The Killing is a Terrible, Terrible Show

The Killing is a story about a bunch of people who are absolutely terrible at their jobs, and most of the time, also terrible people in general. Their circumstances are further worsened by the fact that the universe they live in is populated by some of the most freak coincidences and horrible luck as any human can ever encounter.

The story centers on the sad tale of a murdered girl, found in the trunk of a car belonging to the campaign of an inspiring politician. The duo tasked with solving the case is made up of the hardassed Lindon and the wise-cracking Holder but there’s nary a moment of levity to be found in this entire series. I find this rather ironic, as eleven episodes in, and I’m almost fully convinced that the show was meant to be a comedy.

There is no way that a show can have a plot this terrible and attempt to be taken seriously. Stranger still, the laughable absurdity of the story is balanced with the high production value and great casting of any AMC show. It’s a sad, twisted thing to behold all this competent people making a show based around a story that is one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen on television.

It seemed the initial premise behind the show was a murder mystery that got progressively more complicated and twisted as time went on. Not bad in theory, but completly horrible in execution. While it might work well in a one hour CSI or a two hour film like Mystic River, to make it an entire twelve episode SERIES? You better have a damn good story to back it up with.

I’d be sad too if total morons were attempting to solve my daughter’s murder.

And it doesn’t, not even close. It’s episode eleven and we are exactly the same distance away from solving the mystery than we were in the pilot. The entire body of the show has been a series of red herrings, and ONLY red herrings. While it might be fine to focus on a false, but guilty looking suspect for ten minutes on Criminal Minds, it is infuriating when the same is done for four or five episodes in a series like this.

I’ll show you what I’m talking about. The show goes to such great length to paint characters as guilty, that when it pulls the rug out, the end result is comically insane. I’ll set up a scenario for you. The victim is last seen at a Halloween party wearing a witch costume and pink wig. A search of the school turns up a secret room in the basement where kids go to hook up. The entire area is smeared with blood (her type to boot) including bloody handprints on the walls. Soon a tape turns up showing the victim’s ex-boyfriend and his meth dealing scumbag friend raping her in the basement in costume, smiling at the camera as they do so.

Open and shut, right? So, how does The Killing weasel out of this one? Their explanation:

The girl on the video was the victim’s best friend, who had borrowed her costume as she left the party. She went down to the basement consensually with the boys “because they were nice.” And the blood? She sometimes gets really, really, really bad nosebleeds. I freaking kid you not.

This arc lasted about the first four episodes of the show, and the one that followed it was even more bizarre. It involves a trusted teacher, who it turns out has a crush on her, who it turns out was seen letting her into his house the night of her murder, who was seen later transporting a girl wrapped in a blanket into his car. The answer? He and his muslim friend were saving a completely different girl from an unwanted marriage where she was set to be circumsized. Stupid enough in its own right, but this man was the prime suspect for FIVE FULL EPISODES of the show, and he looked so guilty the victim’s father ended up beating him half to death before it was discovered that oh yeah, he had nothing to do with anything.

“Sir, we have fifty seven pieces of evidence linking you to this crime.”

Now, it’s episode eleven, and literally the only clue we have is that the victim took some boat to some Indian casino. Literally not more than twenty minutes of this season have mattered to get us to this point. The show goes out of its way to paint various characters into inescapable corners, only to eject them from the hotseat at the last possible moment with the most insane explanation they can think of.

I’m actually watching the last episode as I write this, and it’s more or less indicative of the entire series. The entire 45 minutes had Lindon chasing her moronic runaway son around town on a wild goose chase that ends up with him simply showing up at her door in the end. It, like the show, was completely full of air, and a complete waste of time. It’s hard to believe a show this poor came from a network as reputable as AMC. I understand that it’s based on some Danish series, but good lord, recognize a terrible plot when you see one. You cannot stretch a single episode of a crime procedural into 12 hours of a TV show. It’s like watching CSI in slow motion, and at this point, the show has cried wolf so many times, I don’t even care who killed this damn girl. Casino indians? Inept politicians? Werewolves? I don’t give a shit.

