Blu-ray Review: THE KILLING - SEASON ONE and Audience Trust

Contributor; Seattle, Washington
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Blu-ray Review: THE KILLING - SEASON ONE and Audience Trust
[Update, in the original post I referred to the series upon which The Killing is based as Swedish, when it is in fact, Danish]

"Who killed Rosie Larsen" is the question that is ostensibly at the heart of the first season of the AMC series The Killing, and at the start of the season, writer and producer Veena Sud creates an emotionally compelling, if somewhat murky central mystery involving the murder of a seemingly bright and outgoing teen in Seattle (played here by British Columbia). Buoyed by a fantastic performance by lead actress Mireille Enos (Big Love) as a troubled, weary homicide detective initially just trying to wrap up the case so that she can move to California with her fiancee, within only a few episodes, The Killing loses any sort of emotional or dramatic tension as the series opts instead to jerk viewers around with a series of increasingly implausible red herrings. By the end of the season, the question isn't so much "Who killed Rosie Larson," as "What random weirdo will the police suspect next?"

Ostensibly based on the Danish series of the same name (and I've heard good things on that front), the series tracks the investigation into Rosie's murder over 13 days, each episode devoted to one day of the case as the police hunt for the killer or killers, the family come to grips with their own grief, and, seemingly off in a corner, a mayoral candidate with a message of hope and change (Billy Campbell) wages a difficult campaign against a corrupt and venal incumbent. In The Killing's defense, each of these threads gets their own due time and never feel crammed into the show, but that's also kind of the problem: the show spends so much time juggling so many different balls in the air that you don't so much lose track as stop caring how many complications get thrown into the plot.

I said that the show is buoyed up by Enos' performance as Detective Sarah Linden, and that's no exaggeration: it's clear early on that her getting out of Seattle is almost an act of self-preservation at this point. Enos invests Detective Linden with a laser-like, often obsessive focus on the case at hand, and it's unhealthy--she's deeply mentally damaged or even broken in some way that's gradually revealed as the season progresses. She wants to find Rosie's killer so sincerely and that goes a ways towards explaining how time and again she's led down the trail of yet another suspect as the plot twists and contorts itself to provide more "who's" for the whodunit.

Does she share some kind of emotional connection with Rosie, a girl she's never met (and who we see alive only twice during the first season)? As the case moves towards its many conclusions, we and Detective Enos (along with her shady partner, vice cop-gone-homicide Holder, played by Joel Kinnaman) learn that no one really knew Rosie. "No one knows anyone" could actually be the central them of The Killing, supported by a parade of cheaters, liars, criminals (former and current), junkies, and (possible) terrorists. It's one of the most coherent ideas from the series.

The problem is, when those secrets intersect with Rosie's murder, it shifts The Killing from a well-observed mystery about the way the pain of a murdered young person afflicts the community to oddly-connected episodes of Law and Order: SVU, dragging "issues" (with the scariest of scare quotes) into the plot. And as a viewer, by the end of the first season you can't trust the show to really have any kind of plausible resolution to Rosie's murder (indeed, there isn't one--we'll find out his or her identity by the end of the current season which starts tonight on AMC, and no, I don't think I'll be tuning in).

Here's how twist-obsessed The Killing becomes: if, at the end of the current season, we find out that Rosie was stuffed herself in that trunk after some bout of multiple personality madness, it'll be no less plausible than everything else that came before in the series.

Presentation and Special Features

There's a healthy amount of special features included in the set, including a commentary for the season finale by writer Nicole Yorkin and Mireille Enos, although it would have been nice to include director Brad Anderson too. One of the features included here that I've started to really appreciate of late from Fox Blu-ray releases is the "Season" feature that will simply load the next episode from the season when you put in the next disc (it's a small thing, but it's nice to circumvent the menus sometime).

Beyond that, the picture quality is solid, if unspectacular, owing to what I guess in an intentionally grainy, "gritty" style (think Homicide: Life on the Street) that doesn't translate as well when most scenes are shot in a fairly flat, cop procedural style.

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More about The Killing

JeroenApril 1, 2012 2:12 PM

The original is a Danish series (not Swedish).
A really good one, I must say, having seen the first season on DVD,

It's just depressing to see this derivate crap wash up everywhere... BUT... luckily there are so many good films around so we can ignore all this crap.

Charles WebbApril 1, 2012 2:16 PM

Thanks for the correction (it's been edited inline). I'm not averse to a good, well-intentioned remake of an overseas export with some local flavor (think the first few season of the U.S. OFFICE). It just seems like THE KILLING (U.S.) internalized all of the worst excesses of TV crime procedurals of the last decade.

r0rschachApril 1, 2012 3:16 PM

Yeah I feel like a real chump that I kept watching this series all the way through. The characters are stereotypical, you don't really care about any of them, and the pacing is glacial. Reading the back of the Froot Loops box during breakfast is more entertaining. That episode where they spend the entire thing looking for the detective's son, yeah... that was when I figured out the entire series was conceived as a troll on the audience. 2, 2012 9:36 AM

I wouldn't feel so duped if the series hadn't touted the tag-line "who killed Rosie Larson?" the entire season, only to drag on and on about nothing to do with who killed Rosie Larson. And then, we never do find out, do we? I stuck it out, despite all the filler episodes, with no real pay-off. The creator of the series promises an answer at the END of season 2, but frankly I don't think I could sit through anymore filler episodes, of which you know there will be (seriously, Mitch goes on a mysterious road-trip? Who f-ing cares??).

Charles WebbApril 2, 2012 9:57 AM

"Duped" does feel kind of appropriate here: the series went so far afield of its promise at about the halfway point that instead of being about the murder of this girl, it was a mix of local politics with terrorism paranoia and hints of the Greek mob around the edges.