Dispatches From The Couch: THE KILLING’s Fatal Flaw

Unlike 95 percent of the known universe, I was thrilled by last season’s finale of THE KILLING.
When people threw up their hands and proclaimed, in the style of THE SIMPSONS’ comic book guy, “Worst! Ending! Ever!”, I told them to take a chill pill. I said, “People, it’s called THE KILLING! Singular, not plural! If they solve the mystery, the show’s over.”
Then, I sat back and waited patiently for the show’s return. And as season two unfurled, I came to a conclusion others may have been quicker to reach: THE KILLING sucks as a mystery.
It’s one thing for a show like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES to spin lackluster mysteries — and year after year, it does — because that’s not their forte. Heck, the daytime soaps which inspired the primetime sudser have told more than their fair share of clunkers. (Never utter the word “reliquary” around fans of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS. Trust me.) The thing is, those shows are dramas that occasionally dabble in murder and mayhem, whereas THE KILLING sold itself right from the start as addressing one central question: Who killed Rosie Larsen?
Any lover of the genre will tell you that a whodunit involves much more than simply a body and a bunch of suspects. There’s an art to crafting the perfect mystery, and THE KILLING has begun to feel less like a show that is connecting the dots and more like one that’s painting outside the lines and making a big ol’ mess in the process.
The biggest problem is with the suspect list… or perhaps the lack of one. During the first season, the investigation focused largely on Rosie’s family and the folks working on the political campaign of gloomy gus Darren Richmond. This season, however, it seems as if the trail has branched off in a different direction every week. Maybe it was Alexi, the moody dude who drove Rosie around and became her confidante! Or Michael, the father of Rosie’s kinda boyfriend from way back in episode one! Or Nicole, who was suddenly re-introduced last week in a way that suggested we should clearly consider her a suspect… even if it’s been so long since she appeared that I’d forgotten she is a “chief” of the Indian as opposed to police variety.
Half the fun of a mystery is trying to solve it, but THE KILLING regularly leaves me with the feeling that it’s pointless to try. This isn’t to say that they should have wrapped up the story at the end of last season, but rather to suggest that, well, it’s not actually a particularly good story, period.
And maybe that would be fine if there were other things to enjoy about the show. But what would those be? The scenery? Only if you’d pick grey as your signature color. The subplots? I suppose the homoerotic tension between Jamie and Darren is fun… if it exists anywhere outside my own imagination. (Come on, tell me that when the candidate collapsed in the arms of his eager-eyed assistant, you weren’t expecting them to kiss!) And what’s with the whole Mitch-runs-away story? If I wanted an escape from the horrors that had become my home life, I’d at least drive far enough from Seattle that I found a place where the sun occasionally shines.
In the end, I know I’ll stick with the show at least until Rosie’s killer is unmasked, if only because I have completion issues. But if, as has been hinted, the reveal serves as a jumping off point for more dark drama — as in we find out who did it but the characters don’t — chances are I’ll be beating a hasty retreat. After all, there’s only so much gloom and doom a fella can take.
Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility.

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  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more! It seems like they try so hard to throw us off track that they are just spinning this never ending web of confusion. They need to start giving me some answers, not just keep me asking questions.

    Also, at the beginning of season 1, I was honestly invested in “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” this sweet girl who had a pink room and was a daddy’s girl. But the more they uncover about her, she just seems like a whiny teenager. Which doesn’t make it ok that she was murdered, but i just wish that they would give me some redeeming qualities about her to make me care that she died.

  • David O’Neill

    Besides, the only important thing here is Richard Harmon’s Jasper. That kid needs a show of his own.

  • They broke the pattern of what worked with the original Danish version. It should have been a descent into madness that builds relentlessly on itself to the end of the season where the viewer is rewarded with the identity of the killer. You can’t drag that out into a second season. Too many added dead ends and rabbit trails and the hiatus really loses that emotional momentum that was building. 

    Not sure why they felt they needed to stretch it out because they still have the new case from the original’s season two they could have used. Oh well. I’m all for changes if they make things better, but they completely missed what made the original story so satisfying. They had something good going there for a little while.