Did The Killing lie to its fans?

21:28, Feb 01 2012

I wasn't going to post anything about The Killing, which finished last night on SoHo. However, the reception for the finale from otherwise sane and reasonable TV critics, back when it finished in the USA last June, was baffling to me, and I've been wanting to say something ever since.

(Warning: MAJOR spoilers from the first season of The Killing follow.)

The Killing is a dramatic police procedural, adapted by Veena Sud from a Danish series called Forbrydelsen. The entire first season of The Killing was based around answering one question: Who killed Rosie Larsen, a 17-year-old high school student who wound up drowned in the boot of a car?

Except it didn't answer that question. While each episode of the show roughly documented one day in the investigation, the last few episodes seemed to be revealing mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) as the killer, only to have Detective Linden (Mireille Enos) discover that Richmond was framed by Detective Holder (Joel Kinnaman).

Back when it finished in the USA, viewers and critics slammed the finale in reviews that hit the web soon after it finished, the main complaints being too many "red herrings", story strands that didn't pan out or were left unresolved mid-season, and the fact that the killer wasn't revealed in the finale.*

Some critics felt that not revealing the killer was insulting, and that the show lied to viewers.

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Alan Sepinwall, one of my favourite critics, was furious at the show, telling readers that he wouldn't watch a second series and placing the blame partly on AMC (the US cable home of The Killing), saying "The Killing has gone from a show that proved the AMC brand wasn't infallible to one that proves the channel is capable of putting out an absolute train wreck ... I've been lied to by this show for the last time."

AOL's Maureen Ryan also slammed the finale, saying "AMC flagrantly wasted 13 hours of its viewers' lives, and in this era of fragmented audiences and multiple distractions, that's the worst crime a network can commit."

Like many viewers, I'm disappointed that Holder was turned into a bad guy in the final episode, and that the killer wasn't revealed. But it's not the end of the world. I still really enjoyed the series, and will happily tune in for Series 2 (coming mid-April to SoHo). I certainly don't feel I was being lied to.

But I'm one of the minority, it seems. Many critics voiced their disappointment with what they saw as a broken promise on the part of creator Veena Sud.

But there was never a promise to do any such thing. Marketing for the new series did feature the tag line "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" and the show was built around discovering the answer to that question, but no one involved in the production of the show ever said they would definitely reveal the killer during the first season. If anything, "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" was really a mission statement for the entire show, not a promise for the first season.

Just because there wasn't a Scooby Doo-esque "you meddlin' kids!" moment doesn't mean the whole show was a train wreck.

The truth about The Killing is that it was a flawed show, but it did a lot of things well. I can see how some people might be disappointed in the finale, but I also don't think it deserved the negative backlash it received in the USA. If anything, the viewers and critics who've been so against the show probably need to take a deep breath and calm down - it wasn't that bad.

What did you think of The Killing finale? Were you disappointed that Rosie Larsen's killer wasn't revealed? And what do you think of the show overall? Will you still tune in for a second season of the show?

(*) Both points are totally valid: there were too many red herrings, which had the effect of making viewers distrustful of the show, and the killer wasn't revealed - though, as others have pointed out, no one said that Rosie's killer would be revealed in Season 1 (though the killer was revealed in Season 1 of Forbrydelsen, on which The Killing is based).

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