Stuff Moms Like: The Killing

My mom and I both watch “The Killing”—and last night we made a point of watching the finale together—but I think that, at this juncture, we both have very different feelings about it. It’s the kind of show that started out great: it had a compelling marketing campaign, and it began airing just when other shows were wrapping up for the season. But at this point, if one of my friends told me she was going to start watching “The Killing,” I’d tell her to just watch “Twin Peaks”—or, hell, “Pretty Little Liars”—instead.

It’s not that I think this show is bad, necessarily, but rather that I don’t think it ever knew what it wanted to be. My mom is optimistic—she’s in it for the long haul—but I, like many others, can’t get over the fact that a show boasting a complete mystery over the course of 13 episodes didn’t deliver on that crucial detail. You see, last night’s episode ended on a cliffhanger, which, though in some ways satisfying, essentially undercut the appeal of the show. What was touted, more or less, as a miniseries, has instead been stretched out indefinitely. The lack of focus, already painfully obvious, has at this point become almost laughable. “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” has instead become “Who Cares?” and “Who Stole 13 Hours of My Life?” …Which is not to say that “The Killing” has actually been a total waste, or that all is lost. But, seriously, how much should we viewers be expected to invest in this show before we finally get some payoff?

What “The Killing” is and what it professes to be may be two very different things, but this much is certain: The show details the investigation into the murder of high schooler Rosie Larsen, whose body is found in the trunk of a car used for the campaign of an upcoming mayoral candidate. As can be expected, all is not as it seems, and everyone–from Rosie’s parents to her teacher to, of course, the politicians—has a secret. Yet, “The Killing” also has a softer side, one that shows, unflinchingly, the various ways that grief can manifest. Viewers spend equal time with the police and Rosie’s mourning parents, and observe the shockwaves that a single death can send through a community. After a knockout first episode, the show began to falter, until eventually the pacing was simply confounding, and the twists haphazard. Still, it had on its side some exceptional performances, great atmosphere, and, of course, the promise that at the end of 13 weeks we would know who had killed Rosie Larsen.

Despite some genuinely shocking developments, and some truly heart-rending moments, “The Killing” has yet to live up to the promise of its marketing. It has been misrepresented as the antidote to the typical police procedural—too often it falls into the same gimmicky traps—and claims of its sensitivity to the grieving process are undercut by the fact that the Larsen family can come off as rather one-note. Furthermore, its similarities to “Twin Peaks” have only further clarified the ways in which this show is inferior to the David Lynch classic. Yet, I would still consider myself a fan, as there are continually scenes that shock me from my apathy. Moments like the one in which Rosie’s mother, alone in the bathtub, imagines what it’s like to drown (as Rosie did) are chilling; it is the show’s ability to channel the most desperate spaces of the human mind that makes it stand out.

There are still many unanswered questions, not only about Rosie, but also about the detectives, Linden and Holder, who have recently begun to develop into interesting characters in their own right. I am hoping that a second season will mean that all of these questions can be approached with careful consideration, and answered in a satisfying manner. Still, I, like Rosie’s mother, have learned that you can only hold your breath for so long. It seems that even on TV you can’t always find the answers you crave, or the closure you need. Does this signify the beginning of a new kind of show, one that delays gratification until the point that it is no longer desired? Or have the writers simply been so greedy (or misguided) that they refused to end the case before they had wrung every last drop from it? I hesitate to call the move brilliant, but it does require a certain amount of gall. We are now on the line just as much as Rosie’s parents, wondering if our questions will ever be answered.

I am glad that both my mom and I watch “The Killing,” because I need some perspective. I need someone to remind me of what I like about it, and to help me focus my own complaints. My mom agrees with me on many things—for example, that the mood takes precedence over the story, and that the writing can be weak—but she’s also able to find the thrill in it, to accept it for what it is. As I read the angry reviews that draw me further away from my initial reactions, I am grateful for someone who can remind me of how I found the finale not only frustrating but exciting. Of how I found the show, for all its faults, a unique experience, a welcome diversion. For those who have yet to watch “The Killing,” I would recommend holding off until season 2 is about to start. But, with the chance to watch it in one seamless run, I see no reason why somebody should reject this series. I only hope that a second season will allow the writers to focus their efforts, tighten their storytelling, and of course…tell us who friggin’ killed Rosie Larsen!

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