After the shocking first season finale of AMC’s The Killing, which failed to reveal the identity of Rosie Larsen’s killer and added a few extra curveballs to the story, I expected a lot of outrage. But I didn’t expect the level of pure hate that has spewed from many TV critics.
In particular is Maureen Ryan’s scathing review where she calls it “the worst season finale of all time.” That’s a bit extreme, and while I’m not about to praise The Killing‘s finale as genius, I certainly want to defend it against the unnecessarily cruel and angry words Ryan and many other critics are hurling at it.
The Killing Finale: No Killer >>
My primary complaint against these haters is that they feel a sense of entitlement, like The Killing was supposed to give them something, and because they didn’t get it, they’re angry. It’s a problem that has become quite prevalent with shows since the popularity of the Internet, and one I’ve been guilty of in the past (see my distaste for the Lost series finale).
Viewers and critics have grown to feel like they’re part of the process and that they deserve to get something out of a TV show. That’s the critical mistake Ryan and many others are making, and why I’m not angry with The Killing.
TV shows don’t owe us anything. The writers and creators are telling their own stories, so when viewers come in and demand satisfaction, there’s a big problem. Yes, AMC’s promotion of The Killing was designed heavily on the “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” angle, but guess what: The Killing isn’t done. If this was a series finale, I could understand the anger, but it’s not. Just because the season didn’t end the way you thought it would doesn’t inherently make it bad.
The problem might be that this isn’t something we’ve seen before. Shows like 24, Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer trained us to think in terms of single season storylines. There was a big bad or a threat against the government, and by the end of the season, you knew Jack Bauer would save the day, Veronica would solve the case and Buffy would slay the demon.
The Killing isn’t like that, and if you complain that The Killing isn’t what you expected, the problem is your expectations, not the show.
If people want to complain about the characters being poorly written, that’s fine, but don’t just whine about not getting an answer. If you only wanted to know who killed Rosie, you could’ve stopped watching a long time ago and just waited to read the spoiler when it finally came out. It’s the same way I get through M. Night Shyamalan movies: instead of going to the theater, I head to Wikipedia, learned he big twist, and I’m happy with no need to watch the film.
For me, the joy of The Killing was the performances, which I don’t think turned sour. I’m fascinated when a show does something different, and the slow, vague pace of The Killing is what made it special. We only get to see glimpses of the people’s lives because that’s all the writers want to show us. The attitude of the series is one of mystery and secrets, and it’s one they show has played with all season long.
If you are angry that Holder is apparently a bad guy thanks to his finale double cross, it should hardly come as a surprise. All season we’ve seen him on the phone with mysterious people, chatting with his baby mama about seeing his kid and other unexplained moments. Seeing Holder fabricate evidence to ruin Richmond isn’t out of character because we don’t fully know his character, we only see parts of him and have grown to like what we see.
If you think The Killing is just going to draw you a map and feature a big long exposition scene detailing everything that happened, think again. The show will reveal Rosie’s killer when it wants to and it will tell us as much or as little about the characters as it wants to.
The Killing isn’t ours. It doesn’t belong to the viewers and it’s under no obligation to do anything. Viewers and critics need to learn to stop feeling like they’re a part of the shows. We observe, we watch, we enjoy, but it is not a two-way street. The Killing doesn’t owe us answers or explanations. We can want them, we can be upset if we don’t get them, but we can’t say it’s the show’s fault for not giving us exactly what we want.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Killing‘s first season. I loved the performances, I loved the slow and steady way the mystery unfolded and I especially loved the stand-alone “Missing.” I didn’t love the finale, but that doesn’t mean everything that came before it was terrible. It doesn’t mean that The Killing is a terrible show. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t watch next season.
If all I want a murder mystery, I’ll go back and watch season 1 of Veronica Mars or an Agatha Christie play. But I want something more. I want something rich and complex, something that doesn’t fit into my neat and tidy notions of what should be. And for that, I have The Killing.
(Image courtesy of AMC)