The season finale of The Killing was last night, and it made me really mad. Judging by the blogosphere and Twitterverse today, I am not alone.
I watch a pretty wide swath of TV. Some of it is quality: Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife, Mad Men, other cerebral dramas and smart sitcoms. Some is straight trash. But when I watch trash, stuff that I'm using purely as background noise or because I have half an hour to kill before I have to be somewhere or do something, I know it's just that. It hasn't been billed as anything else and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.
The Killing billed itself, repeatedly, as better and smarter than the average crime procedural. It wasn't. It was boring, except when it made no sense. By the end of the season, I had no idea who Rosie Larsen was, so her death meant nothing to me other than the general "Aw, that's sad" when you hear that someone young has died. I only knew bits and pieces of her parents, especially mom Mitch (who I started to hate when she Lady Macbethed all over Stan and goaded him into beating Bennett Ahmed into a bloody pulp); I thought I knew Holder but it turns out I didn't. I knew that the mayoral candidate had lost his wife, picked up escorts and slept around after his wife died, and that he was running for mayor, but the show failed to make his campaign interesting (and as an Organizing for America volunteer, I know they can be), so I didn't really care about that part.
And I could live with that if the plotting had been consistent. Instead, we got red herrings, capital-I Issues (female genital mutilation, Native American burial grounds and casinos, prostitution), and filler. The third to last episode involved the two detectives on the Larsen case, Linden and Holder, driving around looking for Linden's teenage son (she's a single mom), not working on the case. We do get to know them better, sure, but with three episodes to go, the time for that character development was much, much earlier in the season. With a 13-episode arc, there's no time for filler. (Not to mention that when they do find the kid, it turns out he was with his father, who hasn't been in his life. In the next episode, Linden meets up with her son's father and tells him she'll have him arrested for kidnapping if he comes near her son again, and in the final episode, she's on the phone with her son talking about "I'm glad you're having fun with your dad. Let me know when you want me to pick you up." Now what now? What happened to the kidnapping charges she was going to file?) I was past the point where I wanted to know about Linden and her life: I was only holding on for the whodunnit payoff, so this was a waste of time.
And I didn't even get the whodunnit! I have no idea whodunnit. Oh, it was the mayoral candidate - except it wasn't, because Holder is in someone's pocket and is framing him. (And don't get me started on the stupidity of Linden going alone to his apartment when she believes him to be a murderer, and not arresting him. The second time she just goes over to yell at him. Quit poking the bear, Linden.) And now I have to watch Linden and her son NOT move to Sonoma some more (her fiance either has the patience of Job or he's an idiot) and work this out? That could have worked if the show had built up any sort of goodwill, if it hadn't spent an entire season doing just this - introducing subjects and then clearing them, not making any progress.
Alan Sepinwall, with whom I frequently agree, notes that as much as Veena Sud, the showrunner, claims that The Killing doesn't have a formula, it totally does. (And there's room for great work in a formulaic procedural drama - Cold Case, for example, Sud's previous show, had a standard solve-a-case-per-episode formula, but don't try to tell me that "Best Friends" and "The Sleepover" weren't great episodes of TV.) The formula is, basically: "Don't develop the characters, introduce seventy-'leven red herrings and then clean some of them up in the next episode, but also leave a few of them hanging, and show some grief porn and rainstorms." And that does not make for entertaining TV. I have no reason to care now, about any of it - who killed Rosie, where Mitch went, when Stan will go to jail for nearly killing Bennett (and come on, there's no way Mrs. Ahmed wouldn't know who Stan is, nor would the hospital allow him to see the man he beat within an inch of his life), who will win the mayoral race (was this not the most boring political campaign ever?) ... anything, because I know the show is just going to make it up as it goes along, and insult my intelligence.
The one thing I sort of care about is who's pulling Holder's strings, because I think he's the most interesting character on the show - but I have no reason to believe that the show will respect me enough to handle it well, so that's not enough. If a show's not going to be interesting, it should at least be entertaining. This wasn't.
So that'll do, Killing. I do hope that Mireille Enos and especially Joel Kinnaman find vehicles that are worthy of their talent, because they did the best they could with what they were given. But ... yikes, what a mess.