WARNING! THIS POST WILL CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS REGARDING THE SECOND SEASON FINALE. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE YET TO WATCH IT.
“Who killed Rosie Larsen?”. That is the question that has been at the centre of The Killing’s two seasons to date, with the mystery unravelling slowly (literally) and steadily before coming to a conclusion in this week’s finale. But what’s next? Will Linden and co. return for a third season, with a new case to uncover and solve and with it a new cast of characters? A better question would be ‘Should it return?’, which the answer is a resounding no for reasons that will be delved into during this post.
The Killing has been a very polarizing show since its inception last year. It initially started out with promise, offering an intriguing case that had major reverberations throughout the Larsen family and with our emotions at home. Couple that with a mesmerizing performance by Mireille Enos in the lead role and the potential looked huge. However, as the season progressed, it became clear that we weren’t going to get an answer to the big question and that it would be spread out across another season. Legions of impatient viewers protested their ‘anger’ at having to wait another year to unveil the killer, whilst others (myself included) took it on the head and vowed to continue watching to make their already-present viewership worthwhile. It was a hard choice but a necessary one as not all mysteries are revealed in quick succession. I watched Lost for six years so I’m fully aware of this.
Along came season two earlier this year and the audience was lower, the interest was reduced and the show suffered as a result. We were promised a conclusion to the Rosie Larsen murder by the season’s end and that we promptly received. However, what began as a show with strong potential slowly became a shadow of what it could have been, choosing to unwind the story at a snail’s pace rather than increase the tension and interest by moving things along quicker. Now that the show has reached a conclusion, we can look back at what legacy it has currently left behind and why it should not return next year, as well as what it could offer if it did.
Has The Killing been a terrible show from start to finish? It depends on who you ask as some will protest their burning hatred for the show with a flaming passion whilst others will be able to offer good points among the bad. For me, I’ve watched both seasons and I don’t regret it, but the list of errors that they committed is huge. The first and foremost would be the slow pace of the story-telling. Each episode pushed the story along, even if it was just by a small amount, but very few episodes besides the season premiere and the finale actually introduced anything major to the plot. The Killing loved to move slower than what a lot of people were comfortable with and that, for me, had to be its biggest downfall.
It’s understandable as to why the Rosie Larsen murder was spread out across two seasons, as the event had significant repercussions not only for the family themselves but for the two political parties vying for control of the city, as well as Linden herself and her mental state. There was a lot to explore and condensing all of that into one thirteen episode season would have been tricky, but certainly achievable nonetheless. There have been several times, especially during season two, when things really became tiresome during the middle, that I’ve felt that concluding the Larsen murder in season one, difficult as it may have been, would’ve allowed them to return in season two with something fresh and unfamiliar to entice the audience back. A case per season, so to speak. It certainly would’ve been preferable to a second season bursting at the seams with red herrings and tedious adventures to the casino and back.
Regardless of how The Killing has performed over its two seasons, the arc has come to a conclusive end during this week’s finale. The killer(s) have been caught, the family have packed up shop and are ready to move on, the election is over and Linden is prepared to head off into the sunset, pack up her granny sweaters and be less of a terrible mother to her son. The season two finale did not feel like a season finale; it felt like a series finale. Of course, there is potential for a third season but the way they brought things to an end in the finale makes me wonder whether a third outing was ever considered during this year’s season. For the sake of the show, I sincerely hope not.
Irrespective of the show’s huge list of issues since its arrival, the finale did leave things on somewhat of a satisfying level, even if there were flaws within. It was interesting for Rosie’s very own Aunt Terry to be her killer as the show spent so long focusing on the political side of the suspect roster that it neglected the family side, which raised a red flag instantly. Also, the fact that Terry did not know that it was her own flesh and blood inside the car she drove into the lake made for a sense of irony that wasn’t lost on me. Unfortunately, I can’t say that having her unveiled as the killer made for a surprise as she was at the top of my suspect list and had been for the entire season for no other reason than the fact that I was convinced somebody from her family had done the deed, and seeing as her parents were too anguished and distraught to be considered unscrupulous, she was the only one remaining. It’s a shame that the reveal was seen coming a mile away but it didn’t take away from the experience too much, at least for me.
One thing The Killing has been consistently good at is making the viewer feel the same trauma and devastation that Rosie’s family have been feeling and this finale highlighted that fantastically. When the family sit down to watch Rosie’s video-tape, the emotion practically burst out of the screen and it felt reminiscent of the very first episode when Mitch’s break-down at realising her daughter was dead fractured my emotional membrane. Their development as a family unit has been somewhat strange this season, what with Mitch’s bizarre exit to go and live in dingy motels rather than stick near her only remaining children, and Stan’s incessant anger and involvement in the mob that disappeared into thin air, but their last scene together on that sofa made up for all of that. The Killing told its tale like it had the pages in the wrong order but it did a fine job of making Rosie’s death impact her family the way it should have.
The finale may have concluded things in regards to the Larsen family but did it do the same for Linden and co? In some ways, yes. In other ways, not really. Holder talks about a new body being discovered right after they’ve wrapped up the Larsen case, clearly planting the seed for if and when a third season happens, but it appeared as though Linden is done with being a detective. I’d like to say that her character came to a conclusion in the finale but I’m not convinced that she has. Her fiancé and son were not even mentioned once in the whole episode, which is strange considering the amount of time that has been spent focusing on her personal life outside of the murder investigation. If this finale was created with no intention of there being a third season to proceed it, they did a very poor job of wrapping up this side of Linden’s life. Some may say it’s not important and that the main focus of the finale was clearly on the conclusion of the murder case. That’s true, but the show has put considerable effort into making Linden (and also Holder) look more human as opposed to robotic detective types that solve crimes and go home for the night. To simply ignore that in a potential series finale is absurd.
The Killing fell wide of the mark when it came to its story and how it progressed through it but outside of that, the characters (well, some of them at least) were what made the show somewhat of a success. The two at the forefront of each episode, Linden and Holder, made what could have been a dismal detective show something more. Their partnership, through thick or thin, hell or high waters, remained as solid as a rock and unchanged by the testy waters it had entered. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman bounced off each other like ping pong balls on a table; one would support the other in times of need and they would both look out for each other in ways that extended beyond the prerequisites for a detective partner. Their relationship and unbreakable connection was, and still remains, one of the best things about the entire show and if it does not return for a third season, it will most likely be the thing I’ll miss the most from this show.
Whether or not The Killing is renewed for a third season remains to be seen but from a creative stand-point, it’s unnecessary. The show does not have a large audience, nor a particularly active community of praisers, that would make the transition to an entirely new case and set of characters a success. I would hazard a guess that a lot of people were simply sticking with the show until the Larsen murder was finished and would vacate the premises once it had. Not only did the season two finale bring that to a close but also, to a degree, the characters as well. Forcing the show to come back for another season, with a small audience and an aura of negativity surrounding its formula, when it’s already come to a natural end will damage the legacy it will eventually leave behind. It’s told its story and the book has closed.