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Season 2 Premiere Of 'The Killing': Another Long Jerk Around & Why You Should Continue With This Show At Your Own Peril

Television
by The Playlist
April 2, 2012 1:02 PM
10 Comments
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The Killing, Enos, Kinnaman

If you're at all interested in AMC's "The Killing" you probably, hopefully read this in-depth (but non- spoilery) recap of the first season we posted on Sunday a few hours before the premiere.

In you want the Cliff Notes version, it's here: could all be forgiven? In short, Season 1 started out strong, but after three episodes dropped off a cliff in quality. Starring Joel Kinnaman (the next "RoboCop") and Mireille Enos ("World War Z" opposite Brad Pitt next year) as two Seattle detectives on the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl, this crime drama follows the effects the murder has on the family, the city, its election and the aforementioned homicide dicks investigating the case went from absorbing and addictive to banal and chasing its tail in almost 60 seconds flat.

Fast forward to season two's premiere last night (and if you didn't see the first season, we urge you to turn around right now: if you did, but didn't watch last night, you'll be ok). The murder of Rosie Larson (which wasn't solved last season, much to the ire of audiences) is still obviously unsolved and last season's cliffhanger was revisited: Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), the Seattle city councilman, had been arrested in connection to the murder of the Larson girl. So in an act of retribution Belko Royce (Brendan Sexton III), the Larson family's slow-witted, but loyal friend and longtime employee shoots Darren just moments after he's snagged by the police.

Can AMC’s The Killing Get Its Mojo Back In Season 2? And How Season 1 Caught Hollywood’s Attention

(Ok, spoilers for the season premiere ahead ahead). Surprise, surprise, the councilman it turns out, is not dead -- though the 2 hour show plays with the audience for at least one hour with a will-he or won’t-he survive scenario that's pretty much suspense-free if you're paying attention at all.

Soon, the charges against the councilman are dropped (which doesn't do a lot for him, because now he's paralyzed from the waist down) as detective Linden (Enos) discovers that one piece of damning evidence against him was faked. By who? Well, all signs point to it being an inside job by the police, but the show dances around this topic for two hours.

In fact, what made "The Killing" interesting -- a micro and macro view of a murder (the family's grief, the city's reaction), plus the investigation into the teenage girl's death -- is now its biggest detriment. Like a lot of typical (and often frustratingly formulaic) TV narratives, the show is replete with tiny cliffhangers that the writers cut away from right when that storyline is getting interesting. Then they jump to a not as interesting storyline, build up the stakes a bit, and then bail just as you're about to be fully engaged.

Again, this is nothing new and a tried and true formula for TV writing -- one that this writer mostly despises, hence not watching a lot of episodic television -- but "The Killing" is essentially playing with fire and more importantly opening demonstrating that they've barely heard or listened to many of the valid criticisms that both critics and audiences complained about in season one.

The Killing

Full of increasingly frustrating red herrings and plot narratives that were akin to driving around in circles, season one was an "enough-already!" hair-pulling experience that had almost zero relief for viewers. Payoff, even in small amounts was hard to find and viewership sharply declined.

And while there were no annoying, now-predictable fake clues in this episode (or at least none that were apparent yet), the season premiere was one long jerk around waiting for what you already knew from about 10 minutes in. Linden (Enos) was hip to this conspiracy within the police department, but her partner Holder (Kinnaman) was not. Throw in some paranoia on her part to essentially divide them for two hours and, you, the viewer had to sit there and wait for them to get on the same page which didn't happen until the end of the episode (and even then, not quite).

This is agonizingly painful writing for several reasons and the fact of the matter was it should have been either two separate episodes (or even better, one economically written episode with all the excess fat). In fact, if you look closely, you'll see that this premiere was broken up into two acts, with different writers and directors in each (one of them helmed by acclaimed Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who directed a few last season as well). Essentially, they were two episodes crammed into one by AMC, trying to create some buzz for a “two hour premiere.” But long doesn’t equate with good, and last night was a painfully elongated arc. Another basic tenet of writing for TV or film was ignored all episode long: The characters are in the dark, and yet the audience fully know what’s going on (re: Enos and her discovery, and waiting for Holden and her to reunite on this case). This made for almost zero suspense the entire episode, making for one long, drawn-out, frustrating experience as nothing really coalesces and can be crystallized narratively until these two detectives are united.

