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“The Killing” Season Finale: They Did What?!

Photo of Caryn James By Caryn James | James on Screens June 20, 2011 at 4:25AM

My first reaction to the last minutes of The Killing season finale, in which we did not find out who killed Rosie Larsen, was a simple, childish “No fair!” What kind of detective show does that?
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My first reaction to the last minutes of The Killing season finale, in which we did not find out who killed Rosie Larsen, was a simple, childish “No fair!” What kind of detective show does that?

But on second thought, the problem is more a matter of timing. If The Killing were coming back next week instead of next season to reveal the murderer, the finale would have left us with some tense moments and intriguing questions. But the episode also displayed a lot of the implausible, even idiotic turns that have weakened the series through the season.

Read on if you’re not afraid of spoilers, or come back later if you haven’t watched the finale yet.

The series’ started as a taut, atmospheric suspense drama – maybe too much rain in the Seattle atmosphere, but it all worked. But over time the series’ wild overreliance on red herrings became a problem. Last week we discovered that Councilman Richmond was the mystery-man called Orpheus behind some creepy emails and possibly threats to hookers. That’s how we knew he couldn’t possibly be the killer; it was way too obvious, just as the weeks of pointing to Rosie’s teacher convinced us he had to be innocent.

So as Detectives Linden and Holder were closing in on Richmond, even arresting him in the last minutes, I kept waiting for the light bulb to go off over Linden’s head as she remembered some crucial bit of evidence that exonerated Richmond and led to the actual murderer. Except that didn’t happen.

What we did see was Linden finally on a plane to meet her finace (oh, that poor, abandoned guy) when she gets a phone call letting her know that a photo of Richmond crossing a toll bridge on the night of the murder – crucial evidence that her partner Holder had brought in – couldn’t be real because the cameras were out that night. And we see Holder in a car with some unseen person saying about Richmond, “He’s going down.” So Holder is corrupt and just as icky as he appeared to be -- that seemed too obvious to me too – and working against Richmond, but we don’t know for whom.

Among other remaining suspects, Richmond’s sometime girlfriend and campaign manager, who has just discovered his many other affairs, had told Linden he was missing the night of the murder and came home at dawn wet, as if he’d been in the water. Sounds fishy – is she lying out of vengeance?

And as Richmond is being led away, Belko, Stan Larsen’s’ always creepy cohort, takes out a gun and aims it at the Councilman, whom we now know isn’t the killer. (Or so it seems; just because Holder manufactured evidence doesn't mean Richmond is innocent.) The screen goes black, we have no idea if Richmond is shot or ... well, we don’t know much.

Frustrating though it was, the finale did have its moments, notably Linden in the field where Rosie ran away, agonized over the knowledge that if the girl had simply run in a different direction she would have found lights and people and been saved. Mireille Enos has been fantastic as the restrained Linden all through the season, and she came through with her finest moments in the last episode, allowing Linden’s emotions to emerge without melodrama. But how ridiculous is it that she supposedly left the department two weeks before and is still getting calls on her way out of town?

In the end, I’m much less bothered by the last-minute twists and lack of conclusion than by these small, avoidable, inane touches, and by the clumsy red herringness of it all. But I’ll watch another season of The Killing if Enos or other equally good actors are back.

Alan Sepinwall at HitFix, who hated the finale (so did Maureen Ryan and other critics I respect, along with almost everyone on Twitter) has a fascinating, thorough post-finale interview with series producer Veena Sud, who makes a good case for the show being unconventional and not playing by those wrap-it-up-neatly rules. She doesn’t make any promises about what actors might return, though, only that in season 2 we will find out who killed Rosie Larsen and move on to a new case. Better late than never? Maybe by then no one will care.

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