The Killing's Season Finale: Disappointment of the Year

By Louis Peitzman

Jun 20, 2011

The only thing I enjoyed about the season finale of The Killing was the equally outraged reaction it inspired in other TV critics and fans. Remember, this was a series we all felt excited about: It gripped me from the first episode. Even as my interest wavered midway through the season—to the extent that I no longer felt inclined to write about the show—I held out some hope that the show might be saving up for a big finish. The season finale would somehow win me back! Which was pretty naïve, but hey, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

To say Sunday’s episode was disappointing is a colossal understatement. And no, I’m not just saying that because we still don’t know who killed Rosie Larsen, though the non-reveal did contribute to my raised blood pressure. The Killing screwed its audience over and over again, with a season finale that reinforced just how little the audience matters to executive producer Veena Sud. You can, in fact, satisfy viewers and still leave things open-ended, but that’s not what happened here.

My disappointment with The Killing has forced me to question whether I will ever be satisfied by a TV mystery, because they seem pretty lose-lose on all fronts. If the case takes too long to solve, the show is slow. If it's solved quickly, there’s not enough build-up. If the killer is the main suspect from the throughout, the big reveal is too obvious. If it’s a total surprise, then the show has done a poor job of dropping clues. Was The Killing always going to be a letdown?

That’s a question I’ll continue to ponder, but there were certainly other ways to wrap up the first season that would have been far better than this. I was dubious at the end of last week's penultimate episode, when it looked like Richmond was the culprit—the killer unmasked before the season finale? But like many others, I guessed there might be some last-minute twist: Perhaps Gwen or Jamie murdered Rosie to cover up Richmond’s indiscretion. Fine. Not groundbreaking television, but at least a bit of a surprise and, more importantly, a sense of closure.

Instead, we got the half-hearted “reveal” that Richmond didn’t do it after all. Who did? No clue—but Holder is somehow involved. And that is the moment I went from annoyed to irate. Holder has been the standout character this season. (I would have said it was Mitch after the first few episodes, but surely not at this point. More on her momentarily.) His character was developed better than the whole rest of the cast's, and part of the thrill was watching his transformation from sleazy cop to decent-guy-with-issues. And now—surprise!—he was dirty all along? It’s insulting to take us on this journey with him, only to close the series with a last-minute reveal that rewrites everything.

Mitch turned out to be a disappointment, too, which is a travesty given Michelle Forbes’ undeniable talent. The Killing took place over 13 days—not nearly enough time for a grieving mother to move past the loss of her daughter. I never expected to see her do so, but I did long for some sort of character development, some hint that she was in transition. Instead, we got the same sad, sunken Mitch in every episode, until she just stopped being interesting. When she showed up in the finale, I actually sighed. And now we’re supposed to care that she’s up and left her family? Does it really matter at this point?

Like many others, I feel as though I’ve wasted too much of my time. Not knowing who killed Rosie is frustrating, but admitting that I devoted energy to these characters and their stories was even worse. I should have stopped watching when the Bennett Ahmed story turned out to be a distraction, and yet, I soldiered on. And for what? I just spent an hour watching Linden and Holder scour gas stations, and all I really know about who killed Rosie Larsen is that I won’t be tuning in to Season 2 to find out.

What did you think of the finale? Are you groaning at the thought of The Killing coming back for Season 2? Are you upset we didn't find out who killed Rosie? Or did you love the show's "twists" and the cliffhanger and think the internet simply whines too much?

Follow writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom

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  • smithinjapan Jul 01, 2011

    Oh, come now! It was definitely a disappointment, but surely there were bigger ones out there. Of course, if you're saying that it had more potential and so was a major letdown, where you knew show's like V were going to be outright bombs from the start, then yeah... 'disappointment of year' might work.

  • VirnaMedina0 Jul 01, 2011

    Its first episode was able to staple me to my seat. Probably continue to the 2nd and 3rd episode. However, the second half of the season - it's really hard for me to say this - sucked... BIG TIME. The pace is sooooo slow. One red herring after another, I'd have to say AMC has a great way of killing the main characters' credibility, Linden and Holder that is. Linden, most probable was a good detective, at least from the first impression i've got in the first season. Later I ended up hating her. For an experienced investigator, she seemed very green, in both instinct AND action.

    For the second half of the season this show is soooo depressing, it made Ned Stark beheaded scene in Game of Thrones almost cheering.

    I get that AMC is probably trying to show the human side of these characters, but I think it could be done any other way that destroying their credibility.

    Hell, if Linden and Holder EVER gonna solve this case, I'm not sure I'll be buying it, taking into account their past errors and wrong moves.But, after 13 weeks i think I deserve a closure. After that, I'll invest my precious time watching some other show.

