42 Screen: The Killing

Last year was a painful year for TV fans.  In one year we lost 24 and Lost.  Many would argue if they were big losses, but for eight years on one, and six years on the latter we sat and watched, and yearned for the mystery.  Who is trying to kill the president? Who is the man in black?  Where is the suitcase nuke? What is the glowing light?  What will it take to stop Jack?  What is the Island?

Many shows have tried to emulate the 24 formula, both during and after, and some with critical praise (Kidnapped), but none have really succeeded where 24 did but the Killing is trying its hand.

We all know the show formula, we’ve seen it a dozen times.  There is a seemingly simply case, that happens and a wide cast of characters are introduced.  Everybody has their own secrets, nobody is telling the truth, and eventually all of those secrets will come out, many will be red herrings and they will be annoying, but that is why we watch.

In The Killing, an US remake of a Dutch show has the murder of a seventeen year old girl, Rosie Larson, being murdered which spans a intensive and wide investigation, mainly because she was found – dead – locked in the back Seattle’s Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond’s campaign car.  This drags homicide detective Sarah Linden, on her final day before quitting the force and moving away with her fiancée (why do cops ever claim they have a last day?  If The Simpsons proved anything is that they never get it) into the thick spiral of deception.

The true power of the show comes from Mireille Enos (Big Love).  She is a brilliant actress that give us the truly skilled and strong lead female that TV has been lacking for a while.  We’ve seen it in the past, a detective who is sees what others miss (Monk, Sherlock), who is specifically skilled for the task at hand (Mr. Knapp) or is willing to do what no other will (Jack Bauer) but they are never women.  It is refreshing.

Detective Linden is a great characters, suffering from some mild tropes – single mom, trouble son she can’t connect with, last day before retirement – but much like Hugh Laurie and house, Enos takes what could have been a generic character and turns it into a deep character, a good character, a strong lead.  Her acting isn’t vibrant or energetic; instead Enos relies on thoughtful poses and subtle emotions.  She is not the Doctor with loud outlandish burst of Eureka-moments, instead she is the quiet chess player who has figures out that she will win in three moves.

As I watched her I was reminded of Detective Columbo.  The rugged detective often figured the case out quite quickly, and did so quietly until he began his questioning.  Linden is like Columbo without the “One more thing.”

Praise must also be given to Michelle Forbes (BSG, 24, True Blood, Durham County).  She plays Mitch Larsen, the mother of this season’s murder victim.  Forbes plays a mother going through what most of us wouldn’t dare even think of but my real praise for her is the lack of bitchyness.  Traditionally Forbes plays a very specific type of character.

It’s a witch with a typo.

The bitch is gone in The Killing, and while once the secrets revolving her and her husband are revealed (because there are always secrets in this type of show) she will quickly take after Elton John (The Bitch is Back), it is nice to see her acting muscles being worked in a different direction and with great success as well.

While the pilot and second episode, paired together for a two hour premier, was a great example of drama, mystery and tension, the first episode big focus was on “Is Rosie Larson actually dead?”  It played out like an episode of “Without a Trace” or “1-800-Kidnapp” sadly the tension that came with the big reveal of her corpse was lost due to AMC’s marketing campaign.

This season you will be asking “Who killed Rosie Larson?”  It is a brilliant marketing strategy, nabbing the Lostaholics and other mystery junkies from Heroes and 24 who have nowhere to go (or are fed up with THE EVENT as the rest of us), tweaking our love of TV water cooler  chat, while pulling on the nostalgia strings of yesteryear with Dallas’ “Who shot JR?”  I don’t fault the ad campaign, if the show proves to be a success this campaign will be most likely be one of the reasons, but when it takes a full hour to finally be told that she had died, the desired tension and dramatic effect fades away.  It’s obvious that the network is to blame, but were they wrong?   Was the first half of a two-hour premier worth spoiling to launch a powerful campaign for the rest of the season?

All in all I would not miss this strong and mystery filled new show on AMC.

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