The Killing Remains the Same Show It's Always Been

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The Killing S02E01 & S02E02: "Reflections"

After a disappointing first season, The Killing’s Season 2 premiere had to work extra hard to lure most of the show's Season 1 audience back to the series. Here’s the short version: It didn’t work for me. I’m afraid I'm past the point of being able to judge this show objectively, because I've already devoted so much time that I don’t feel was rewarded. It’s not even that we don’t know who killed Rosie; if I believed that The Killing had somehow grown during its hiatus, and that I was in for a tighter, better series, I might find a way to get invested again. But even though the premiere was called "Reflections," that just doesn't seem to be the case.

One of The Killing's major problems is that it still doesn’t think it did anything wrong. We can continue to debate the Season 1 finale, in which we finally learned who killed Rosie and then realized that he was being set up—but the show’s faults go beyond that frustrating conclusion. Season 1 was plagued by logical leaps, too many red herrings, inconsistent characterization, and awkward pacing. The show’s main strength, a strong cast delivering exceptional performances, couldn't make up for the writing. By the end, I wasn’t the only viewer wondering why I’d stuck with the show.

However, if The Killing seemed willing to address its failures and learn from them, this might be a different story. The cast is almost enough of a draw, and the show’s gloomy aesthetic coupled with high production values make it an attractive (albeit depressing) viewing experience. I want to watch the show because I still believe there’s potential, but "Reflections" did little to convince me I should keep tuning in. There were a few moments that grabbed me—I liked Belko Royce's twitchy break with sanity, for example—but the overall product felt exactly the same as it did last season, with Linden following Richmond's dead-end trail. The Killing remains the show it always has been.

So, why watch The Killing? If it’s for the mystery, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The first season demonstrated that this series will be dragging things out for as long as possible. And since we know we’re not going to learn the identity of Rosie’s killer until the Season 2 finale, there are sure to be a lot of other false leads and exonerated suspects over the course of the next several episodes.

If you’re watching The Killing for the characters, as many critics have suggested, you’re likely to be drawn in by the performances. The problem is, none of these characters feel like they're worth sticking with. The show insists on taking place in a compact amount of time: As was the case with Lost, the amount of time we spend consuming the story is much longer than the time the characters spend experiencing it. But Lost presented such extreme situations that it forced its characters to grow quickly—it also used flashbacks to flesh out their backstories. We learned more about them constantly, and they never felt stagnant.

In my mind, The Killing is as close as you can get to the opposite of Lost: The show reeks of stagnancy. Its characters are so stuck that it’s not enjoyable to watch. We know Linden will keep trying to escape Seattle only to be drawn back by the mystery. We know Rosie’s parents will continue to cycle through the stages of grief. In the show’s universe, it’s only been a little over two weeks since the murder, which means these characters wouldn’t be drastically different from the way they were in the pilot. That might keep the show grounded in realism, but it doesn’t make for entertaining viewing. I don’t feel particularly engaged with any of them, and I don’t care to know what they’re going to do next. (My guess: more of the same.)

I’ll admit that I’m too annoyed with the show at this point to get much out of it, which is why I’m probably going to tune out now instead of forcing myself to sit through it every week. But few TV series I've taken the time to watch have turned from exciting event television to a drag so quickly. The Killing may improve in its second season—and I hope that it does—but I can’t find any compelling reason to stay. Let me know who killed Rosie when it comes to that, because I guess I would still like to know. Otherwise, I’m not going to let the show dampen my enthusiasm for Sunday nights. Bring on Mad Men and Game of Thrones: Those shows know how to tell a story.


Questions:

– What did you think of the Season 2 premiere?

– Whether you liked the episode or disliked it, let's hear the context: Did you hate the Season 1 finale but think the Season 2 premiere showed signs of improvement? Were you equally frustrated by the end of Season 1 and the two hours we've seen of Season 2? Have you enjoyed the entire series so far? ... And why?