Monday, June 27, 2011

Television Show Review: The Killing

PilotThe Killing: Season 1 developed by Veena Sud (Fox Television Studios, KMF Films, and Fuse Entertainment)

Starring Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Billy Campbell, Michelle Forbes, and Brent Sexton.


To Speak Frankly

Veena Sud, developer of The Killing, a U.S.-based version of the Danish series Forbrydelsen, needs to go away. In an article penned by Tim Appelo for the Hollywood Reporter, Sud responded to the significant critical and popular backlash to her show with the notion that the public does not understand her greatness.

Relating her show to The Sopranos, Sud proclaimed, “The fact that people love us or hate us is a beautiful thing. I don’t want to be kinda liked.” What is this backlash? Well, for most viewers, it began when an exceptional pilot devolved into a meandering mess of a first season. The only thing keeping the audience tuning in on Sunday nights was the understanding communicated from Sud herself that, at the end of the season, we would know who killed Rosie Larsen.

The House of Cards

Sadly and with a spoiler alert in full effect, the cliffhanger at the end of the season ensured that the one promise the viewers thought they had came crashing down like a house of cards.

The season depicts the murder investigation of Rosie Larsen. With each episode portraying one day’s time, The Killing resides in the procedural drama genre. Where CSI focuses on one investigation per episode, The Killing engages in one investigation over the entire season. Both in its season-long narrative framework and its setting in the Pacific Northwest, The Killing draws easy comparisons with Twin Peaks.

Writers: Killing Potential

Photo by Frank Ockenfels
Despite the near unanimous backlash against the show, it contained promise. First, the pilot episode really drew me to the series. With a dark sense of foreboding, dreary shots of the Seattle skyline, and space for character development, I thought The Killing showed the promise of a modern classic.

Yet, as the show unveiled, it became clear that the writers spent ages perfecting the pilot and had little sense of direction and character development for the rest of the season.

With continual red herrings and a refusal to dive into the back stories of central characters, the season plodded with no clear purpose and no characters worth following.

Where True Emotion Dies

Second, the show provided space to clearly depict a family suffering through the loss of the child. Too often in procedurals, the victim’s family plays a vindictive counterbalance. The murderer did something awful and the family depicts the rage of eye-for-an-eye justice.

The Killing, however, portrays the Larsen family on the cusp of comprehensive breakdown. For the mother, simple day-to-day tasks become unbearable; the father, a stoic external fa├žade silences the inner despair of losing a child.

Yet, I can’t help but think that the Twin Peaks parallels provide a sense of guilt for the Larsen family. Despite the depiction of suffering, we know very little about the family. Given the cliffhanger at the end of the season, it is not out of the question to hear that Season 2 will exhibit the family as the mastermind behind the murder.

Two Thumbs Down

In the end, The Killing was incredibly disappointing. Part of me hopes that Veena Sud is the genius she thinks she is because the show still has the potential to weave a Lost-like story of character connection around a murdered teenager.

But the on-screen evidence suggests that Sud is self-deceived. Her writing staff is horrid and the deception around the season finale left her viewers somewhere between annoyed and angry. For these reasons, I probably won’t watch Season 2. If I hear some positive, critical reviews, I’ll contemplate watching. But for now, consider me burned by The Killing.

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