In short, "The Killing" is playing the long tail game (like "The Wire"), and utilizing the short term playbook (all episodic TV). This writer is not sure where this season is headed exactly – ok yes, he does, the murder is just going to get solved near the end of the season, and then open a bigger, related pandora’s box – and more importantly, I’m not sure you or I should even care. Now this is exactly how the majority of audiences felt during the last season when viewership plummeted, but there were hopes from some that “The Killing” would realize its missteps and get back on track. If last night’s premiere is any indication, we may have a show that’s already DOA.

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10 Comments

  • Lisa | April 26, 2012 2:58 PMReply

    This show has completely jumped the shark! The most compelling part of Season 1 was the accurate depiction if family grief--especially Mitch. Now she abandons her other 2 children?? Not believable at all!!

  • Jack Frost | April 3, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    Spot on review. Couldn't agree more. This show is a complete turkey.
    I couldn't even finish the season 2 premiere, that's how utterly boring and uninteresting it was.
    As far as I'm concerned, the show is dead - and I'm not coming back.

  • Andrew | April 3, 2012 9:37 AMReply

    I'm with everyone here. I thought the premier episodes of The Killing Season 2 were fantastic and a great start to the season. If I wanted to see everything come together in a single episode I'd watch CSI Miami or Law & Order.

    Obviously The Killing isn't high art like a show such as The Wire is, but it's pace is most similar to it, and I'm okay with that. I really hope Linden and Holder get back together soon.

  • Renny | April 3, 2012 2:29 AMReply

    I totally disagree with the review. I really enjoyed the season 2 premier. The Killing is not your average cookie cutter immediate gratification run of the mill series/show, and that is what's good about it. It has a character that is unique to today's TV shows. We have a lot of CSI, Law and Order, etc. type shows (which are well done and good in their own right), but The Killing is something different and should not be dismissed because it is different. People need to enjoy the process of discovery with this type of show, not just the end result.

  • We'reAllGonnaCroakSomeday | April 2, 2012 6:58 PMReply

    "No one ever erected a monument to a critic."

    Robert Duvall

  • Nik Grape | April 2, 2012 1:43 PMReply

    At first I was suprirsed to see you review The Killing and not the infinitely better Game of Thrones (both had season 2 premiere last night, as you probably know). But now I'm glad you didn't cause I'm waiting on the Game of Thrones and these articles tend to reveal a lot about the episode. Question. (SPOILER for SEASON ONE OF THE KILLING) ...... isn't Holder the one that helped fake the picture to get the councilman arrested?

  • Nik Grape | April 2, 2012 1:57 PM

    Ah alright. 4 eps! It only premiered last night so I though you'd post it after. Thanks for the link! I'll read it after watching it myself :)

  • cory everett | April 2, 2012 1:50 PM

    We did review the first 4 eps of "Game of Thrones" season 2. It ran on Friday... http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/review-hbos-intricate-fantasy-epic-game-of-thrones-returns-for-a-satisfying-sophormore-season

  • Hg | April 2, 2012 1:37 PMReply

    playlist are are you freaking kidding me lol

    the killing last night was one of the best season preemie i have seen in a bit

    i was on the edge of my seat of what was gonna happen next

    WTF i with American audiences and their i need everything now now now

    just sit and enjoy a show damn i sure as hell did

    8.5/10 for premiere for me

  • Jack Forrester | April 3, 2012 12:19 AM

    I don't agree that The Killing's season 2 premiere was 2 hours of pure baloney. I really enjoyed, and I think that most viewers who are actually into the story and the characters, did as well.
    The problem is, a lot of viewers are only interested in the discovery of "who killed Rosie Larsen?", and they're getting angrier that the show's starting it's season 2 and no one has a clue.
    Too bad the majority thinks that way. I do agree that The Killing won't last very long because of it. Same thing happened with another amazing show, Twin Peaks. It was all about the discovery of the killer, the majority just ignored what else the show had to offer.
    Big shame.

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