Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Killing

The U.S. adaptation of Danish television series The Killing (Danish: Forbrysen) has been an enormous success on this side of the pond, but it's had its share of problems during its four-season run. AMC saw it through two seasons before canceling it, bringing it back for a third, and then passing it off on Netflix for a six-episode conclusion. The show works well as a slow burning police procedural with flawed characters battling their own demons in dreary Seattle, but the end of the final episode has left viewers a bit on edge.

The Killing follows a series of murder investigations by homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). In the first two seasons, they search for the killer of Rosie Larsen -- an investigation reminiscent of Twin Peaks even in AMC's promotional materials ("Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" similar to "Who Killed Laura Palmer?). The supporting characters have secrets, and Detectives Linden and Holder constantly dig to uncover these secrets in order to find out who killed this young girl. But what about Rosie's secrets? Like Laura Palmer, the deceased has secrets of her own. We find out she's been working at a casino on an Indian reservation as a hostess and possibly as an escort, much like Laura at One-Eyed Jack's.

In season three, after Rosie's killer is discovered, we follow the investigation of a serial killer known as the Pied Piper, who tortures and murders young girls before taking their ring fingers as trophies. Linden's lover, her boss James Skinner, becomes her prime suspect at the end of the season, and she shoots him mostly out of her disbelief that she never suspected him. Holder helps Linden cover up the crime and pins the Pied Piper murders on an innocent man.

Season four is where things get a little weird. As Holder's old partner, Carl Reddick, begins to suspect foul play when Skinner goes missing, Holder and Sarah spiral into painful paranoia while investigating a family massacre. The prime suspect, Kyle, allegedly killed his entire family and attempted to kill himself but survived. Kyle returns to a boys' military school run by  cold colonel (Joan Allen), trying to remember the events the night of his family's murder. He finally recalls that he indeed killed his family, but the colonel, along with two other cadets, have covered up the crime. The colonel kills these boys, and Kyle is arrested. Reddick confronts Linden, and she confesses to killing Skinner after learning of his double life as the Pied Piper. District Attorney Richmond shows up (owing Linden a favor from the first two seasons for clearing him of the Rosie Larsen murder) and offers her a deal in the form of a deus ex machina: Skinner killed himself according to his autopsy, leaving Linden free and clear.

At this point, all seems resolved. The loose ends have been tied up, and Linden and Holder quit their jobs with the Seattle Police Department. But this is where fans get pissed off. About four years pass. Holder has a child now, and he sees her off on the school bus. Linden shows up after years of being on the road. Over the course of their time together, they've formed a strong bond, and they tell how much they've missed each other. Sure, okay. Understandable. But in a series that has been hauntingly dark and gritty and constantly pelted with rain, we see these two share a nearly intimate moment in rays of sunshine. It almost becomes a confession for their mutual love. This hasn't been hinted at, really -- not in 42 episodes. But fine. They almost kiss, but it doesn't happen. Linden, ready to move on from Seattle (the "city of the dead" for her), she leaves. Holder, disappointed, goes back to his life.The "almost" romance is out of the picture. Until Holder later leaves his new job and sees Linden standing beside her car with a smile on her face, something she does very, very rarely in the show. Holder looks relieved and they walk towards each other before the scene cuts to black. And that's The Killing.

As I said, most fans felt this was out of character for the dynamic duo. However, I must admit, I'm glad we are left with the possibility that these two might actually have something between them. After all, they've been attached at the hip for so long and have become close friends. Isn't it likely that Linden and Holder would develop strong feelings for each other? Even if it's not of a romantic nature, these two need to be in each other's lives. I felt the writers were wise to keep it open and breath a bit of hope into an otherwise dreary and hopeless setting.

Some fans complained the ending was too neat and that American audiences rely too heavily on closure to be satisfied with a show's final episode, but you can't please everyone. The Killing is a stellar series that viewers can binge watch at their leisure on Netflix. Even though the ending can leave audiences with mixed feelings, I think that's good. The story resonates so powerfully that such an ending is forgivable. 

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