The Killing was always a formally daring show. It’s not the first TV series to expand a single criminal investigation over the course of a season: Murder One and The Wire got there first. And it’s not the first TV series wherein every episode advances the plot forward one day at a time: David Milch used that structure in Deadwood and John From Cincinnati. Heck, The Killing is a remake of Forbrydelsen, a Danish TV drama much beloved by the sort of people who watch Danish TV dramas. The Killing’s first season was compelling, a sidelong exploration of the far corners of a shadowy Seattle – rich-kid debaucheries, ethnic subcultures, backroom political bosses, front-room Mob bosses. The problem is that the show had a shaky foundation: the investigation into the murder of Rosie Larsen. When the season finale bungled the nonresolution of that plotline, the whole thing fell over like the world’s most beautiful Jenga skyscraper.
Almost one year after the outrage over The Killing’s first season, it’s unclear how to feel about the show. On one hand, it has become the standard-bearer for AMC’s Silver Age identity crisis. On the other hand, there’s an emerging sense that The Killing deserves reconsideration. Damon Lindelof just wrote a defense of The Killing arguing that “misleads were the point of the show,” which is both accurate and also the meta-interpretation often deployed by apologists. (For instance: I think Spider-Man 3 is a funny-on-purpose deconstruction of the success of the Spider-Man franchise by a filmmaker who had come to despise his own hero, to which you could simply respond: “Or maybe it’s just a bad movie.”)
Earlier this week, I noted that Alcatraz represented a specific subgenre of contemporary television: The “serialsodic” drama, a show which infuses the pacing of a case-of-the-week procedural with the world-building long view of a serialized narrative. In a sense, The Killing is the polar opposite. Let’s call it a “proceduralized” drama. It takes the structure of an HBO drama (slow pacing, ever-expanding supporting cast, a combative relationship with the audience) but grafts it onto a plot with outré flourishes and red herrings that belong in the world of CSI: NY or Law & Order: Criminal Intent (or, for that matter, Cold Case, the last show Killing showrunner Veena Sud worked on).
EW’s Ken Tucker will be weighing in on the premiere later tonight, but I’m interested to hear what you think, fellow viewers. Are you going to give The Killing another shot? Does the show need to change radically for you to become interested again?
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