The Killing is one of the worst structured, but best produced shows I’ve ever seen. It’s some strange beast I’ve never encountered on TV before. How can something so well made be so absolutely insipid? It’s a mystery to me, and one far more interesting than the central puzzle of the show.

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  1. I watched the first episode before I realized the series was only about one murder. I knew right then that this season would drag endlessly and be a complete waste of time, since they had already gone through all the normal crime procedural steps all the way through actually finding the killer in just the first episode. Glad to hear I didn’t waste my time trying to watch the entire series.

  2. What are you finding more problematic: the pacing or the continual bait-and-switch?

    All I would say is that the original Danish series is better as a drama and a character study but is hardly any faster. I’m prettty sure it had twice as many episodes as the American remake as well so maybe it’s just too slow for you. I hesitate to say that it is because you’re American but here in England, the original version had better ratings than Mad Men.

    I’ve quite enjoyed the remake but then I also enjoyed Rubicon which some people described as “glacial” so I guess I get the appeal. The murder is a bit of a MacGuffin as it is not as important as the effect on the people who are left behind which I find quite intriguing.

    I haven’t seen viewing figures for the remake but I can’t see there being a second season.

  3. It’s not just that the pace is glacial, I would expect that from a series based around a singular murder. It’s that the pace is glacial AND is purposefully misleading. So it takes five episodes to build up the guilt of a suspect with as much damning evidence as they can muster, only to have him have nothing to do with anything, and it was all just some terrible horribly coincidental misunderstanding. If the Danish series uses that same tactic, I don’t know how anyone could say that it’s good.

    Could there possibly be a second season? Based on the same freaking murder? Even if it was a new killing, I would have no faith in the show to effective craft a narrative around it.

  4. I dont hate nor love “The Killing”, but Ive kept up with it due to the lack of quality television series currently. That being said, do you not have at least a small appreciation for the fact that shit like this happens all the time in actual homicide investigations. I mean…not to the degree of the show, but often police have a believeable suspect that turns out not to be the actual killer. Your entitled to your opinion about the show and many of the points you made I agree with. Honestly, what better is on t.v.? So it drags out, the production value and cast are better than 99% of whats on right now. Im hoping for a good finale to bring up the rest of the series, but Im gonna keep watching-if for nothing else…I dont really have anything else to watch.

  5. Why? The wire is amazing and has none of the apparent problem Paul says this has.

    Although I wish I had of seen this post a few hours before now because I just downloaded all 12 episodes and now have no desire to watch it.

    I will trust you on this one Paul and hope that you saved me 12 hours of my life 🙂

  6. Wow Paul…

    I’m a little shocked, to be honest. The Killing is one of the best shows on television right now, if not the best.

    Your complaints seem sort of petty – it should be an open and shut case, but it’s not, so the detectives are stupid? Or, they’re stupid for considering evidence that turns out not to lead to the murderer? How do you think most homicides are solved? By psychics and mentalists and closers?

    It sounds to me like you’re upset because certain suspects – like Ahmed – are cleared by what you consider crazy circumstances or coincidences. Nothing has seemed crazy to me – you don’t think that innocent Muslims are suspected of crimes based on their dealings with one another in a mosque?

    Murders take a long time to solve. Some are never solved. The show operates in a quasi-real time format and is clearly shooting for realism, so it’s absurd to claim that it’s dragging on or that the murder should have been solved by now. I really don’t think any of the explanations for the innocence of suspects is “insane.” A girl borrowed Rosie’s wig is insane? Seems pretty tame and reasonable to me.

    I really don’t know what else to say other than I’m absolutely shocked and will have to respectfully disagree.

  7. I would add, also, that The Killing has featured some of the most powerful, memorable scenes I’ve ever seen on television. That’s what this show is really about – underneath the “whodunit?” premise, it’s a show about how a murder can affect an entire community – the cops, the politicians, and, most poignantly, the family.

    When Richmond’s trunk was opened and revealed Rosie’s body, and Stan saw his daughter (appropriately in a fetal position, as if in a womb – I doubt you appreciated that), and the mother and Stan had to identity the body at the station, you weren’t choked up? That didn’t move you? That’s what this show is about, and it’s better at it than almost anything else.

