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The Most Gut-Wrenching Episode of Television This Summer Came From the Most Unlikeliest of Shows

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 29, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 29, 2013 |

I don’t want to write extensively about the episode (there are zero spoilers below), because I know that few people have seen it, and I want to encourage all of you to check it out, but get this: AMC’s “The Killing” is not only good again, last night’s penultimate episode of the season is the best episode of television since “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” left the air.

It was not an easy episode, however. It was one of those rare episodes of television, like the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” earlier this year, or the final episode of “Rectify,” that will leave you distraught and upset, the kind of episode that literally makes it more difficult to sleep at night. In fact, after the episode, though it was far too late to be doing so, I forced myself to watch an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” just to take the edge off. I was a shaky, trembling ball of nerves with a pit in my stomach the size of a boulder. It took some time to shake off. It certainly wasn’t escapist television, and I’m still not certain how I feel about having it inflicted upon me by a goddamn show that had not displayed the capacity for this kind of raw, emotional power in previous seasons.

If you quit “The Killing” like most people, after the first season, you should know that, if you want to get back into it, there’s no need to watch the second season at all. You can pick right up with the third season’s first episode, which takes us into a new case involving a serial killer, a man (Peter Sarsgaard) on death row who may or may not have killed his wife, and street kids from Seattle who have been the victim of the serial killer.

“The Killing” still has its red herrings, of course, and the general moodiness of the series can feel oppressive at times, but Holden 2.0, along with Sarsgaard, has been nothing short of remarkable this season, while Mireille Enos has been her usual terrific self, amplified even more by the events of last night’s episode, which — by the way — came on the heels of another spectacular but bleak episode in a season that began strong, and has grown incrementally stronger.

Indeed, “The Killing” is not the same show it once was. It has become the show that we had hoped it would be after the pilot. While I completely understand why you may dismiss it as a show that’s already given you too much grief to jump back into, it does mean that you’ll miss the summer’s smartest, most compelling, and upsetting season of television. Showrunner Veena Sud has no one to blame but herself for the audience attrition and the subsequent cancellation, but she is at least doing in excellent job of atoning for herself and redeeming AMC’s decision to uncancel the series. Give it a shot, just make sure to keep a bottle of Valium around to help cope with the aftermath.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.