Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
WATCH: Super Bowl Movie Spots and Star-Studded Ads (UPDATED) WATCH: Super Bowl Movie Spots and Star-Studded Ads (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways:  'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million Top 10 Takeaways: 'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise Worthy of His Talents 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise Worthy of His Talents Inside the Directors Guild Awards Inside the Directors Guild Awards Joel & Ethan Coen Crack Each Other Up, And Me, Talking About 'Hail, Caesar!' Joel & Ethan Coen Crack Each Other Up, And Me, Talking About 'Hail, Caesar!' Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Should Win the VFX Oscar Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Should Win the VFX Oscar Why George Miller Should Win DGA Award and Directing Oscar for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Why George Miller Should Win DGA Award and Directing Oscar for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Universal Rejiggers Its Specialty Division Again Universal Rejiggers Its Specialty Division Again How Sony Pictures Classics Picked Up Four Pictures at Sundance How Sony Pictures Classics Picked Up Four Pictures at Sundance TOH! Ranks the Films of the Coen Brothers from Worst to Best TOH! Ranks the Films of the Coen Brothers from Worst to Best Sundance Video: How Screenwriter and Hollywood Exec James Schamus Made his Directing Debut with 'Indignation' Sundance Video: How Screenwriter and Hollywood Exec James Schamus Made his Directing Debut with 'Indignation' How the 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' Writers Found 6 Characters for their 'Shakespearean High-Wire Act' How the 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' Writers Found 6 Characters for their 'Shakespearean High-Wire Act' WATCH: Josh Brolin on His 'Christ-Like' Character in the Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' (EXCLUSIVE) WATCH: Josh Brolin on His 'Christ-Like' Character in the Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' (EXCLUSIVE) How 'American Crime Story' Explains Our Obsession with the O.J. Simpson Trial How 'American Crime Story' Explains Our Obsession with the O.J. Simpson Trial Arthouse Audit: Natalie Portman Indie 'Jane Got a Gun' Flops, Oscar Shorts and 'Ip Man 3' Soar Arthouse Audit: Natalie Portman Indie 'Jane Got a Gun' Flops, Oscar Shorts and 'Ip Man 3' Soar The Oscars' Year of the Crucible: Evaluating the Nominees for Best Cinematography The Oscars' Year of the Crucible: Evaluating the Nominees for Best Cinematography Oscar Predictions 2016 Oscar Predictions 2016 WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) How They Created the Bear VFX for the Mauling of Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' How They Created the Bear VFX for the Mauling of Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' How Quentin Tarantino Resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 for 'The Hateful Eight' How Quentin Tarantino Resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 for 'The Hateful Eight'

Why Do We Care Who Killed Rosie Larsen?

Thompson on Hollywood By Terry Curtis Fox | Thompson on Hollywood June 6, 2012 at 6:08AM

In two episodes – as AMC’s trailers insist – we’ll know who killed Rosie Larsen. Given that the show isn’t about Rosie – it’s about Sarah Linden and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Holder and Darren Richmond – why is it so important that Rosie’s killer is revealed?
4
The Killing, season two

In two episodes – as AMC’s trailers insist – we’ll know who killed Rosie Larsen.

Given that the show isn’t about Rosie – it’s about Sarah Linden and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Holder and Darren Richmond – why is it so important that Rosie’s killer is revealed?

The show’s ethic is intensely realistic, and, in real life, there are plenty of cases that go unsolved.

Indeed, "The Killing" is a police procedural, and there are plenty of examples of using the procedural to create a drama of failure.

Television does failure well. (Movies used to – think of "In a Lonely Place" – but not that much anymore. It’s one reason that "Cabin in the Woods" is so refreshing.) "The Wire" was nothing but failure. And, like "The Killing,""The Wire" was a realistic character drama clothed in procedure.

"The Wire"’s McNulty failed spectacularly and repeatedly. Yet when the first season of "The Killing" ended with a false arrest, viewers revolted.

The difference can be found in the two series forms. "The Wire" was never a mystery: it was the epitome of an “open” story. (In “open” mysteries, the identity of the killer is known to the audience; the question is whether or not that killer can be brought to justice. In “closed” mysteries, the killer’s identity is hidden from both audience and detective. One of the genius strokes of "Law and Order" was to create a “closed” first half hour – there was always an arrest – and then an “open” second half, which could end in a successful or failed prosecution.)

"The Killing," being a closed story, demands an explanation. We are involved in Linden’s quest – therefore, Linden’s quest must come to a successful conclusion. (The same revolt that happened with "The Killing," of course, occurred when David Lynch refused to reveal who killed Laura Palmer at the end of the first season of "Twin Peaks," a show that could not have been clearer that plot was not central to its ethos.)

As Jacques Barzun famously explained, the form of the mystery is that the orderly universe is disrupted (by a killing) and then, in the end, put right (by the solution). That "The Killing" is not a puzzle does not change this equation. What matters is that the series revolves around a single, central event, a “mystery.” In fiction, unlike religion, mysteries must be solved.

"The Wire"’s characters could fail because the show was based on a struggle between the police and the drug sellers; a battle that could be fought to a stand-still. And (like "Homicide," "Hill Street", and "NYPD Blue") "The Wire" ran multiple stories. Unlike its predecessors, those stories were not balanced between victories and failures, but that didn’t matter. Multiple stories tipped us off that this was going to be as messy as life.

The world of "The Killing" is just as grim – as in "The Wire,"all families fail in this show and innocent people are as likely to be hurt as the guilty.  But by virtue of having posed one question, audiences are demanding an answer.

We know that in life there are unsolved cases; but we also know that in fiction, if you ask one big question at the beginning, you expect it to be resolved at the end. (Spoiler alert: the world may be destroyed at the end of "Cabin in the Woods," but at least we know why.)

Television has become so good at failure that it might, in fact, be possible to write a show in which the detectives never get to the truth. If carefully prepared, I’m not sure you couldn’t take an audience through an entire season’s show and end with a mystery that never gets solved.

To do that, however, you’d have to prepare the audience for the possibility all along the way.  That was, of course, what "The Wire" did. From the pilot onwards, failure was written into its DNA.

What "The Killing" has prepared us for is a hollow victory. I haven’t seen the last two episodes (nor the Danish original) but as a viewer I’m fairly sure that while Rosie Larsen’s killer will be “revealed,” the solution is not going to feel good.
 

This article is related to: Television, TV, AMC, Reviews, Critics


E-Mail Updates






Festivals on TOH



Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.