AMC’s The Killing was cancelled this summer but rumour has it DirectTV and Netflix are interested in resurrecting it. I’ve always been a fan, even when I hated the show, so I think there is definitely something there worth resurrecting. Before I go into what I would do with the show, I first want to highlight what the show’s strengths were:
- Linden and Holder. Even people who were “hate watching” the show would cite the strongest element the show had going for it was its lead detectives. They were the best pairing—both in writing and acting—since Mulder and Scully. They were interesting and unique as individuals and as a pair with both contrasting and complimentary characteristics. Quiet and still Linden contrasted so well with skittish and faux-gangsta Holder. Both were very good at and dedicated to their jobs but still teenagers in their personal lives, a testament to how much energy their jobs take up. It was a wonder to watch them work. I especially liked that this male-female detective partnership had undeniable chemistry but not a sexual chemistry. There was no will-they-won’t-they dynamic which is getting so tired in procedural television. This more brother-sisterly chemistry between Linden and Holder is new and interesting. The performances by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman were stellar and routinely noted by critics as awards-worthy. So the first thing I would keep would be Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman. Without them, there’s no point in saving The Killing.
- The non-case-of-the-week format. Sure they dragged out the only case these two magnetic detectives had to solve for far too long. But they did have something interesting in the beginning. The deeper exploration of what happens to a family, a city and the people catching a killer when a teenage girl is murdered is new and definitely compelling. The North American audience has gotten too used to the cheap one hour murder-solving jobs. I would keep the longer, deeper format that justifies the gravity of the subject matter.
- The tone and poetry. People complained that the show was too depressing but to me, that just meant we had a TV show that had a tone, a point of view. The show was melancholy and poetic and I would want to keep that intangible quality to it.
Those are the show’s strengths and what any new company trying to take the show on would want to keep. But here’s what I’d do to change things.
The backlash against The Killing’s first season finale, which did not reveal Rosie Larsen’s murderer, was not the fault of showrunner Veena Sud but of the marketing department at AMC. They gave us an empty promise they had no right to make with us. They chose to incorrectly focus their marketing strategy around the slogan/question “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” a strategy that included a website that tracked the potential suspects from within the cast. If you ignore this marketing strategy and look at the show itself, you’ll see the truth: The Killing was never about Rosie Larsen.
The Killing was about what happens to a city after a murder. It is about what happens to the family of the murdered victim: how each family member reacts differently, how a younger sibling confronts the reality of death, how a mother lives on past her daughter’s death, how a father faces the truth that he failed to protect his child. It is what happens to a political campaign tied to the murder: how a murder reflects on the powers that be, how it is used as a weapon in political games, how strangers lose sight of the reality that a girl is dead. It is most primarily about the two detectives assigned to solve the murder: the toll their job takes on their mental health, their abilities to be a mother and uncle, their relationships with loved ones and co-workers. The solving of the crime is secondary and always was secondary. We are now six episodes into season two and we are following all of these characters on a journey that gives us new suspects each week. But the suspects aren’t important and I have stopped trying to piece the puzzle together. I am enjoying the journey not predicting the destination.
What we have this season is again, at its core, a portrait of a remarkably fascinating female anti-hero in detective Sarah Linden as portrayed by an anti-glamorized Mireille Enos. Enos is always absolutely magnetic even with just an unmoving stare. She’s a brave performer working seemingly without the gloss normally put on actresses and working in tightly controlled and muted subtlety, a subtlety that makes the occasional burst of emotion all the more effective. Linden is always thinking and always trying to not let her emotions get involved in her work. Both of those mental tasks take concerted effort, effort we read all over her face. I’d watch for Linden alone.