In the space of a week, AMC’s The Killing was renewed for a second season and wrapped up its first season. And the conclusion was mightily unsatisfying. Most TV critics and discerning viewers gave this show a shot based on both its pedigree and its strong start. AMC has launched a small group of highly intelligent original series over the past few years, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and the unjustly-ignored, now-canceled Rubicon. At first, The Killing seemed to fit right in with that lineup. It was dark and uncompromising, purporting to follow a murder investigation over the long term, with each episode covering another day in the case. But the show wasn’t just going to stay with our intrepid detectives, the dour Linden (Mireille Enos) and the twitchy Holder (Joel Kinnaman). It was also going to follow the mayoral campaign of Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell), the candidate in whose car Rosie Larson’s body was discovered. Most importantly, the show was also going to track the grief process of Rosie’s family, as they first learned of her death, through the funeral arrangements, and going forward.
This all worked beautifully for the first three or four episodes of the show. But things started to go astray in the middle of the season, as the detectives circled around Rosie’s teacher Bennet Ahmed (Malcolm David McLaren), a Muslim with a thing for pretty young students. Ahmed’s alibi for the night of Rosie’s death didn’t add up, but viewers knew that he wasn’t going to be the killer. So we spent a whole chunk of episodes as the show tried to convince us that it really was him, only to find out that of course it wasn’t. Things picked up again as the series entered its final stretch, with plot twists that seemed organic and actual headway being made in the case. An episode-long detour in the 11th episode, “Missing”, turned out to be valuable character development time as Linden and Holder spent the day searching for Linden’s truant teenage son. “Missing” was a great episode, far removed from the main premise of the show, and it would’ve fit nicely about halfway through the season to help us get to know our leads better. But coming two episodes away from the season finale, it almost felt like too little, too late.