Murder on Sundays

“The Killing,” AMC’s brilliant and stylish whodunnit, wraps up its second season on Sunday with an answer to the question that has animated the most absorbing plot line on TV for two years: Who killed Rosie Larsen?

Inspired by a popular Danish series, “The Killing” is set in Seattle and is actually less a conventional police procedural than it is a group psychological study played out in a gray-on-gray world in which the main character…and it’s not even close…is the rain that falls ceaselessly, leaving the urban landscape streaked and glistening, and everyone it looking cold and slightly smeared. If this sounds like a visual dead zone, it isn’t. “The Killing” might be the handsomest television show ever, from the stunning aerial tracking shots that make Seattle achingly beautiful to the quiet closeups that linger on the faces of a sensational cast.

As with David Lynch’s seminal “Twin Peaks,” to which “The Killing” has been compared, the story opens with the gruesome discovery of a dead teenager. And just as it was with Laura Palmer in “Twin Peaks,” no corpse ever looked deader than Rosie Larsen’s when she was found lying on her side in a fetal position under a foot of water in the trunk of a car recovered from the bottom of a lake

That scene…it was at night and it was raining…signaled that “The Killing” was going to be special, and apart from the vague and perplexing cliffhanger ending that concluded Season One, it has been every step of the way. Unlike the disturbing “Twin Peaks,” which veered between unsettling and wacky, “The Killing” has hit its mark week in and week out, pulling you deeper inside as the complexities of the story multiply.

Detectives Holder and Linden

At the center of the case is an unlikely crime-fighting duo, two damaged Seattle police detectives who, combined, form a single functioning person. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is the lead investigator. Perpetually bundled in a huge sweater and carrying a gun that looks about five times too big for her hand, Linden looks bruised and blue, a post-hypothermic case with an attitude who never smiles and never takes shit from anybody. Her partner, meanwhile, is the best thing about the show…and maybe the most intriguing character ever created for television. Detective Steven Holder (Joel Kinnaman), a sketchy, streetwise former narc and recovering addict, entered the story as a problem child and quickly became its moral center. For Holder, the case is everything…and the rules of proper investigation are, at best, mere suggestions.

Holder and Linden are good together because they have to be…everyone either hates them or is out to destroy their careers while steering the investigation off course. The hardest friction to bear is the one between the detectives and Rosie’s grieving parents, Mitch and Stan Larsen. Mitch (Michelle Forbes), at first paralyzed by her daughter’s murder and then unhinged by it, wants answers from the police. Stan (the terrific Brent Sexton), is a masssive and intimidating former enforcer for the mob who just wants the police out of his ruined life. Somehow, the Larsens and the detectives have to deal with one another: They’re just about the only people in this large ensemble who aren’t potential suspects.

The story behind the investigation…which unfolds over the course of only a few weeks…is a Seattle mayoral election in which routine political intrigues deepen when one of the candidates is implicated in Rosie’s murder. This corner of “The Killing” could easily fall into a conventional quicksand of dirty tricks and alliances for hire, but the heated election is repeatedly carved up in a way that keeps you happily off-balance.

Like everybody, I’ve enjoyed the beautiful people and the mansions and manicured lawns of “Downton Abbey,” and the sleek, alcohol-infused environs of midtown Manhattan on the fading “Mad Men.” But “The Killing” has been my main destination on Sunday television from its first chilly, sodden moments. Much as I look forward to finally learning who killed Rosie Larsen this weekend, this is one case I wish never had to be closed.

17 thoughts on “Murder on Sundays

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    Beautiful! Having reduced myself to the NBA finals and occasionally Trevor Ploufe’s inexorable march directly to the Hall Of Fame, not following the latest developments in narrative TV. Thanks for a great tip.

    1. William Souder says:

      Thanks, Dennis. Can’t recommend this one highly enough. I believe you can get the first season on Netflix. You won’t be sorry.

