The Killing's Slow Descent to No-Goodness

How did The Killing go from being my favorite new series to a weekly chore? Maybe that’s harsh, but the show is just not fulfilling the promise of its pilot. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way: over the past few weeks, critical backlash has built up against the former critic’s darling. But lest you think I’m being anti for the sake of hipness, let’s talk about why Sunday night’s episode annoyed me to no end.

I’ve never had any real suspicions that Bennett Ahmed killed Rosie, because hi, I know how mysteries work. You don’t introduce a suspect that early on and provide more and more evidence against him just to conclude that yes, he did the deed. And yet, we’ve spent far too much time on this red herring. We literally don’t have any other leads, which means that we’re no closer to finding out who killed Rosie than we were at the beginning. And that’s frustrating. A good mystery should build—sure, distract us with Bennett, but at least offer some alternate possibilities so we have other routes to investigate.

Not to mention the fact that The Killing’s plot is very derivative, and I don’t just mean from the original Danish series. Anyone else thinking about Mystic River? Frankly, how could you not? Let’s see, young girl is murdered. Her father seeks revenge. The prime suspect’s wife voices her suspicions. The father takes the law into his own hands, realizing too late that he’s killed the wrong guy. I’m not suggesting The Killing intentionally lifted its story from Mystic River, but this routine has been done before. What I loved about the series was how unique it seemed early on; now it just feels like a retread.

Meanwhile, the Richmond stuff continues to go nowhere. You can’t argue that nothing is happening—his campaign experiences its share of ups and downs on a weekly basis. But what does any of this have to do with Rosie Larsen? I figure there must be some connection that we haven’t seen yet, aside from the affect Rosie has on Richmond politically. But the series needs to do more to tie its disparate storylines together, because as it stands, the Richmond scenes don’t mesh with the investigation.

And yet, I will continue watching The Killing, because hey, it’s a short season and I want to find out whodunit. I’ll keep reviewing the show whenever I have something interesting to say—but the show will have to find something interesting to say first. Because while I maintain that the first half of the season was some of the best television I’ve seen in recent memory, I can’t pretend The Killing is still appointment viewing for me.

Is this simply a function of drawing out a mystery on a TV series? It’s certainly a challenge—you have to sustain audience interest, provide sufficient clues, but also realistically maintain momentum over the course of several episodes. On The Killing, the pace of the investigation makes sense in terms of how little time has passed, but as a viewer, it’s becoming unbearable. Especially after last night’s episode, in which we learned how much time we’ve wasted chasing the wrong man. What’s next? And does anyone still care?

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