That’s the question posed by the first season of AMC’s The Killing, and also one famously answered — and then infamously not — by its finale (an extended cut of which is on the three-disc Blu-ray set) that incited the Internet equivalent of a riot. Whereas so many viewers were angry, I was elated: Seriously, when did we stop liking surprises?
Based on a 2007 Danish TV series of the same name, The Killing is an icy police procedural centering on single mom Det. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos, TV’s Big Love), who postpones her last day on the Seattle force when the body of high school student Rosie Larsen is discovered. Investigating alongside her is her replacement, the street-smart, chain-smoking, tough-talkin’ Det. Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman, Safe House). Despite oil-and-water personalities, they make good enough temporary partners.
I only wish the middle stretch of episodes paid more attention to them and less on Rosie’s grieving parents (True Blood‘s Michelle Forbes and Deadwood‘s Brent Sexton) and a pretty-boy mayoral candidate (Billy Campbell, The Rocketeer). Linden and Holden are so well-written that these and other supporting characters mostly pale in comparison.
In fact, Enos may enjoy the strongest female character on TV. While short, she shirks to no one. While a beautiful woman in real life, she de-glams herself, no makeup, and stuffs into a bulky winter coat to become Linden. Kinnaman’s so good playing East Coast swagger, I was startled to learn he’s Swedish. His gruff Holden is given further edge by being a recovering addict, from going undercover among drug dealers and getting hooked for the sake of authenticity.
On the whole, especially in the early episodes, The Killing makes for an engrossing mystery. One can sense a bit of wheel-spinning in a few hours in the middle, but the back end recaptures the drive and magic of the start. That’s not to say the series is a roller-coaster ride; rather, it’s at atmospheric slow burn, so it likely would have been more effective at six or eight episodes versus 13. —Rod Lott