  2. As another fan, who watched “The Killing” from start to (last night’s) finish I mostly agree, O Baronial one. The twin revelations of last night’s episode provided an entirely satisfying conclusion to the central narrative. I could, if I wanted, quibble with the series’ timeline — in which everything supposedly happened in a mere 26 days — including a mayoral candidate paralyzed by an assassin’s bullet and essentially fully recuperated, albeit in a wheelchair, less than five days later.

    But the visuals and tone sucked me in and held my interest. Thank god for any series that isn’t shot in Los Angeles.

    However … until you’ve followed the entire arch of Walter White’s obsession in “Breaking Bad” — resuming July 15 on AMC — I caution against haste in over-praising “The Killing”.

    In my — humblest — of opinions “Breaking Bad” — set in Albuquerque, of all places — is the best series ever produced for television. Superior to “Mad Men”, “The Sopranos” and even “The Wire”.

    1. William Souder says:

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion…some people, for example, think Keith Moon was a genius. Others believe he’ll be playing at the Olympics next month.

      But I digress. Yes, there were some plot points that didn’t track perfectly (like the timeline, as you suggest) and others that were dead ends or went unresolved (like Stan’s assault case). But there’s something to be said for any show that makes you want to be there, where the action is set. A truly beautiful series.

      That’s tall talk about “Breaking Bad.” But perhaps I should try it again. Are you by any chance a “Rome” fan? Another truly great series.

      1. I have not seen “Rome”, although I am assured by connoisseurs of skullduggery and gratuitous bloodletting, cleavage and fornication that my time will not be wasted.

    1. Yahoo, Souder. You have my husband and I hooked on “The Killing.” We watched 6 episodes in a row last night (thank you, Netflix!) and still have 7 to go. It’s dreary, depressing, intriguing, very good. I don’t know if I like the Holder character as much as you do, however. Maybe the next 7 episodes will humanize him; right now he’s just a pain. I really get a kick out of Linden’s kid – the one who keeps sneaking cigs.

  3. Dennis Lang says:

    Personally, I don’t get HBO but hoping the journalists among you: Ellen, Benidt, Souder, Lambert, can weigh in the the latest Sorkin tele-series–“Newsroom”. (The “New Yorker” critic rather panned it,) What are your thoughts? Thanks.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Yeah, I get the “get” part–but good take! Nuts, maybe Lambert, Ellen or Benidt tuned in. Journalists commenting on the chracterization of journalism…. Oh well.

      2. We don’t get HBO, either. Besides, I never was a journalist in the league with Bruce, Lambert and others.

        But here’s what I’ve heard: As with other Sorkin dramas, such as “The West Wing,” there is a great deal of idealism (the lead anchor actually talks about how a free press in necessary for democracy to survive, and invokes the names of Cronkite and Morrow as the models for the mythical newsroom). I think idealism is great; in fact, I love idealism. We need something to believe in in today’s age and I can tell you for certain that my students do.

        Idealism is why “The West Wing” appealed to me so much. I believed that Bartlett loved his position but loved his country more. He was smart, kind, decisive but reflective when it mattered. Oh that we had such a man or woman in the Oval Office. (He also snubbed out a cigarette in the nave of the National Cathedral after having a smack down with God, but that’s a different story.)

        Back to “Newsroom.” Rapid-fire dialogue will be present. But here’s where things sort of start to fall apart, as I’ve heard it. Lambo: How many deep conversations about democracy and freedom of the press would YOU say actually take place in Twin Cities’ newsrooms? Aren’t conversations more about, “Where the hell is that package? I need that fuckin’ story NOW!”

        Second, how often do news anchors of real TV stations lead the flock toward pastures surrounding the Fourth Estate? Lambo? My understanding is that news anchors today are news readers and not necessarily concerned with the future of the news media unless it affects the ratings.

        So, that’s what I’ve heard. And it might be not worth a plugged nickel.

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