The sad drip-drip-drip of rainfall, gloomy rooms pierced by feeble shafts of lamplight, voices kept mostly to hushed tones — welcome back to the exciting world of The Killing! You wouldn’t think a series that takes its pacing cues from Seattle precipitation would be so…absorbing. Yet The Killing exerts a hypnotic tug, an allure enhanced by the fascinating gaze of Mireille Enos, who can stare off into the distance and convey an array of emotions: frustration, determination, guilt, guile, and damn-I-wish-I’d-worn-my-duck-boots-today regret.
The Killing commenced its first season as another of AMC’s class acts, but ended in the pop culture doghouse, as many fans and some of my TV-critic colleagues excoriated the series for not revealing who killed Rosie Larsen. I was, frankly, baffled by this hullabaloo. Since when is the dramatic arc of a show dictated by viewers’ desires? Did I miss the memo saying that Rosie’s killer would be safely locked away in a mold-infested jail cell by the 13th episode? Nope: Showrunner Veena Sud said she’d always intended to wrap up Rosie’s case at the end of the second season (and that Sud’s killer will be a different character from the one fingered on the Danish series upon which The Killing is based, Forbrydelsen).
So I come to the new season nursing no grudges. That said, I was struck by how lugubrious much of the two-hour premiere proved to be. The series is locked into a structure where one episode equals one day of the investigation, and whenever Enos’ Linden isn’t chasing after clues, things can get banal. How many times do we have to see Linden’s son, Jack (Liam James), moan about how bored and hungry he is? (Jeez, she leaves that kid alone far too often.) How many long, reproachful stares is Brent Sexton’s Stan going to cast at the police department he blames for incompetence?
The premiere reveals the fate of Billy Campbell’s politician Darren Richmond, last seen being approached by Stan’s friend Belko (Brendan Sexton III), who was carrying a gun. And we learn more about the motives of Linden’s shady-seeming partner, Holder, played by the wily Joel Kinnaman as Eminem with a badge. (Thus far missing in action: Michelle Forbes’ Mitch, off on a head-clearing road trip.) Sud has said that much of this season “is about secrets of the past,” which sorta fills me with dread. What The Killing does not need are more reasons to pause and reflect and go over old ground, old misgivings, old motives. The series needs to propel its mostly superb actors into action, to push the narrative forward. I’m not asking for The Killing to turn into Revenge, but it’d be nice if its protagonists didn’t stagger around like the damp walking dead. B