AMC Kills It with the Premiere of The Killing

At this point, AMC’s scripted series are so consistently great that it almost feels unnecessary to extol The Killing’s virtues. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to. Whether or not the show’s quality was a foregone conclusion, the premiere was an impressive two hours of television: The mystery was intriguing, the characters were complex, and I didn’t once feel as bored or confounded as I did during the Rubicon pilot.

I’ll be honest: I was a little hesitant going into The Killing, and that’s coming from someone who loves mysteries. Community showrunner Dan Harmon’s tweets following Sunday night’s premiere summed up my concerns well—even though I don’t agree with his comments. “AMC’s The Killing: Murder Just Got Slow,” he tweeted. He followed that with, “There must be a guy at AMC that stops you after one sentence of your pitch and says, ‘whoa whoa, save some of this for season two!’”

I don’t think The Killing was slow, but I understand what Harmon is getting at. AMC is known for its steady, deliberate pacing: A show like Mad Men is praised for it, while Rubicon was canceled arguably because it was too slow to command attention. (That was my assessment, at least. I didn’t even make it past the pilot.) A season-long mystery is tricky business, in that you have to draw it out to the finale (presumably), but still provide enough clues to keep viewers watching from week to week. Frankly, I wasn’t sure AMC was up to the task.

But hey, this is one of the rare times I’m glad the network proved me wrong. The pacing of The Killing’s first two episodes was ideal: The plot’s progression was organic, and I never once felt bored. The reveals were earned, and they didn’t come across as delayed for the sake of dragging things out. It’s going to be a while before we know who killed Rosie Larsen—and there will likely be plenty of related questions that need answering along the way—but I’m happy to be patient when there are other compelling reasons to tune in.

Mystery aside, I’m already hooked by Michelle Forbes, an under-appreciated actor who is finally getting her due. She plays Mitch Larsen, mother of the murdered girl, and she provided some of the premiere’s most gutwrenching moments. I’m glad Mitch is such an integral aspect of the show, because so far, Forbes is the standout cast member. (And yes, it’s weird that Mitch didn’t call her daughter all weekend. And yes, that makes me think she knows more than she’s letting on. Let the conspiracy theories begin!)

I’m also loving Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, who plays the bizarre detective Stephen Holder. His interrogation techniques are seriously off-putting; I felt this way early on, and that was before he got a couple of teenage girls stoned to pump them for information. I don’t like him—that is, I wouldn’t want to work alongside him—but he’s already fascinating, and in a TV landscape filled with cookie-cutter detectives, he’s a welcome diversion from the norm. (Do you think he killed Rosie? Highly unlikely. But sure, we can throw him on the suspect list.)

I can’t actually tell if The Killing is going to be the kind of show we speculate about endlessly every Sunday night. I’m inclined to think it’s not that kind of mystery—things will fall into place by the end, but we won’t be playing “whodunit” on a weekly basis. Besides, right now I’m so smitten with the story and the characters and the atmosphere that the question of “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” isn’t on the top of my list. (But do you think it was the current mayor? It could totally be the mayor. I’m just saying.)

What did you think of the premiere?

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