episodes (and maybe the second season is only picked up for seven, or a second investigation begins halfway through the second season). But we had no reason to know that. We were expecting a resolution. The promos, the website, the suspect tracker — they all suggested it. Now, even if they were to wrap up this investigation completely in the seventh (or even first) episode of the second season and move on to another investigation, “The Killing” has already lost the trust of its viewers. J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindeloff, David Lynch — these guys are given a certain leeway, allowed to fuck with the viewers because it’s what we expect and in a way, what we want. But the woman behind “Cold Case”? No, that’s unearned arrogance. She didn’t create a compelling enough series to earn the right to do that to us. She, nor the series, will be forgiven.
And finally, for those who think that AMC’s “The Killing” does ultimately track the Danish series, “Forbrydelsen” and want to know how the Danish series ends (offering some half-hearted resolution), I will tell you after this SPOILER WARNING:
It was the character equivalent of Belko. It’s very difficult to find spoilers, but it looks as though the Belko character raped and murdered the Rosie Larsen character because she had run off with a Muslim, and he was a racist asshole. This actually seems to track the earlier half of the AMC season, so I don’t know if it fully tracks the American version unless, in the second season, they come back around to it.