  • JigShaun Jun 30, 2011

    I'm irritated that the good guy turned out to be a bad guy, and that the bad guy isn't the killer. I'm annoyed that we still don't know who killed Rosie Larsen, and now we'll have to watch another dozen episodes with no guarantee that we'll find out at the end of THAT. But mostly I'm bothered by how BORING the last half of the season was. Did we really need a five episode indictment of racial profiling? Couldn't the point have been made in one or two? And I understand that you need red herrings and false starts. But after a WHOLE SEASON we are no closer to knowing who killed Rosie than we were WHEN WE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW SHE WAS DEAD YET! Note to the producers: Do you think that in season 2 the SUN might come out? We all get the symbolism. Dead girl, tragedy, dreary weather. But come on, not even the Pacific Northwest is THAT depressing! Oh, and it has nothing to do with not understanding the plot. My four year old niece understood the plot. I just thought it was a cheap trick. Holder did NOT fabricate a piece of evidence to make sure the guilty guy went to jail. He didn't even fabricate the evidence. Richmond's political opponents gave him the fabricated evidence to make sure their rival didn't win the election.

  • Furfles Jun 30, 2011

    how stupid do you have to be to say "Disappointment of the Year" about one of the best season finale of the year? "boo-hoo I'll have to use my brain to understand the plot, the good guy was the bad guy".. come on... are you 12 years old?

  • macydogg Jun 29, 2011

    This show is excellent!!! Love it!!!

  • starspike Jun 29, 2011

    I’m not sure if indeed Richmond didn’t do it…. maybe they just wanted to put a SMALL seed of doubt in some people. Because I think (and if I interpret the internet correctly I’m not the only one) that the final minutes just meant to show us that Holder fabricated that last piece of evidence so that the person that was obviously the killer would be convicted. Since it was clear that their boss wasn’t going to let them pick up Richmond without evidence that put him in the car.

  • doctorwho747 Jun 29, 2011

    @nanktsc could not agree with you more. the show was good the entire season was full of plot twits and a few cliffhangers. but apparently there are some people who seemed to have never heard of a SEASON having a cliffhanger. i guess i can;t, oh wait there's Lost, the x files, twin peaks and the biggest one 24 witch had cliffhangers every episode and season, that is just to name a few. @ mattgus also agree with you, yes the show is different and great. and you are right this was the first half of this story. i heard two rumors one that says the second season will belonger than 13 eps and Rosie will be wrapped up halfway through before L and H move on to another case. or it will be 13 eps again, eother way the murder WILL be wrapped up next season. I stand by my theory that it will happen on day 26, election day. mattgus you also wrote something just like i wrote earlier. people apparently need to instant gratification in longer than 2 minutes to an hour, don't get me wrong some shows that are more episodic are good House, Bones, Burn notice, Psych, a few but even those shows have some serialization. i bet if people insulted any of these stupid reality shows in any small way they would get death threats from people who b***h about great tv shows that get them to be canceled. Man if i started on that list i would take up this page so i won't do that. and finally @richardhart4 not liking a show because the constant rainy overcast weather? this is not a happy frigggin story so it is no wonder they chos Seattle where it does tend to rain alot or at least be overcast. what would you rather the story take place in a bright sunny town maybe near a beach with college students on spring break? as i said this is not a happy story. think about the movie Seven which was raining the whole movie until the end. having those stories take place around sets the mood tone of both. and finally @richardhart4, not liking the killing because the characters are unattractive? and the fact you would like to have killed Rosie and the other characters yourself? i think if I dignify that with a response they wouldn't let me post, ill leave it everyones imagination. Ok Ok you win todays award for the stupidest reason not to like a show! but don't worry there is always tomorrow for you lose that title to someone else or continue to be raining champion!

  • mattgus Jun 25, 2011

    i will not throw the baby out with the bathwater...the show is too good. yes,it is differant,great. all the rest are formula,i figure them out in the first 10 min. there are always reruns of murder she wrote...this is not just about who did it. it is much more than that...i would think we would be better off complaining about all the silly, elementary, poorly produced and executed crap out there. and good pt this was only 1/2 a season compared to what we are use to. this is really good tv. lets rag on something that deserves it...we complain about bad tv and when someone takes a leap and does something differant everybody wants a simple answer. get on a rollercoaster then your thrills are over and done on 3 or less min...look at the shows canc like rubicon chicago code etc...intellegent oferings that i guess were not enought of a slam bam thank you mam...whew that felt good lol

  • maxpower212 Jun 24, 2011

    Who says Richmond didn't do it? Or that Holder is dirty? I think they're setting up a killer second season and I hope that they work the conspiracy angle. There are still a number of characters and storylines that haven't really been explored completely (the casino, Linden's mental breakdown, Seattle politics, terrorism, Drexler, etc). Although the show was slower than it had to be, I think the stage is set for the mysteries to tie together.

  • TVwatcher247 Jun 24, 2011

    I'm really not that disappointed. If the season had been as long as the Danish original we'd have the killer named already so I'm treating it like a split season. I liked the show throughout so I can be patient and wait until next season. I enjoyed the Holder "twist" and look forward to learning what his motive actually was. Involvement or over zealous detective work. I'll be right here waiting for next year.

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