    Stop being so cynical! 🙂

  8. @Madison

    Wow, and we always have such similar taste in TV.

    It’s not just that a girl borrowed a wig, it’s that she had a nosebleed so violent that the entire area looked like a horrific crime scene and the entire event was videotaped and her face happened to be *just* out of view.

    It’s not just that muslims are wrongly accused of something. It’s that the teacher had a crush on the girl who happened to come to his house the night she was murdered to return a book, and a girl was seen being carried out to a car by the neighbors.

    One of these would be extremely unlikely, but both? It’s just a plot device, and a clumsily executed one at that. Lord know how many more false accusations they’ll trot out before this thing is over.

    I guess your point about the investigators being stupid is correct. I suppose its not stupid to investigate people who are painted to look extremely guilty by circumstances that are absolutely absurd and have a level of coincidence that doesn’t seem remotely plausible.

    I have no problem with a complex murder plot, but the way this show is going about it is completely unwatchable to me. I dragged myself through it to see if it would get any better, but on episode eleven it seems like the show has barely taken a step forward in terms of finding a correct suspect.

    I’m similarly shocked you like it, ha.

    Edit: To your second point, the pilot was amazing. I choked up when they found Rosie’s body and her mother could hear her father screaming on the phone. But I just lost it at the nosebleed episode, and haven’t been able to take anything that’s happened seriously at all since then.

  9. @ Paul

    Ah well. So we’re off on this one. I’m hoping the finale will be great – can’t see this not coming back to the Richmond campaign.

    I just watched the first ep of Game of Thrones – I think we’re on the same page there. Fantastic.

    Keep up the good work, I’ll be lurking…

  10. FYI, the 2nd season (Danish version) isn’t about the same murder. As I remember, it deals with the murder of a lawyer and connects deeply into the twisted ranks of the military, very exciting stuff I promise you. And btw, for whatever it’s worth, as a Dane, it makes me damn proud that a country with 5.5 million people can create television that breaks through on English television and gets an American remake! 🙂

  11. When you put it like that, you are correct. Some of the plot twists are terrible (specially the nose bleed), however the show is about:
    -great acting
    -shocking moments (except for the first 2 seasons of lost I hadn’t been this shocked at one episode last seconds)
    -how a murder affects a community.

    Overall I really like The Killing since it’s something 100% different to the usual one-big-problem-that-seems-impossible-to-solve-but-it-is-solved-on-the-last-5-minutes-by-the-anti-hero-of-the-hour episode.


  12. Sure, it has some things that are similar to Twin Peaks. But the show is effin’ amazing.
    It takes the slow, methodical way to tell a story. Since each episode is one day in the crime, it changes the format completely. I remember complaining that the mother should start wising up and move on. Then i remembered that it’s only been a week since her daughter’s death.

    I enjoy it for the sluggish pace it takes to the story. To me, it’s all about the characters, and the mystery they are attempting to solve. Sure, it’s been red herrings lately, but i feel they might be in play down the road. Maybe.

    The only criticism i have on the show, is that the politician story is boring as hell. Unlikeable characters, and almost pointless to what the show should really be about: the solving of case and the recovery of the family.

    My suggestion for next season: ditch the politics and focus more on the mystery as a whole. The problem that the show has gotten itself in, is the case itself doesn’t have as much twist and turns that it should had it been about someone who wasn’t a 16 year old girl.

  13. After seeing the latest two episodes i feel very sorry that you feel that way about the show Paul. It truly is an engaging show. About some revelations, the red herrings and everything that seemed pointless was needed.

  14. Also, later on Holder gets beaten half to death and their only argument is that its on Indian ground so theres no jurisdiction, which is all fine and good except that Indians do not keep jurisdiction over police if it is a crime of this magnitude, such as a murder or the brutal beating of a cop

  15. THIS IS SO RIGHT ON! I cannot believe how terrible this is – like the cops hide the fact the daughter was ALIVE when she was in the car…totally betraying her parents…yet in the second season the dad comes to the cops with potential perpetrators who he didn’t even think to bring up the first season?

    So dumb. And for some reason I can’t stop watching it because how horrible it is!

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