Well, I’m still not sure what to make of this finale. The finale twist simultaneously struck me as extremely exploitive and the only reasonable choice the writers could make at this point. They had written themselves into a corner, with only an unconvincing Darren Richmond as a legitimate suspect. Thus when the writers came to the end of the season, they had only two choices: make the disappointing selection of Richmond or throw in some radical plot twist to completely change the game. They chose the latter, and extremely controversial.
“The Killing” established a pattern of investigating a likely suspect for two or three episodes, then discrediting them, followed by the occasional rabbit trail episode. Looking back on the season as a whole, it screams of wasted chances, poorly executed characterization and aimless plots. But nevertheless there remains something compelling and tragic about the show as a whole. Not in train wreck fashion either, a genuinely fascinating and well-acted show that managed to hold many people’s interest long after any other television show might have lost it.
But the disappointment surrounding the season cannot be avoided. One of the most common complaints about this season was that the investment they made in the characters was useless. One of the most common praises of this series was that the characters were worth investing in and that they were the strength of the show. And they were both right. “The Killing” tried to be a different kind of crime show, one that eschewed the clichés that had come to dominate the television market. That is an admirable goal, but the poor execution isn’t excused by their good intentions.
The flaw in “The Killing” was that the writers simply couldn’t decide what to do with themselves. More than anything, they failed to create any sort of tension surrounding who killed Rosie Larsen, especially this late in the season. I don’t particularly blame Billy Campbell, as he did the best job he could with the material he was given, but Darren Richmond simply was not a memorable character. The flashes he showed couldn’t be sustained over the long run. His character vacillated between moral certainty and angst, and never really had any struggle to overcome. Much like his wealthy Connecticut background, everything seemed to be handed him on a platter, there was no internal struggle. His character was never charismatic enough to be a believable sociopath. His serial affairs and frequenting of prostitutes were simply out of character for the man they had established as dedicated to his wife and her memory. It just simply didn’t make any sense.
More than anything else, the one thing that really set me on edge about the episode was the treatment of Holder. He was one of my favorite characters of the series, one of the most genuine. He was a fish out of water, used to a far different world than that of homicide. His earnestness in the investigation was refreshing, and his personal issues were understated but poignant nevertheless. I never really bought his characterization as a corrupt cop, and the various character revelations about him proved that to be the case. So the thing about the plot twist that really just drove me up a wall was how casually he was tossed in as some kind of corrupt individual. I sincerely hope they justify his willingness to frame Richmond, but given the writers inability to plan effectively, I seriously doubt that it will be the case.
The finale was simply unsatisfying on all levels. It failed to give nearly every character a sufficient closure, which given the nature of the cliffhanger was understandable. But “The Killing” had billed itself as a season-long mystery, and the viewers had every right to expect that they would indeed find the killers eventually. But the simple fact is that writers failed to meet those expectations and did so by lying to the viewers, rather than carefully hiding and hinting and the information necessary to reach the conclusions. While I intend to be back for season 2, the writers have lost all benefit of the doubt.
(Season 1 Final Average: 7.0)