TV Review: The Killing

Written by Mark Peikert on . Posted in Arts & Film, TV.


By the end of the first hour, you will probably want to punch in the face every character of AMC’s newest brooding drama, The Killing. Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is packing up on her last day in Seattle, preparing to fly down to San Diego with her young son to live with her fiancé in a place where the rain doesn’t pour down with numbing consistency. Before she can trade in her raincoat for a tank top, however, her replacement, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman, giving a pervy, oddly hot performance) and a bloodstained sweater both show up at her desk. Eventually, Sarah will be ordered to stay in Seattle to solve what turns out to be the elaborate murder of high school girl Rosie Larsen, while everyone around her indulges in behavior that is questionable, at best.

In keeping with the rest of AMC’s slate, The Killing is more ambitious than your typical procedural. Thematically, it’s in the tradition of great-but-canceled shows like NBC’s Kidnapped, starring Dana Delaney and Timothy Hutton, which spent a season tracking down the involved motives behind the taking of their young son. But this being AMC, we’re treated to long, moody shots of Enos staring meaningfully into space, indicating that she’s such a brilliant, intuitive cop that she can sense where the bodies are buried. She also only has to look at that bloody sweater in a plastic bag to know that it was recently dry-cleaned.

Running parallel to the investigation are subplots about an ambitious city councilman running for mayor (Billy Campbell, back to being dashing after the ill-advised beard he sported last year on Melrose Place 2.0) and the office intrigue playing out among his staff members, and the fall-out of Rosie’s death on her family (a de-glammed Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton).

The show’s tone can sometimes veer towards the ridiculous—all those staring-into-space shots grow tiresome, as does Sarah’s addiction to chewing gum—and the odds are stacked almost impossibly against Sarah. Her son hates her fiancé and doesn’t want to move; her new partner is so out-of-the-box that he almost seduces two high school girls to get clues; her boss refuses to let her leave to have her own life. Yet she still manages to do her job with an almost maniacal conviction, and Enos is good enough that she turns what are, in fact, arbitrary plot points and making them seem organic. We understand why Sarah doesn’t fight harder to leave the investigation: She’s already too emotionally involved in finding this girl’s killer.

Other than Sarah, there are few characters worth rooting for (certainly Rosie’s classmates are a special breed of bratty teen), but Sarah is enough. We want this slight but steely woman to conquer the people around her, to do her job and catch the bad guy. And the dreamy, rain-slashed atmosphere adds a surrealness to the proceedings that keeps you mesmerized. You don’t have to like the characters on The Killing to be caught up in its world of buried motives and questionable tactics.

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