By now, you've heard the complaints.
The Killing is boring. It goes nowhere. It's not interesting. It's flat-out ridiculous. It's even disrespectful storytelling.
I stayed away from AMC's overwhelmingly protracted crime mystery for a year, with friends waving pleas not to waste my time on it. I was put off a lot by how its tagline is essentially identical to Twin Peaks' "Who Killed Laura Palmer?"
But then it went on Netflix Instant Watch. And then I had Spring Break.
I watched the first season of The Killing, and its two hour season premiere last night, over the course of the past week. I promise I watched it with an open mind despite the negativity attached to it. And for the first half of the season, it was certainly engaging and stylish.
Then, things took a turn.
My qualms with the show aren't exactly revelatory. It is boring. Everything is misdirection. Nothing that the detectives find or do seems to matter, and that's fast becoming far more confounding than it is compelling.
But I daresay the show has style, and it is working against its genre -- it's just working too hard. The steely blues, the nonstop rain, the off-centered compositions, and its hearty shadows all key us into a quality, quasi-cinematic space that has much more melancholy than CSI.
The only downside to this is that the melancholy is woefully pervasive -- it's overstuffed with grief-porn. Yes, a child is killed on this show, and so the family is obviously grief-stricken. But The Killing is so insistent on only showing you the plodding police work of its principals and the sobbing faces of the family that it has nowhere else to go. The only other narrative site is a political campaign that registers only marginally above banality.
And this brings me to my real problem with the show, and involves a comparison to Twin Peaks that, as the tagline points out, is not entirely unwarranted. On Peaks, you got to know a whole community of people connected to Laura Palmer. The detective work was the through-line, for sure, but for the 15 episodes where her killer was being hunted, you stepped outside her family and her school into the whole private world of Twin Peaks, vast conspiracies and all. Not to mention a bunch of kooky stuff with dreams and demons and what-have-you.
I get the point of The Killing. It's supposed to be the anti-CSI. Blood tests take a while to come back. Clues don't lead anywhere. Detectives make crappy decisions. Stuff doesn't come together. These qualities, which should be the most admirable, have become the most anger-inducing. The season two premiere basically hits the reset button, turning attention now to some vast conspiracy that could involve everyone and no one in Rosie's death.
But unless it somehow leads us to the woods and the Red Room, I'm not interested.
The Killing is aimless storytelling, a method that could work if more than one of its characters was the least bit likable/interesting. It doesn't matter to me how good the acting is if there's no life or dimension to the character writing.
As we move forward in season two, I beg this show to have more to do with the geography of Seattle. I beg it to actually go back to the high school and pick up on the student characters who just stopped being featured. I don't even care if they solve the murder. But if they don't, there needs to be something more to the show. The killing of Rosie Larsen needs to mean something. "Signifying nothing" can only go so far.