Did The Killing lie to its fans?

Last updated 10:28 02/02/2012

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?

20120202Except 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.

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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Pluto   #1   10:49 am Feb 02 2012

I rather enjoyed the 'unresolved' ending last nite...my nerves are struggling to cope with these season finales tho (Mad Men, GoT, Dexter, Boardwalk and now this!). I'll def be tuning in for the next season to see which direction things go. Yes viewers invest a fair bit of time in these shows but the critics do need to lighten up just a tad with their vitriol, its just a TV show people.

Love the Linden character, watching her start to fall to pieces as she realised what Rosie had gone through (her 'almost escape') was quite moving. The shots of her on the plane as she worked out what had happened with the photo...aaaargh! Odds are she'll be off that plane asap I reckon.

As for Holder, well he's always been a bit of an unknown dark horse through the whole thing for me, something very untrustworthy about him methinks. Such a murky strange past. Would like the opportunity to watch the original series though as a comparision.

Sad the series is over, but watched the first ep of Boss, crikey!

Killer   #2   10:54 am Feb 02 2012

I really enjoyed the killing, I like the way it was shot, and the story. The acting was good! It had me on the edge of my seat every week. Every character was interesting. I all ready knew that we wouldn't find out who killed her, but even if I had not known I would still of enjoyed the ending. It left you wanting more, and I can't wait to see the next season!

Josh   #3   11:01 am Feb 02 2012

I enjoyed the show, finale included. I don't feel I was lied to, but that is because I watched the show without the advertising. I felt it has moved a little too far into the conspiracy side of things. I agree with too many red hearings comments, and because of these red hearings I don't believe Holder is a bad guy. Yet. I will absolutely watch a 2nd season and I would imagine most of those claiming they will never watch the show again will also tune in, even if only for a few episodes.

Steve   #4   11:04 am Feb 02 2012

This is the first I've ever heard of the show, thanks to this I won't bother watching it when it shows up on FTA, presumably it'd be pretty cheap soon so that'd be inevitable.

Mike   #5   11:07 am Feb 02 2012

I saw a couple of episodes before SoHo went to pay-only, and I can't justify wasting more money for one or two shows that I can get on DVD.

That being said, I think the American reaction underscores the difficulty a large percentage of their audience has with anything slightly challenging - they've become too accustomed to having 'closure' and outcomes spoon-fed, if not telegraphed, to them.

It sounds like The Killing is intended more as a watercooler discussion starter - "So, who do YOU think did it?" than as a complete package; maybe they'll answer the question in S2.

Rachel   #6   11:07 am Feb 02 2012

I suprised the whole country didn't hear me scream at the TV last night when Holder got into, I can only assume, the current mayor's car or maybe Jamie's. Totally unexpected!!! I hope that Series 2 tells who killed Rosie. I thought the red herrings were great - kept me guessing all the way through and even had my ex-policeman father guessing (he who can tell you who did it within the first 20 mins of a show). Last weeks episode where Holder and Linden spent the whole episode searching for Linden's son, I thought at the time, a complete waste but now I realise that it was showing Holder as a 'good bugger' and willing to go the extra mile for his partner. Can't wait for Series 2 - I need to know who killed Rosie!!

Ataahua   #7   11:12 am Feb 02 2012

What happened with Twin Peaks (a show I never watched)? Was the killer of the girl wrapped in plastic ever revealed - and when during the season was that done?

Amy M   #8   11:24 am Feb 02 2012

I was trying to figure out if Richmond was guilty and Holder just fabricated evidence to get him, or he was innocent and framed.

I was a bit disappointed things weren't wrapped up nicely but does the second season continue with the case, or is there a new one. Like Dexter, new season = new killer?

Overall I liked it and I'll tune in for the second season.

Niri Tacen   #9   11:24 am Feb 02 2012

I haven't watched The Killing at all.

Last night I did watch the first episode of Boss (starring Kelsey Grammer as the mayor of Chicago). I will definitely tune in again next week. Hopefully it can sustain the promises made in the first episode.

It's promising to be a good series.

dj randy parrots   #10   11:24 am Feb 02 2012

lol getting angry at tv. tv show! why you have "too many red herrings"!?!! why you not be super awesome and make all my dreams come true?!?! sad face

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