Friday, 24 June 2011

TV REVIEW: The Killing Season 1

The Killing, a show about stuff that didn't happen that we tell you did, only for it not to have actually happened.

Watching the progression of The Killing from critical darling to emerging disappointment to outright train-wreck has been one of the more interesting sample studies of how difficult it actually is to make great television. The Killing has all the ingredients of what we've come to define as great television in recent years, the requisite darkness, the requisite silences, the requisite character types. It's as if someone has been taking notes, and has got all the pieces in the right place yet when it came time to start moving them, well no-one had any fucking idea. Its a show that had no idea how to go forward, no idea how to develop character, no idea how to make its subject compelling. Everything suffocated in a bland concoction of cop show formula and imitation pathos. Yet back when I saw the pilot I could have not comprehended writing this review. That was a great episode, with a number of good performances and a heart-breaking conclusion. How it could have gone from there to here in 13 weeks is almost astounding.

I guess the only example I can think of even remotely comparable is Heroes, but that did the same trajectory over 3 years and not one, but still. The Killing didn't just go from suck to suck, it had good will to burn, from both its first episode and from the ambiance of being an AMC show, the place that's brought us Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Even the premise lends itself to intrigue, imagine an episode of CSI told in long-form, giving us a chance to layer the characters, deepen the mystery and enrich the universe. But the Killing chose not to do any of these things, instead all it seemed to know how to do was be that same episode of CSI, with the same broad-stroke characters and the same misdirective bullshit only it lasted 13 hours, so it was even more grating and formulaic. Instead of getting to know the suspects of the Rosie Larsen murder, or even Rosie herself, we just got red herring after red herring after red herring. All this amounted to was the show telling you information, then telling you that information was false, then telling your more information, then telling you that was bullshit and so on and so forth. It meant that every episode after the first and before the last was ridiculously disposable in terms of mystery.

Now I wouldn't have minded this so much if we were being told a compelling story in the mean time, but fuck we weren't being told that either. Meet Linden. She's going to Sinoma to marry Leoben from Battlestar Galactica, but then she's into the case, but then she's leaving, but then she's into the case. No clue is given really as to why she's so obsessive nor why she's marrying Leoben, no texture given to their relationship nor any evidence to say why she likes him at all. He's merely a plot point. An excuse to create hollow drama. And as for the whole Bennett Ahmed business, where he was continually flouted as a suspect long after it was clear he didn't do it. Errgh. Billy Campbell's politician has got to be high in the running for the most boring and falt characters television has ever known, and his entire plotline is not only pointless but badly told. It felt like some horrible catch-22 where characters were being sacrificed in lieu of plot, but there was no plot, just endless misdirection. And by doing this of course, the show makes who did it much more important then the journey, and the show chooses this issue to take its subversive stand on. Everything else is same old, same old. But when it came to tell you who did it? We don't feel like it, Go fuck yourself. Se you next year.

I think there's an alternate reality and an alternate version of the killing, when I find this to be the greatest piece of genius ever, but for this one, this hollow shell of a show, it was the only thing we had left. So all we've got left is to return the go fuck yourself in kind and then go on with our lives. I think the saddest thing is that I keep almost thinking I like this show, I like the central performances from Mirelle Enos and Joel Kinnaman. Particularly Kinnaman, whose from the street, rough around the edges stylings go against the clean cut cop norm, and his performance grew to be the most engaging and likable thing about the show. Indeed the episode 'Missing' which came way too late and completely kaput any momentum the show built, was a pretty good episode, a feeble imitation of Mad Men's ' The Suitcase' sure, but it was rewarding to see Kinnaman break through Enos' barriers and give the impression that a partnership was forming here. And then what do they to the only successfully realized character they managed to create, oh yeah they undercut everything by making him some political middle-man bad guy. So that's the mystery element checked off, and now the one interesting relationship we managed to build amidst our scrambling? Well that's gone too. See you next year folks.

This is a show that simply had no idea how tell a story, no idea how to subvert police procedural to serialized television and no idea how to create an engaging character of any kind. Oh except the one, which we promptly blow the fuck up. Terrible television emphasized by the sense of betrayal and disappointment. Under a different set of writers The Killing is a slam-dunk, a great show in a line of great shows. As it stands, its the fastest self-destructing show television has ever known. A monumental failure and a misfire to make one feel the need to apologize to Heroes. Well maybe not that far.

Rating: 5/10

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